Tom�s grew on a farm in Galway, Ireland. He started life his adult life as a carpenter; going to school at night, he managed he managed to obtain the necessary grades to be accepted into Limerick University, where he studied industrial engineering. He worked his way through college, supporting himself as a musician.
After immigrating to the United States in 1990, he spent nine years in Hoboken, New Jersey where he and his wife Justine rehabilitated old brick and brownstone buildings.
Tom currently lives in Los Feliz with his wife and their four children. He designed and built (with his own hands) the family home; a green, (solar electricity, solar powered water heating, grey water, and rainwater retention) white (read: Gone with the Wind) house. In 2008, he founded Farm Feliz, www.farmfeliz.org bringing together like-minded volunteers dedicated to the principal that problems are best fixed locally and incrementally rather than through grand, “top down” schemes. O�Grady points to the words of Mother Teresa as his modus operandi, “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”
The group that Tomas founded, Farm Feliz is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization encouraging gardeners and residents to trade in their gas blowers for a rake and broom. In partnership with Green Trees LA, the group has planted over 300 trees in the Los Feliz area alone. An offshoot of the group, Farm King runs a small garden at Thomas Starr King Middle School where students participate in garden projects on a weekly basis. In December 2009, he organized the first East Side Eco-Tour, a free tour of ten forward-thinking green homes attended by almost 400 people. A second tour in 2010 was recently completed. He has also worked with the Big Sunday Organization and the Friends of Los Angeles River to eliminate bottled water at their annual clean up events. He introduced recycling to Franklin Elementary and TS King Middle, as well as the Silver Lake Recreation Center and, most recently, the Griffith Park Adult Community Center.
Tomas, working with Dr. Kristen Murphy of King Middle School and others, was recently successful in establishing a new magnet school for environmental studies, to open at King in the fall of 2011. O’Grady says, “This is a shoestring magnet. It is being formed at very little cost to the taxpayer.” Confident that the community would come through with the estimated $30,000 start-up costs, he borrowed on his home equity line and personally guaranteed the initial funding. He founded and is currently the President of Friends of King, an organization committed to improving the education and environment at this school. He is the former President of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Nursery School and the former treasurer of the Friends of Franklin.
Tomas O’Grady formerly served on the board of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council, where he was the chair of the Green Committee. He received an outstanding community volunteer award from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) in June 2010. Here is what some of his colleagues have to say about him:
“Tomas O’Grady has ignited more enthusiasm with the teachers, parents, and students at T.S. King Middle School than I have seen in my ten year history as a teacher in the community. His passion is contagious, and his commitment is unparalleled. I am glad he is on our team!” -David Egeler, Special Education Teacher, Thomas Starr King Middle School. “Two years ago, regarding Tomas O’Grady, I said that I had never met anyone so dedicated to public service. In light of his efforts since that time at our public schools and throughout our community, I still have not met anyone so dedicated to public service. -Steve Lopez, Columnist.
Look for Tomas in the neighborhood around Los Feliz and Silver Lake. If you spot a silver-haired Irishman with a faint brogue, chances are he’ll be helping out on a public education project or planting a tree.