Opinion

Swampscott Person of the Year: Tom Demakes

Lynn, Ma. 12-28-17. Tom Demakes is Swampscott's person of the Year.
Lynn, Ma. 12-28-17. Tom Demakes is Swampscott's person of the Year. (Owen O'Rourke)

SWAMPSCOTT — Tom Demakes, a successful businessman and the town’s Person of the Year, is probably more well-known in Lynn, where he often gives back to the community.

Demakes, 75, has lived in Swampscott for 30 years, but he was born and raised in Lynn. He is the third-generation owner of Old Neighborhood Foods, the Lynn company founded by his grandfather in 1914. His three sons — Tim, Andrew and Elias — all work for the company.

“Having been involved with the Agganis Foundation for 32 years, I have witnessed first-hand Tom Demakes’ unprecedented generosity. His support of the Foundation as a whole and the Agganis All-Star Games has been a constant and the primary reason for any success we have attained,” said Paul Halloran, Executive Director of Agganis All-Star Games. He added:

“The geographic reach of the Agganis Scholarship program mirrors The Item circulation area. Tom may live in Swampscott and run a business in Lynn, but through his many philanthropic initiatives, the Agganis Foundation included, the overwhelmingly positive impact he has encompasses the entire region. He embodies what a Person of the Year should be.”

Demakes said he supports all youth programs in Lynn, which includes the Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., KIPP Academy, Lynn Economic Opportunity, Lynn YMCA, Aspire and Raw Art Works. His philanthropy also extends to LynnArts, Lynn Museum, St. Mary’s High School and North Shore Christian Center.

He said he tries to get involved in any kind of programs that help parents raise children and helps kids who may be without parents. Giving back to the community whenever someone can is important and helps keep the country strong, Demakes said.

“I didn’t do it in my earlier years. I wasn’t successful in my earlier years,” he said. “It wasn’t until my mid-50s that I kind of got the ball rolling enough so I was in the position to give back … If you’re in a position to do more, you should do more.”

Demakes is the grandson of Greek immigrants — he said it’s important to assimilate all of the immigrants that come to Lynn. He said the best way to do that is to educate them and get them involved in public schools, saying immigration goes hand in hand with education and after school programs.

“The future of America depends on how well we assimilate and teach our children,” Demakes said.

Demakes is also a big supporter of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Lynn. He was recently honored by the church for his lifelong commitment to St. George.

Although not as active philanthropically in Swampscott, Demakes made a significant donation to the newly refurbished Blocksidge Field, which serves as the home of the high school’s sports teams. He said the field will be great for the town.

“Even though Lynn has more needs and my business is located in Lynn, we try to help out Swampscott and other communities on the North Shore as much as we can,” he said. “I’m one of a bunch of people that feel similarly and I get inspired by other people who are willing to do the same thing. They give all the time.”

Although Demakes was named Swampscott’s Person of the Year, he said he wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving the recognition unless a group of Swampscott residents who give back to the town were also recognized — Bill and Jane Mosakowski, Mark Gelfand, Mark and Barbara Klaman, Tom and Midge DeSimone, Joel and Mary Abramson, and Nick and Chris Meninno.

“It’s inspiring to be around people that feel like you do, that are willing to give back,” Demakes said. “Nothing good happens automatically. It takes a whole bunch of good people working behind the scenes making things happen. It’s nice to know there’s a lot of people working hard to to make things happen. We’re not alone.”

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