Fresno community mourns death of Poverello House founder

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Words can't fully describe what Jack Carter is feeling after hearing of the loss of a dear friend.

"It's probably some of the saddest news I've heard in a long time," he said.

The formerly homeless man, who spent nearly 10 years on the streets, just learned Poverello House founder Mike McGarvin passed away.

"You can't believe that someone who made that much of an impact is no longer with us," he said. "It's hard to accept."

McGarvin, who many called 'Papa Mike,' started serving the homeless community and handing out sandwiches to those in need in the early 1970s.

Forty years later, his work became something Carter found himself relying on.

"I think I met Papa Mike on day one," he said." I thought, 'who is this old man in long johns and overalls,' but I came to learn he was this amazing man, a saint."

Carter says Papa Mike spent years teaching him how to become a better person and the importance of giving back. And he used those lessons to start his own mission, offering free cigarettes to those addicted to drugs.

It's his way of starting the conversation and to get them into recovery. Carter says Papa Mike knew that, and just before the last Poverello Block Party, he did what he could to help.

"He gave me a hundred dollars and said, 'Use this Jack to help the ones you're helping,'" he said.

The Poverello House says Papa Mike's family is requesting privacy at this time, but in a statement, his wife said "he was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was loved by so many in this community; it's an irreplaceable loss."

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand echoed the same sentiments, saying on Twitter "when poverty and homelessness seemed impossible to change, 'Papa Mike' showed us the way. His courage and compassion will be sorely missed."

Carter knows that to be true, but he says Papa's Mike's legacy no matter will live on forever.

"His work is going to carry on. His memory," Carter said. "And I know he's watching right now."
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