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Thank you, Papa Mike

Remembering Papa Mike's Legacy (1943-2017)

It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of our founder, "Papa" Mike McGarvin. 1943-2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                     Media Contact: Cruz Avila

July 3, 2017                                                                                                                                                 Phone: 559-360-5556


Mike “Papa Mike” McGarvin, who founded Fresno’s Poverello House in downtown Fresno, died Saturday July 1, 2017. He was 73.

McGarvin had been hospitalized in recent months and died at his home on the Poverello House campus, surrounded by friends and family.

In 1973, McGarvin was working nights at The Fresno Bee as a photoengraver when he and his wife Mary started serving homeless and hungry residents of Fresno homemade peanut butter sandwiches and water during the day. Eventually, volunteers joined them and in 1974, Poverello House was founded at an F Street storefront in the Chinatown District.

Despite several challenges and relocations, including a destructive fire and evictions, Poverello House remained a critical component in assisting the city’s underserved, overlooked and forgotten residents.  His efforts earned him local and national recognition, including in May, a California State University, Fresno honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. McGarvin was also an accomplished photographer, who chronicled life on the streets of Fresno in two books, On the Level, (Walking the streets with Mike McGarvin) and Papa Mike.

“He was a loving Husband, Father and Grandfather. He was loved by so many in this community; it’s an irreplaceable loss” said his wife Mary McGarvin.   “This is a profound loss for our community,” said Poverello House Executive Director Cruz Avila. “Papa Mike was so humble about what he created but what we have now is a resource that meets people where they are in life. No questions asked. He was blessed with a gift that allowed him to treat our clients with dignity -- something many of them never experienced in their lives before encountering Papa Mike or the Poverello House."

“I am reminded and comforted by something Papa Mike always told me – to listen with compassion and give with a warm heart and a smile,” Avila said.

Today, Poverello House serves thousands of clients each year and true to the spirit of McGarvin’s original vision.

“It’s impossible to quantify the impact Papa Mike had on hundreds of thousands of lives over the years,” said Poverello House Board of Directors President John Frye, Jr. “We are deeply saddened by this loss but we celebrate his generous spirit and commitment to enriching the lives of all who pass our way.”

Poverello House at its 412 F street location is undergoing a major expansion that includes a new food warehouse, operations center, and improved bathroom and shower facilities in the temporary housing area. Poverello House staff and volunteers serve 1,600 hot meals a day. The organization also offers MAP Point (Multi Agency Access Program, safe temporary housing as well as access to medical, dental and social services. On the Poverello House property are a men’s residential rehabilitation program, Naomi’s House (an overnight respite shelter for homeless women) and the Holy Cross Center for Women, which provides laundry, education, resources and respite for women and their children.

McGarvin is survived by a wife Mary, daughter Clare, and grandson Tyler. Funeral arrangements are pending.

What We Do

Meeting the needs of many, one person at a time.

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Our Mission

Believing in the dignity of every person, at Poverello House we work to enrich the lives and spirits of all who pass our way by stewarding the resources made available to us through Providential and community support.

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Our History

In the turbulent 1960's, a young man named Mike McGarvin was on the fast track to becoming one of the many casualties of the decade. Drugs, alcohol, violence and hopelessness were his daily companions, until he found a place in San Francisco called Poverello House. The priest who ran the coffee house asked Mike to volunteer, and the experience changed his life.

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