Mosque cooks breakfast for hundreds of Philly police

A float representing a health care organization tosses out T-shirts to spectators during the annual Puerto Rican Parade and Festival on the Ben Franklin Parkway Sunday, September 25, 2016.

OZZY KHALIL arrived at the Muslim American Society in North Philadelphia at 6 a.m. Sunday to start making breakfast.

Khalil, 40, cooked scrambled eggs, French toast, turkey bacon, and grits for almost 1,000 Philadelphia police officers before they began their workday at the Puerto Rican Day Parade, hosted by the 25th District - "so they could get something to eat before they go out on the streets," Khalil said.

He and about 20 other volunteers with the mosque organized the event to express their gratitude for Philadelphia police officers.

"We want to let officers know that we do appreciate what they do, and that's why we're doing this today," Khalil said.

Sometimes during events such as the parade, on-duty officers get to eat only once during their entire shift, said 25th District Capt. Mike Cram.

"If you're going to go out and work a 12- to 14-hour day, and somebody actually takes the time and effort to feed you, that's kind of setting your mind-set for the day," Cram, 46, said. "With these guys' help, we're able to feed officers and give them a good meal before they head out."

This is the second installment of what Khalil said will be an annual partnership between the mosque and police. Last year, volunteers with the mosque cooked breakfast for police at the nearby Edison High School before the parade, but this year Khalil wanted to host the event himself.

"With what's going on in the world, in different cities, about Muslims, this is something different to show them this is what we're all about," Khalil said. "We're neighbors, we're very active in the community . . . and we appreciate what they're doing."

Abu Ramzi, 60, a member of the mosque and a resident of Northeast Philadelphia, said he loves to show his appreciation for "the hard job" police officers do every day.

"We are 100 percent with the police officers. We back them up," Ramzi said. "They work hard to keep the city safe, and we have to show them we're with them."

The partnership between the mosque and police will continue, Cram said, and it's not new.

"We have a really good relationship with them. They do a lot for the community," Cram said. "It's not uncommon for us to come over on a Friday after prayers and talk to them."

"It's a great neighborhood, great culture. That's one of the things that makes Philly great," Cram said. "We never forget our culture."

mwinberg@philly.com

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@mwinberg