Person of the Week
Giving Back to a Community that Helped a Family in Time of Need
Anwar Mahmud has organized several events to give back to the community that supported him. (Photo courtesy of Anwar Mahmud )
Though 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, Anwar Mahmud’s most trying times began years ago when his family received word that his wife was to be deported. Hearing their story, the community rallied together in support of Anwar, his wife Salma R. Sikandar, and their son, Samir Mahmud.
Since experiencing that support from the community, Anwar has continually sought way to give back to the community. Most recently, he and his family put together food bags and distributed them on the side of Town Hall at a time when the supplies at the food bank were running low, according to First Selectman Mike Freda.
“I feel like this is my duty to do something for the community who did something for me—I love this community,” says Anwar. “I’m not a rich guy. I work at McDonald’s, but I try every day to do something. It feels good and shows that I appreciate how beautiful this country is, how beautiful this town is, and how beautiful the people are.”
Anwar came to the United States from Bangladesh 28 years ago, living in Staten Island for some time. He met his wife in New York and they have now been married for 20 years.
In 2015, Anwar and his family moved to North Haven, where he got a job at McDonald’s on Washington Avenue. He quickly began to get to know many people in the community as they frequented the restaurant.
“There are people who come sit in the morning or meet each week, so you get to know them,” says Anwar. “I’ve been even more involved in the past two years because so many came to help me and prayed for me when I was going through a difficult time.”
Among those he met were Freda, State Representative Dave Yaccarino (R-86), and State Senator Len Fasano (R-34). When Anwar’s wife faced deportation, he found great support in the community and its leaders.
“I finally won my fight. Alone, I could have maybe reached out to a couple people, but with the community and elected officials supporting us, it becomes big with 44,000 people signing my petition,” says Anwar. “Statewide elected officials came through to support me. People came to me and said, ‘Don’t lose hope.’ My family is still together and happy right now because of people’s prayers. I appreciate the people and learned we can do so many things together and do so many good things for each other.”
Distributing bags of food wasn’t the first time that Anwar has done good things for the community. Early on in the pandemic, he and his family held a drive-through giveaway of masks and sanitizer at McDonald’s at “a time when people needed it most,” according to Freda.
Anwar has also helped to make economic development connections that will help the town as well. Anwar facilitated a meeting between Freda and one of his friends, who is a president and CEO of a company that is now looking to move his company to North Haven.
Seeing the way the community helped him wasn’t the only inspiration for Anwar’s desire to give back. The owner of the McDonald’s where he works is John McKnight, who is known to be a longtime supporter of the town in many ways.
“I saw my boss do so much community work and donate so much so that started my way of giving back to the community,” says Anwar. “During the hard time we are going through, if you help each other, you feel better and I try my best to do something. I go to work, come home, and think about how we can reach out to people and do more for people. Together you can achieve so many things and do so many good things for each other.”
Anwar is proud that his son has also been active in serving the community. Samir is a junior at Quinnipiac University and played a big role in the family’s efforts to stay united. He remembers his “happiest day” being the day Samir graduated from high school, but just a week later, their family received the letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Overnight he became a man and took care of so many things—he gave us hope, was the spokesperson for our family, and made us very proud,” says Anwar. “He has made me a better person and day by day, I learn so many things from him. He knows what it means to get help from people and he’s interested in helping people and reaching out to people with anything they need. He’s involved with his school.
“Our son is doing very good because he’s in America, a country where you can make life better each day and it doesn’t matter where you came from, your name, or your religion, if you work hard, you can succeed,” adds Anwar. “I didn’t have the opportunity to get educated, but I’ve been self-educated and enjoy watching the news and learning. I’m really grateful to this country for giving me the opportunity to raise my family here.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .