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Agarwals repay community many times over

Rakesh and Dolly Agarwal recently donated $50,000 to the Pardee Comprehensive Cancer Center. Rakesh and Dolly Agarwal recently donated $50,000 to the Pardee Comprehensive Cancer Center.

To understand the charitable spirit of Rakesh and Dolly Agarwal, you have to go back 31 years to their arrival in Hendersonville from India with nothing but $20 and a desire to pursue the American dream.

“One of the biggest things we have personally felt is the generosity of the citizens of this country,” Rakesh said in an interview recently at his Rug & Home furniture and home décor store at Exit 33 off I-26. “We have felt tremendous generosity. We didn’t have anything. We just came with $20. We rented a place (on Patton Street in Hyman Heights) — $320 was our rent — so that I could walk to work. I could walk to Spinning Wheel Rugs.”
Bereft of everything they needed to live, the young couple was soon showered with acts of kindness.
“We were living there and we had no furniture, we had no TV,” Rakesh said. “We didn’t have anything at all.
“The landlady knew we were fresh off the boat, new immigrants to the country. She got us all the pots and pans from her church, Main Street Baptist Church. A lot of people at Spinning Wheel Rugs, they gave us towels and bed sheets.
“One of our very good friends at Spinning Wheel Rugs who I just met the month before, they give us their patio furniture so we could use that as our living room furniture. We collected enough money to buy a second-hand TV for $45.
“Life was beautiful. We had everything. We felt very blessed. We’d never seen this level of generosity back where we came from. That time itself, we had in mind we wanted to do something for this community, whenever we had money, whenever we can.”


Donated to hospice, Playhouse

The Agarwal s have shared the profits from their three Rug & Homes stores with worthy nonprofit agencies in Henderson County.
Once they could afford to donate, the first opportunity came when they were first exposed to hospice care at Four Seasons Compassion for Life.
When the couple bought a home in Windsor Hills, they made fast friends with a couple who had moved here from New York.
“Our next-door neighbor, she came in and welcomed us with open arms, hugged Dolly and me,” he said. “We had been here maybe two years at that point. And they pretty much took care of our daughter (Aanchal). She learned swimming, she learned bicycle, the arts, piano. They became literally our family. They were everything to us.”
When Bob became ill and was placed in hospice care, Rakesh and Dolly visited frequently at the Elizabeth House.
“We found the hospice workers to be so caring and giving,” he said. “We had never seen anything like this. That time, me and Dolly, we decided we want to do something for hospice. This was going to be our No. 1 priority.”
In 2006, they agreed to donate $100,000. “We went into the recession but we didn’t miss a payment,” Rakesh said. “We gave our $100,000 over the next five years.”
Around 2010, when a friend who was associated with the Flat Rock Playhouse told them that the theater was in dire financial straits, Rakesh and Dolly stepped up again, donating $80,000 over four years.
“Being from Hendersonville, we felt we are native,” Rakesh says. “Anybody asks us, ‘Where is our home?’ This is home.”
But the couple knew first hand, too, about desperate needs in impoverished parts of India. They created Vision Express, which has treated hundreds of Indians for cataracts and expanded to perform gallbladder and kidney stone procedures.
“We have treated probably close to 12,000 people and probably at least close to 3,000 have been given cataract surgery under this program,” he says. “We like to try to give at least something back home in India and something here in Hendersonville.”


Pardee Cancer Center

That brought them to more recent times, when they heard about Pardee Hospital’s new Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The daughter of their friends, who is 5, is undergoing cancer treatment in Charleston, S.C. “The whole family is completely unrooted,” he said. “In this case she needed a place in Charleston to stay. Four and a half months she has to stay there.” The family found an unfurnished house. “I did the entire house at no charge. Just keep the furniture,” he told the family. “Other families can use it after you.”
The cancer that had attacked 5-year-old Sarah’s body presented the next opportunity to give to a cause that had touched Rakesh and Dolly.
When a banker friend approached them, they were receptive. What a wonder it would be, they thought, if the Sarahs of the world could be treated close to home.
“So when this came up, we said we will do it,” Rakesh said. “We’d like to help. We decided to donate $50,000.”
“Cancer is so devastating, just even the word cancer is totally (devastating) not only for the individual but for the entire family and on top of that if you put a one-hour ride for treatment, to have to go and stay in Greenville to undergo this treatment.”
The opening of the cancer center is now just weeks away. But don’t look for any big recognition of Dolly and Rakesh Agarwal . They never ask for naming rights or plaques.
“We want to move on,” Rakesh says. “No strings attached. Do our things and look for something else to help and get behind it. We’ve been very blessed. God has blessed us with everything.”