Oscar came to the United States looking for a better chance in life. As soon as he stepped foot on US soil, he knew: “This was the land of opportunity.” His heart and soul were filled with inspiration. He was determined to seize it.
His beginnings were humble. Born in a small town of five thousand, Caravelli Arequipa, in Peru, he was the second child in a family of six. At the age of twenty-three, he set out for New York and found his first occupation: working as a porter in the American Express building. He lived and breathed his job. “I didn’t need a lot of sleep then,” he recalls. It’s been a straight shot from there into what has been called the American Dream.
Less than two years after his arrival, he formed his own company: Navarro Special Cleaning Services. It was George Nieto, the son of his boss, Ray Nieto, who had first given him the idea. George might have planted the seed, but Oscar made sure to make it grow.
“He never stops,” says Margot his wife of eighteen years. Oscar got used to working seventy to ninety hour work weeks. “My focus (back then) was working and furthering my education.” It paid off. His cleaning company was soon winning contracts with Department of Environmental Protection, the Port Authority, MTA, SCA, and Private Companies like Bovis, Turner Construction and AABR among others. At one point, his company had 120 employees.
1997 was a big year for Oscar. He began studying at NYU’s Leonard N. Stern Graduate School of Business; his first daughter Cynthia was born; and he also started to work for AABR and its then Executive Director, Chris Weldon. “It was a learning process to try and please him,” Oscar remembers with a sly smile. “He’s a hard man to please, but we got to a point where he was happy with us.”
Over the years, Oscar has diversified his business interests. He not only cleans buildings but sells cleaning products and invests in real estate. His older daughter Cynthia is now 16, his younger, Geraldine, is 15. He likes to travel and play an occasional round of soccer and golf. He has a few choice charities that he supports: Independence Residences, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, World Vision, his local parish Our Lady of Mercy, Margaret Ville Fire Depot along with AABR.
For these reasons and more, AABR is pleased to present Mr. Oscar Navarro with this year’s Humanitarian Award.