Chris P. Tomaras, a member of Leadership 100 and well-known Chicago businessman, 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. He was instrumental in the early stages of securing the property with two separate gifts of $100,000 each. He 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.
His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago thanked all supporters of the Metropolis and its ministries and stressed the importance of The St. Iakovos Retreat Center, which has been a focal point of his ministry, providing a summer camp for the Metropolis' children and a meeting place to fulfill the needs of the body, mind and soul of all its faithful. In an emotional presentation, His Eminence thanked Tomaras for his generosity and presented him with a stunning crystal cross as a token of his appreciation.
Tomaras, in addressing the dinner, suggested that the contributors of the challenge grant were the real honorees who, along with the vision of His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos, had motivated him to come forward with the fulfillment of his gift. Tomaras, who established Kronos Foods, the largest manufacturer of Greek food products in the United States, also launched Tomaras Investments, which has fueled his passion for philanthropy, leading to the creation of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation. The foundation 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 World 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. He has received numerous awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He is also 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, Illinois and Holy Trinity-Holy Cross in Birmingham, Alabama and with his service on the Board of 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 for 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.