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Hummus gives hope to Syrian refugees

Inside a Humboldt bakery and cafe, a smooth chickpea spread, a greeting card and tote bag are not as ordinary as they might seem to the naked eye. When those items are sold from Los Bagels between Jan. 17-31, all the money goes to support Syrian refugees.

Los Bagels founder Dennis Rael, 65, uses a hummus recipe given to him by a close friend. His friend got the recipe from a neighbor who was Syrian.

“My friend asked me, ‘Well, what kind of hummus do you make?’ You’ve got to try my hummus,” Rael said. “I literally wrote it down on a napkin and have that still in my cookbook at home.”

That same recipe can be tasted at Los Bagels. A hundred percent of the profit goes to Syrian refugees.

Rael noticed how some Americans stay in their own bubble.

“It’s something that, in this country, we have a hard time relating to or even thinking about. It’s not a reality, we have other struggles,” Rael said. “We have a lot of things we need to deal with in the United States, but I think it’s good to think beyond that in a bigger world perspective.”

Rael believes that Los Bagels stands out from other businesses, specifically by the way that they interact with the society.

“I think everybody should think beyond himself, but it is not in everyone’s nature,” Rael said. “That is probably one of the reasons that set us apart, our overall community involvement.”

Colin Begell, 39, works for a business that assists people with developmental disabilities and was unaware of Los Bagels’ fundraiser.

“I love hummus. I have hummus in my refrigerator all the time,” Begell said. “No, I didn’t know about it, but I feel like that is an amazing business idea and humanitarian effort combined.”

Begell supports the fundraiser for Syrian refugees and found himself surprised when finding out about how much of the profits actually go to the refugees.

“I 100 percent support that and I will buy some hummus this week,” Begell said. “It is amazing that it’s 100 percent of the proceeds. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Zach Ziino, a Los Bagels employee in Arcata, has been working for the company for about three years. Day after day, he has seen Los Bagels’ relationship with the community.

“They really strive to improve the community,” Ziino said. “Again, this, I think, is going beyond that, which I haven’t really seen before, but it is cool that we are doing it.”

Anne Braak-Katz, a local humanitarian, is Los Bagels’ connection to Refugee Support Europe, which is where the funds raised from Hummus for Hope are sent to.

Her tote bag and greeting card are displayed on a table in Los Bagels. Braak-Katz gives her insight on the design of the “Small Things Great Love” tote bag that shows two stick figure children holding hands.

“With all the damage kids have had of war, the smallest thing of holding hands is so powerful,” Braak-Katz said.

Braak-Katz believes that by sharing the artwork, parents can identify them with their own children.

“I realize that there are a lot of crises,” Braak-Katz said. “You don’t have to look that far, but I have had a calling to help. Being a victim of war is a radical situation, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. We need to see past our own bagel, beyond our own cup of coffee.”

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