LYNN, Mass. — Helping to knock down the walls of the Boys and Girls Club in Lynn is special for Thomas Demakes, who spent a lot of time within those walls as a child.
His family immigrated to Lynn from Greece and the club was a home away from home.
"I grew up on Franklin Street about 500 yards down the street and I came here a lot of years ago -- 65 years ago -- and this building hasn't changed one iota," Demakes said.
That's exactly why it was time for the building to get a makeover, plus some modern amenities like air conditioning and wifi.
The $6.3 million renovation project also includes a teen center with career development and college prep help, and a yoga and dance studio. Demakes helped to fundraise and contributed $1 million to the project.
His way of giving back to the program that helped him to become a successful businessman.
"My mother would say, 'get out of here. You're driving me crazy. Go up the Boys and Girls Club and be home at 6,'" Demakes remembered.
A more recent member of the club, Ismael Diaz-Mateo also comes from an immigrant family. The Boys and Girls Club helped the Dominican native learn how to speak English. Now, he's being looked at by Harvard and MIT.
"There was a bunch of staff who really helped me, who always talked to me, like, every day they'll ask me a question," Diaz-Mateo said. "They'll try to speak Spanish just to have some fun, get me to talk more."
The renovations will allow the club to serve more young people like Ismael and grow.
"We service 400 kids a day here," board president Joe Scianaticio said. "So it's a lot of kids we're servicing. We're hoping to service a lot more kids."
© 2020 Cox Media Group