Chris P. Tomaras, a well-known Chicago businessman, community leader, churchman and philanthropist, announced the fulfillment of a $1 million gift to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago's St. Iakovos Retreat Center at a challenge dinner on September 23, 2008.
Tomaras, who was instrumental in the early stages of securing the property with two separate gifts of $100,000 each, presented a check for an additional $800,000 at the dinner, after challenging the Retreat Center's Board of Directors to raise $400,000. A total of $1.2 million was required to pay off the $2.3 million mortgage for the purchase of the 137 acre property outside Kenosha, Wisconsin, about two hours north of Chicago.
The St. Iakovos Retreat Center has been a focal point of the ministry of His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, to acquire a summer camp for the Metropolis' children and to provide a meeting place to fulfill the needs of the body, mind, and of course the spiritual soul of all its faithful.
Opening the evening with appetizers at the historic Metropolis House, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos thanked all in attendance for being supporters of the Metropolis and its ministries and stressed the importance of the Retreat Center as a project that has the possibility to impact so many people.
Guests were then transported by trolley to the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue, where dinner and a program followed, during which a special video was presented that depicted scenes from the Retreat Center. In an emotional presentation, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos thanked Tomaras for his generosity and presented him with a stunning crystal cross as a token of his appreciation.
Tomaras then spoke to those gathered, and suggested that they, the contributors of the challenge grant, were the real honorees that motivated him to come forward with the fulfillment of this gift and that their widespread support, as well as the vision of His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos, was the ultimate reason for his gift.
About the St. Iakovos Retreat Center
Located in stunning natural surroundings near most of the Metropolis' population centers, the Retreat Center will serve thousands of youth and adults alike as an ideal gathering place for camp sessions, weekend retreats, clergy meetings and other similar events for the tens of thousands of faithful served by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.
The current retreat center is located in a rural setting adjacent to 35 acres of pristine woodlands and hills, next to an eight-acre lake. It contains a century-old farmhouse and a 2,000-square foot log cabin with game rooms, television viewing areas and a large outdoor swimming pool for recreational activities. Other amenities include an indoor pool with Jacuzzi, various sporting facilities including basketball and volleyball courts, a baseball diamond, a soccer field and a trail for cross-country skiing.
Immediate future development plans include a hotel style rooming facility for the camp or adults, a multi-purpose assembly building and a chapel. Later development will deliver two additional residential lodges, 8 intimate cottages and many other property improvements.
With roots in the region of Messenia, southern Greece, and born in the port city of Piraeus, Tomaras arrived in the United States in 1958 and immediately began impacting the lives of people around him. Among his many successful ventures, he established Kronos Foods, the largest manufacturer of Greek food products in the United States.
Most recently, the success of his latest venture, Tomaras Investments, has fueled his passion for philanthropy with the creation of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation which awards hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in scholarships of $10,000 each to dozens of worthy Greek American students. In 2008, the total of $250,000 will be awarded.
For over a decade, Tomaras served as the Vice President, North & South America Region, of the Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), an international umbrella organization comprised of Greeks from dozens of countries, founded by the Greek government to support various initiatives.
Tomaras has received numerous awards internationally including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He is a member of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund and serves humbly as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In addition to his national and international outreach, his impact has been felt locally as a member of the parishes of The Annunciation Cathedral in Chicago, St. Haralambos in Niles, IL and Holy Trinity-Holy Cross in Birmingham, Al and, naturally, with his service on the Board of the St. Iakovos Retreat Center.
*For photos of the event, please visit our website at Chicago.goarch.org
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