Hesed House is proud to recognize individuals who exemplify “service above self” by helping to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and give people a chance to hope again. These are individuals who have responded to Hesed House’s calls for help without question and with much enthusiasm; people who support their local communities and efforts to improve the lives of individuals who are in need of help; people who have dedicated themselves to providing hope and dignity for homeless men, women and children at Hesed House and people who have provided the resources to house struggling and worthy families.
We are very honored to introduce the Hall of Honor by featuring Michael Marchesani who, for over twenty years, has embodied and lived the meaning of Hesed: love, mercy, grace and kindness. Michael Marchesani exemplifies what is possible when business leaders choose to be community leaders committed to creating a better world.
Thank you, Michael, for your kindness and generosity in helping to end poverty and homelessness for individuals and families at Hesed House.
“If there’s just one thing to remember, it’s to look into your heart and recognize how fortunate we are and to pay it forward.”
– Michael Marchesani
Paying It Forward – In BIG Ways!
For over two decades, Michael Marchesani and his family have returned the blessings in their lives to thousands of homeless individuals at Hesed House. When living in the Aurora area, Michael’s initial introduction to homelessness was serving food in the PADS Overnight Emergency Shelter with Our Lady of Mercy Church. This quickly progressed into greater family involvement with his son D. Brendan picking up and delivering food, daughter Caitlyn’s summer internship, Michael cooking at the PADS daytime drop-in center and wife Denise’s endless support. The opportunity to converse with homeless individuals and families, and to develop relationships with Hesed House staff, allowed them to see the face of homelessness through a different lens. Michael would reflect that after living and working in New York most of his life, this was something quite new to him. It was a revelation that “these people were not very different from you and me – except for the fact we have the support of family and friends,” said Michael. The experience of serving our poorest neighbors was a pivotal one for the Marchesani Family, compelling them to find ways to tell the Hesed Story and to connect other individuals with Hesed House. “I don’t think we can sit by and watch another generation of children be homeless. We need to do something about this – as private citizens – and not leave it entirely up to government agencies,” he emphasized.
Eighteen years ago, Michael invited a small group of friends and business colleagues for cocktails so he could share with them what he had experienced only a mile from where they comfortably lived. “We just talked about Hesed House and how I was moved by the women, children and men there. There were over 110 people sleeping at Hesed House at that time, not to mention the families sleeping in cars. We had to do something about it. I was just trying to build up some enthusiasm,” said Marchesani. And build up some enthusiasm, he did!
The Hesed Story is a compelling one and touched the hearts of many as what started out as an intimate evening of a few has developed into the Annual Marchesani Benefit for Hesed House, with a proud guest list of over 300 supporters.
The Marchesanis moved to Zurich, Switzerland, in 2002 where Michael worked for Zurich Insurance Group. Despite his extensive global travel as an executive with Zurich, Michael has remained true to his conviction, returning to host the annual benefit that bears his name. He repeatedly is asked why he continues to be involved.
“How can you not be proud to be involved with people like this? There is hope. The Hesed House model, a comprehensive resource center with measurable outcomes to get families back into the communities in which they belong is impressive. Now what you see is a very comprehensive way of getting people’s lives back in order. It gives me hope that over time, there might be a solution to this, and we do get people out of a homeless state by ending homelessness one family at a time.”
Michael would quickly share with you the fact that what he has given pales in comparison to what he has received from this experience. The opportunity to work with the Hesed House staff and learn from them what true caring and compassion is all about has had a profound impact on him. He is many times overwhelmed at the generosity and compassion of his friends and colleagues and their unwavering support over the years. “I can never adequately thank all the individuals involved but would be remiss in not acknowledging the support of Zurich Insurance Group. Martin Senn, our CEO, has set a tone and culture around giving back to the communities in which we live and work. Zurich’s commitment, globally and to Hesed House, is exemplary.”
Michael’s passion to help families at Hesed House – especially the children – compelled him to establish a special children’s fund to enable the children living there the same life experiences and opportunities as other children.
Through the Marchesani Children’s Fund, hundreds of children staying at Hesed House have taken educational field trips, expanded their studies and involvements in school activities, attended proms and homecomings, played sports and applied for college. Two former high school seniors living in the Transitional Living Community are now attending college with the help of scholarships generated through the Annual Marchesani Benefit.
Although Michael is now retired, his legacy will live on at Hesed House, and we know that Michael will continue to share the Hesed Story with anyone who will lend him an ear, encouraging them to pay it forward.
Thank you, Michael Marchesani, for the love and kindness you have shown to so many at Hesed House. It has been a privilege to walk the path to end homelessness with you!
Anyone wishing to contact Michael can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.