“This country has been so good to me that I felt that I need to return the favor” TOMAS O’GRADY
Tomas has stepped up and spent the last few years making things happen in his community.
“I grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland and I think because of this I have an understanding of the earth and its fragility. While food in Ireland back then was hardly on par with France or Italy, at least it was whole food. Children in the city who have never farmed often have no idea how a carrot grows or that basil can be turned into pesto. We ate the potatoes and beetroot that we grew. I think it is critical for children to renew that connection with their food sources and thus their connection with their planet. From a learning perspective, imagine a science class that is talking about germinating for example, and then stepping outside into the school garden to demonstrate the process. Not all children like to kick a ball. Some simply prefer to play farmer. I think the garden at Thomas Starr King Middle School, brought a softness to that school that a computer or a basketball hoop could never match.
Enrich LA’s give-back ethos is derived from Tomas, who feels that he has a lot of be thankful for. Hailing from a farm in Ireland, he arrived at Kennedy airport in 1990 with $80 to his name. He and his wife began developing real estate in Hoboken, N.J., designing projects and building them himself. By the age of 30, with a lot of sacrifice and hard work, he had made his fortune.
“We are truly the cheesiest version of the American dream. The U.S. was so good to me that I wanted to give something back.”
Enrich LA has allowed him to return the favor.
“Our goal is to have young kids appreciate whole foods so that by appreciating it, they’re not drawn to french fries and hamburgers. Their taste buds become more sophistacated than that.”
Not only do palates evolve, but student morale, test scores and class involvement improve drastically.
Tomás organized the 2009 “East Side Eco Tour”: a free tour of 10 forward thinking green homes attended by almost 600 people. The 2010 tour, scheduled for October 24th (25 homes and a projected 2000 visitors) will be the largest home tour of its kind in Los Angeles. Tomás, a creative problem solver, worked with Big Sunday and the Friends of Los Angeles River to eliminate bottled water at their annual clean up events.
He founded “Friends of King” an organization committed to improving the education and environment of the students at that school and received an outstanding community volunteer award from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) in June of 2010. He is the former chair of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council green committee.
Tomas ran for City Council 2011. Learn more at his website: www.tomasogradyforcd4.com/wordpress