Charities will benefit when custom home sells

Michele Giarratano stands inside the living room of her Pawleys Island home. She and her husband, Andy, plan to sell the 5-bedroom home and give a portion of the proceeds to charity

Glenn Smith // The Post and Courier

Michele and Andy Giarratano plan to sell their sprawling Pawleys Island home, then give a sizable portion of the proceeds to charity.

PAWLEYS ISLAND -- Andy and Michele Giarratano expect to fetch more than a half-million dollars for their sprawling, custom-built home in one of the area's tony gated communities.

After all, their five-bedroom, brick home in River Club offers nearly 5,000 square feet of living space, four-and-a-half bathrooms, Brazilian cherry wood floors, golf course views and private beach access.

But the Giarratanos aren't looking to cash in on their showcase pad. Quite the contrary. They plan to donate a good chunk of the proceeds to charity.

Say what?

"We just feel that we can do more, and we really want to take it to that next level," Michele Giarratano said. "It's not about the things you have in life, but what you do with the things God has given you."

The couple, who own the Front Street Deli in Georgetown, have been active in charitable work for years, organizing winter coat and blanket drives, cooking for church functions and contributing to area fund-raisers and overseas missions.

The Giarratanos have no real desire to leave their home of seven years. In fact, they love the place. They just came to the conclusion that the equity they had built up could go to better use helping others who are less fortunate.

So they plan to downsize, buy a smaller house and steer much of the leftover proceeds into as-yet-undecided philanthropic contributions. Michele Giarratano's mother, who lives next door, has her home on the market as well, with similar plans for the proceeds.

Even with the housing market in a slump, their efforts could still add up to thousands of dollars in donations.

Those who know the family aren't surprised by their generous offer.

"They just have a real heart," said Don Williams, senior pastor of Pawleys Island Community Church, where the Giarratanos are active members. "Their faith is not something they just talk about. It's been a hallmark of Andy and Michele every since we've known them."

Pat Parsley is immediate past president of Helping Hands of Georgetown, which runs a crisis ministry for the needy. She said the couple has always been willing to do whatever is asked of them to help others.

"They are just plain good, wonderful people, and they are so community-oriented," she said.

The Giarratanos said they are just carrying on the values they learned early on growing up with modest means. Michele's father survived the Great Depression and always preached frugality and community service.

Andy grew up in a small house with eight siblings. Though his family didn't have a lot, his father was quick to offer their services mowing a neighbor's lawn, raking leaves or helping out in some other way.

"We were kind of brought up with the whole idea of pitching in," said Andy Giarratano, 44. "My father's philosophy was, you should be giving back. There are always people worse off than you."

Andy Giarratano saw that first-hand while volunteering with a church team that helped repair homes of needy area folks. Though most visitors know Pawleys Island for its beautiful beaches and quaint atmosphere, the community also has pockets of extreme poverty.

He and his wife wonder why they and their 11-year-old daughter Madison should live in such splendor when others could use the equity so much more.

"We feel truly like we have been blessed, and we know we have a lot to be thankful for," Michele Giarratano, 42, said. "I'm really happy that we are able to do this for someone."

The couple quit their jobs at a New York computer company 14 years ago and moved to Pawleys Island after falling in love with the community on visits.

They bought a struggling deli and turned it into a viable business, and along the way they have made good friends and deep ties. They plan to stay in the area even if the home sells.

It's been on the market since July; there has been interest but no firm offers. Over the months they have come down on the price, settling in at just under $570,000. If it doesn't sell, they are happy to stay.

But they feel compelled to try for a sale and let a higher power determine what happens. If nothing else, they figure their effort might compel others to get involved and make a difference in the community.

"You come into this life with nothing and you leave with nothing," Michele Giarratano said. "You are accountable for what you do in the middle. We feel we need to take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, because there are a lot of people hurting out there."