‘Brothers’ combine efforts to help the community
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
From left, Rancho Market owner Akram Kassim, Victor Lopez, Dulce Arredondo, Kendy Arredondo and Savannah Munoz serve a barbecue chicken lunch at Courthouse Park following the Juneteenth Day Celebration.
Madera residents who attended last month’s Juneteenth Day was subject to a number of inspirational speeches, but those who skipped breakfast for the morning ceremony were more than happy to receive a boxed roasted chicken lunch, provided by Rancho Market (12890 Road 24).
However, it’s not the first time Ranch Market owner Akram Kassim has donated his wares to help the community or those in need.
“We asked how we could help with the event,” he said. “We wanted to give back to the community and do something. It’s obviously a special time. We wanted to be a part of that and part of the community.”
Kassim, along with brothers Nayef Mohsen and Mohamed Mohsen, co-owners of Bonita Market, have held a few food drives and have helped out people before and they are not done.
“We just started the food drives a few months ago,” Kassim said. “We see a lot of appreciation. Not just from the community, but from others like city officials. They appreciate we are doing something for the community.
While not really brothers, the Mohsens consider Kassim a brother and together, they have done what they could do to help the community.
“We wish we could do more,” Kassim said. “We are doing what’s in our means. We have a lot of plans for Madera. We’re going to expand. We want to open up a couple more businesses and that will give us a platform to give back.”
Kassim has owned Rancho Market since 2013 and the Mohsens have owned Bonita Market (19108 Ave. 14) since 2009.
Kassim and the Mohsens hosted a food drive in May and plan another one later this month.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do one in June because we were so busy,” Kassim said. “We plan to have another in July at Pan Am Park. We make announcements and let the community know we will be giving away boxes of groceries. We’ll be handing out, hopefully, about 1,000 boxes. We want to give back to the community as much as possible and want to be involved. We’ve reached the point in our lives where we’re pretty good with business. We know what we’re doing. It takes time, but it doesn’t need all our focus. It’s time to give back and do what we can to the community.”
The community was treated to roasted chicken from the Rancho Market barbecue and that has earned them fans.
“We got a lot of compliments,” Kassim said. “A lot of people said they would be back over here to buy chicken and buy ribs. A lot of people were excited. They really liked the food.”
“They all came back. They liked the food,” Nayef “Eddie” Mohsen said.
“We’ve always had the kitchen,” Kassim said. “It was Eddie’s idea to add the barbecue outside. That was about six months ago. We’ve had a kitchen since 2013. We’ve been doing the barbecue for a while because we’ve had it at Bonita Market.”
The good deed didn’t go unnoticed, but Rancho and Bonita markets have done many good deeds behind the scenes.
“Sometimes when we see a family struggling or some things have happened that have caused them to struggle, we’ll send food to them to try to help out in that way,” Kassim said. “We’ll feed the family if they have a gathering at their house. It’s just something they have to focus less on. It helps out that way.”
Kassim, who is from Selma, came to the United States from Yemen when he was eight-years-old. He knows what it was like not to have food and to suffer.
“We’ve always tried to give back and help,” he said. “We’ve always done it in secret. Now, we’re doing it with the attention and posting about it. We’re also hoping that inspires others to do something or business owners to give back. It feels amazing to give back and people appreciating it. It just makes me want to do more. It motivates me. We feel like it’s paid off. The feeling we get doing that is amazing.”
In addition to helping out other people, the markets also give monetary donations to CASA (Court Appointed Special advocates), who help with the foster youths.
“We’ve been helping with CASA, as well,” Kassim said. “We give donations to them as much as possible. We’re big on education. We want Madera students to be as educated as possible. We understand there are certain students that don’t have that luxury. We try to help out in that end to help further their educational path.”
“It’s fantastic to have someone like Rancho Market,” said Carmina Ramos, CASA lead advocate supervisor and outreach specialist. “CASA is a non-profit agency that relies on a lot of donations. They came on board and adopted CASA. It was like a blessing. They wanted to give scholarships to seniors. I work with foster kids, the most at-risk teenagers, who are becoming adults. With their support, we are able to provide that extra support to our youths that are transitioning to adulthood and going to college. This year, we had eight graduates. With their donations, we were able to provide laptops and other things they need to head to college. It is a blessing. Their support helps with that. We buy gift cards for the kids for their birthday. We order a cake for them. All the donations go to the kids in the foster care system.”
For Ramos, it’s about giving the foster youths some sort of normalcy and to give them a boost to their future.
“A normal child has an environment wondering about practice, school or what’s for lunch,” Ramos said. “Our at-risk children don’t focus on that. They wonder where they are going to sleep, are they going to see their siblings or are they going to reunify with their parents. Their thoughts are not always on school. That’s not their top priority. Just for us to be able to provide those advocates that create that support and have volunteers and donors to help those children to tell them they can do it. We have the support of the community that will support them. It’s an amazing thing.”
Ramos is thankful to have the donations of the markets to help with creating a positive atmosphere for the foster youths.
“You can’t beat that smile when you give the kids a laptop,” Ramos said. “We give them gift cards for Office Depot to buy supplies. We do backpack drives for all of the kids in our system. We make calming kits. All of that takes money. All the donations go back to that. We have our youths come back as adults and want to be a volunteer because they had a CASA. That’s special for us.”
“It feels good to know you helped someone who was disadvantaged get a better chance at becoming successful and forming a future for themselves,” Kassim said.
While both Kassim and the Mohsens aren’t originally from Madera, they want to make the city their home and hope to do what they can to help improve the city.
“It’s becoming like a home to us,” said Mohamed Mohsen, who is originally from Firebaugh, along with his brother. “We’re speaking Spanish and we want to be a part of it. Madera has a lot of potential to grow and we want to be a part of that.”
“This is like our second home,” Nayef Mohsen said. “We spend most of our time here. Firebaugh is just a home to sleep, kind of like a hotel. We’re always here.”
“Originally, business is what brought us to Madera,” Kassim said. “It’s become a home to us. That’s why we agreed our future businesses will be in Madera.”
For now, the corner store at Road 24 and Avenue 13 will be a Diamond in the Rough, but if Kassim has his way, it won’t be like that for long.