It is with a heavy heart that we celebrate the life and legacy of Mikail Graham. For those unaware, yesterday our community experienced a great loss as our dear friend and the Hospitality House Secretary of Board, Mikail Graham, crossed over the rainbow bridge, having recently been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a rare neurodegenerative disease that rapidly attacks the brain.

At this time, our team is experiencing immense grief and still processing this tragic turn of events that took us all by surprise. Mikail has touched many lives in our community but especially the lives of those underserved. Having experienced homelessness himself at a young age and needing help to get back on his feet, Mikail knew first-hand the importance of lending a kind heart and helping hand to others.

“His heart is what I will miss most,” said Nancy Baglietto, Executive Director of Hospitality House. “He believed in giving back. He believed in helping any person who needed it, whether homeless or not. For Mikail, it was just the right thing to do.”

Mikail has been a pinnacle part of the Hospitality House story since its inception, known to many as the founder of Night of Giving, a popular musical benefit that he hosted every December for 15 faithful years, collectively raising over $1 million to help struggling men, women and children access food, shelter and housing needs through Hospitality House. To celebrate the milestone, in 2021, Hospitality House Board and staff awarded Mikail a 15-Year Community Service Award, which included a framed handmade guitar comprised of punched copper as well as memorabilia from various events spanning the years that encapsulate the lasting impact of Night of Giving.

“I wish I had an opportunity to thank him one last time for everything, but I find some solace in knowing we at least had a chance to honor him and pay tribute in the present, where we celebrated his legacy with our Board, staff and friends together, and for that, I am grateful,” added Baglietto.

In addition to Night of Giving, Mikail gave his time year-round to the Hospitality House Board of Directors and recently celebrated five years of service as Board Secretary this past June. He’s been instrumental not only in Hospitality House’s fundraising success but in spreading awareness on the need through his vast channels and connections, encouraging neighbors to come together as one to address homelessness. His servitude never waivered through the years, even when faced with a pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, many assumed Night of Giving would be canceled, but for Mikail, the show must always go on … and it did. Mikail hosted our first ever virtual event in 2020. When our community was separated and in lockdown with many feeling at an all-time low, Mikail found a way to bring people together from afar and to lift people up with hope and newfound spirit.
“When I think about the inspiration for why it [Night of Giving] became a big part of my life, I’d have to turn back to Utah Phillips,” said Mikail of Night of Giving in 2020. “Bruce was somebody who I had the pleasure to produce a record with. I got to record one of his last spoken word pieces, ‘What We Need’ … It just reaches into the heart is all I can say and it really is something that touched me, which is why I have been able to give all these years.”

Today, and always, we honor and thank Mikail Graham for his service and commitment to our community and for the countless hours he’s given to better the lives of others.

In Mikail’s memory today, we share his inspiration for love and giving.

“What We Need,” by Bruce Utah Phillips, co-founder of Hospitality House

Everyone needs a nice place to live in,
And good food to eat that’s not too expensive,
And clean clothes with no holes or patches;
A doctor to call, an old friend to visit,
A way to get places, parties, and music;
A street to walk safely,
And benches to sit on with shade in the summer,
And warm friendly places to be in the winter;
Some work to do that’s useful to others
and doesn’t get boring;
People to come to for all kinds of answers,
And somebody checking so nobody’s forgotten;
Money to spend that’s given and taken
Without feeling guilty;
Love without pity,
Pride without anger—
Everyone knows what everyone needs,
But programs, laws, city councils, commissions,
Agencies, bureaus can’t give it to us.
All of us need the best in each other.
And if we can find it,
And if we can give it,
The rest will soon follow.
If we all stick together,
We’ll get what we need.

Amen.

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