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Businessman pledges $250k of $1 million goal to help India battle COVID-19


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    ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — A local Asheville businessman who emigrated to Hendersonville decades ago has pledged $250,000 of his own money towards a $1 million goal to help his home country, India, which has been ravaged by COVID-19.

The $1 million will go to buy 1,000 oxygen concentrators to help people with COVID-19 who are struggling to breathe and struggling to stay alive.

Rakesh Agarwal isn’t the kind of businessman who craves the spotlight or adulation. But the soft-spoken, gentle-natured founder of Asheville’s Rug and Home store has his heart and donations focused on helping people in India ravaged by COVID-19.

“This country, the United States, has been great to me,” said Agarwal. “And as an immigrant, it is our responsibility to help both our adopted country as well as our birth country.”

In 1986, Agarwal, with his wife, Dolly, and 2-year-old daughter, Aanchal, moved to Hendersonville.

At age 29, while in India, he met someone connected to a well-regarded rug manufacturing company in Hendersonville and they recruited him for his skill and business acumen.

Agarwal wants to earmark the $1 million specifically to help rural communities.

“Large cities like New Delhi have medical equipment, but my focus is going to be to bring these machines to small rural towns and villages who are so desperate for supplies, and to help so many people sick,” Agarwal said.

“We want to buy 1,000 oxygen concentrators. There are no oxygen supplies, and those with COVID have a very difficult time breathing,” he said. “We have to get some of these devices which are much stronger for COVID patients. I think with these oxygen concentrators, we can save tens of thousands of lives.”

Agarwal founded a nonprofit called Vision Express, which helps people in India struggling with eyesight. The nonprofit also does work in the U.S.

Over the past decade, he has gone on seven medical mission trips to India, taking six to eight local people from the Asheville area each time to India to both assist and see his home country.

“I’ve always believed in building bridges between the United States and India,” said Agarwal. “Whatever I’ve gained here, is because of the goodwill of the people here.”

He said hopes people will respond and donate to help raise the $1 million and potentially save people’s lives.

Agarwal said he has lost a very close family member to COVID-19, and many of his relatives back in India have been very sick as the pandemic ravages the country with deaths.

“Imagine waiting for four days to take a loved one to the cremation ground,” said Agarwal. “There is no dignity even in death, you know?”

He said the country has estimated up to 1 million people per day are getting sick with the virus.

India has a population of 1.35 billion in a country roughly one-third the size of the United States.

Because deaths from COVID-19 have been so widespread in India, the country has had to set up makeshift crematories to burn bodies as people continue to succumb to the virus.

Now is the time to step up. Western North Carolina has been so good to our family, and we love it here so much,” Agarwal said. “People are so kind and I know people will help us raise this money.

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Article Topic Follows: Regional News

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