Armando “Mando” Aguinaga has been running the Corner Market in the El Salvador Park neighborhood of Santa Ana at 802 N Raitt St. since 1952. At 83 years old, he still has a passion for his work and his community. For decades, Mando has employed dozens of youth from the area for afterschool jobs helping around his shop. This little corner store has been more of a resource for the community than you might expect due to exceptional character of its proprietor.
Working at the Corner Market wasn’t your everyday afterschool job. Teen employees, most in high school, were held accountable for their grades, afterschool conduct, extracurricular engagement, and a host of other values that Mando believes make them engaged and productive citizens. If an employee’s grades were suffering, they wouldn’t get any hours until they brought them back up. If a teen didn’t show up to work or Mando saw them participating in questionable activity, a phone call to their parents was quick to follow. By investing in not only the professional, but the personal, development of youth in the area, Mando has made a significant impact on the lives of teens, their families, and the neighborhood overall.
When times were tough for some of the neighborhood’s older residents, many of whom lived on a fixed income, Mando would give them no interest store credit for a couple of weeks to cover necessities at the end of the month. Younger employees saw elderly folks sign their name on a receipt as documentation of credit and were bewildered that Mando trusted those in the community so much as to extend that kind of a helping hand. Witnessing the humanity and compassion for the community displayed at the Corner Market has had an impact on many of the youth who’ve worked there.
One former neighborhood youth employed at the Corner Market, Jorge “George” Sanchez, earned his PhD and now serves as a college administrator at Coastline College. Another former employee went on to become an official with the Department of Homeland Security. These are just a couple examples of how the values of hard work, personal responsibility, and community engagement taught by Mando helped local kids thrive.
When Mando’s son Ramsey, a Santa Ana Police Officer, passed away in February from a long and hard-fought battle with cancer, the entire neighborhood rallied around Mando and his family. Facebook pages were made and memorials held, there was an outpouring of support.
Chairman Andrew Do presented Mando with a Community Spotlight Award in recognition of his impact on the neighborhood of El Salvador Park, the City of Santa Ana, and the County of Orange. Thank you to Mando and all he has done to help youth in the neighborhood by spreading positive values.