LACONIA — Gladys and Tony Sakowich have no children of their own, but through their extensive and thoughtful generosity, the couple is blessed with a large and ever-growing adoptive family that now includes the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region.
Married in 1955 in the former Our Lady of the Lakes Church of Lakeport, the Sakowiches, who once had a seasonal home in Laconia but now reside year-round in Andover, Massachusetts, recently donated $400,000 to the Boys and Girls Club.
Late in 2013, club officials announced that they are seeking to raise $2.4 million to purchase and transform the former St. James Episcopal Church campus on North Main Street into the club's first real and permanent home.
"The kindness of the Sakowiches is astounding, we are stunned and delighted," said Chris Adams, who is president of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region and the chief of the Laconia Police Department. "We are honored, we are grateful and we are just so happy that our efforts to build a 'forever home' have gotten off to such a wonderful start," Adams added.
Adams pointed out that the Sakowiches are no strangers to helping a variety of causes that help others.
In 2012, the Sakowiches were honored by the Andover Village Improvement Society for donating their nine-acre homestead on Oriole Drive to the society and, ultimately, to the public, which for years, with the welcome of the Sakowiches, has hiked, snow-shoed and cross-country skied on the property.
Not far from what is now known as the Sakowich Reservation is Merrimack College in North Andover, which is home to more of the Sakowiches' largesse: the 130,000-square-foot Gladys Sakowich Campus Center whose amenities include the Anthony Sakowich Recreation Complex.
Also supporters of the Merrimac Valley Boys and Girls Club in their home state, the Sakowiches have previously been identified by the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region at the club's June 2013 Community Leaders Breakfast as major donors to its upcoming capital campaign, but only within the past week has the size of their donation been made public.
Addressing the Sakowiches in a video message, Al Posnack, who chairs the Capital Campaign Committee, told them that while many of those at the breakfast didn't personally know them, the nonagenarians nonetheless are "part of the family to us."
Paul Gaudet, Sr., who is the founder of the AutoServ family of automotive dealerships, and has known the Sakowiches for decades as friends and neighbors, explained that about four years ago he was approached by Tony Sakowich who informed him that he and his wife were selling their vacation home in Laconia.
Before Sakowich and his wife departed the Lakes Region, however, Tony — who many years ago developed the process to manufacture kitchen laminates and who counted the Sears and Formica companies as customers — told Gaudet that he wanted to leave a legacy to the area, stressing that "You know, I love the Boys and Girls Club. Let's do something for them."
Soon after that conversation, a trust fund was established to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, whose directors, after exploring several possibilities, including building a brand-new facility from the ground up, decided to purchase and renovate the St. James property.
The Sakowiches are "just wonderful caring people," said Gaudet, who is trustee of their boys-and-girls club trust fund. "This is what they do. They're just huge givers."
Gaudet told the attendees at the Community Leaders Breakfast, who included New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, that Gladys Sakowich instructed him to tell them that she and her husband "don't want any praise," since the real work was done by others,
Posnack, in introducing Gaudet to the audience, respectfully disagreed.
"Their generosity," Posnack said of the Sakowiches, "has made it possible for us to be here."
For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region or to make a tax-deductible donation to its capital campaign, contact the club at 528-0197 or go to www.lakeskids.org.