The Giarratanos’ Gift

June 2011
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Christopher Shane

Downsizing their home means more is available to give




More is better?

For Michele and Andy Giarratano of Pawleys Island, it’s a contradiction in terms. Sure, they’re living the “American dream” with a successful business, custom home, private schools and the best of cold cuts from their Front Street Deli in Georgetown.

But for this couple, there’s nothing peaceful or fulfilling about more unless they can take those blessings and share them with others.

That’s the core reason the Giarratanos are selling their nearly 5,000-square-foot home in a coveted neighborhood, overlooking rolling greens and ponds and all the privacy money can buy.

“Instead of being house heavy, we want to bring my mother into our home, downsize and be able to do more local mission work because of it,” explains Michele, her eyes glowing with the possibilities ahead. “Even in bad times, you can always do more.”

Selling a half-million-dollar home in the midst of a housing slump may seem like risky business to most, but Michele is resolute that “God has a plan for you” and when you get an inner prompting to do something seemingly crazy, like maybe building an ark, it very well could be a divine shout-out.
“When we left Long Island 15 years ago and quit our jobs at Computer Associates International to move south with dreams of opening a pizzeria or deli, many of our friends and co-workers thought we had lost our minds,” chuckles Michele. “We get here and a real estate agent took us to this closed storefront business and it’s absolutely perfect for our new deli … it was like it was built to our specifications … it was meant to be.”

Hard working and frugal, the Giarratanos have become established members of the Georgetown business community and devoted missionaries to their Pawleys Island Community Church, United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the plight of those less fortunate.

“Most of what we’ve been able to do so far is give physical assistance to those in need,” says Michele. “By selling the house we own outright, it would free us up to do even more in terms of monetary giving.”

Andy is known for making impromptu house calls. He repaired a bathroom for an elderly man who was holding up his toilet with a board, terrified that at any given time he would go through the floor.

And when Michele learned that a family had no food at home, she rallied together a group of friends who bought groceries and delivered them.
“Their mother wasn’t home from work yet, so the kids let us in and as they put the groceries away, they cried and kept coming over and hugging us. You can’t put a dollar amount to that. Those children were smiling like it was Christmas morning and the tree was piled with gifts.”

Michele points to the stand of woods across the pond from her kitchen window, “Here we are in an affluent place like Pawleys Island and over there, just two streets that way, there’s a man living in a tent because he lost his home. That shouldn’t happen in a community like ours.

“You know, it’s the little things that add up. If everyone did a little more to help each other, there wouldn’t be as much poverty and suffering. And anybody can do what we’re about to and still take good care of their family. The time works for us right now. We can do this and be just fine. This is all about being true to my soul’s desire.”

It’s not that the Giarratanos are desperate to sell. In fact, Michele says they’ll be quite happy staying on indefinitely. “You know, I never expected I would end up living in this kind of beautiful home. But everything I have belongs to the Lord and I must be a good shepherd of what He’s given me. He’ll either send a buyer or not.”

And if the right buyer appears, these Good Shepherds will prove that “less is more.”
Editor’s note:  Dina Hall passed away in her Murrells Inlet home on Feb. 28.  Her final project, the completed quilt, will be on display through April 28 at the Center for the Arts in Rock Hill as part of an exhibit titled “Quilts Tell Stories: an Exhibition of Historic and Contemporary Quilts.”