Chamber honors Makin as Citizen of the Year, one who ‘represents what makes our community great’

Chamber honors Makin as Citizen of the Year, one who ‘represents what makes our community great’

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WESTERLY — Mal Makin, a popular and much-admired community leader known for his generosity, kindness and loyalty, was honored Wednesday night with the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award during the chamber’s annual meeting held at Venice restaurant.

In front of an audience packed with family members, colleagues, friends and chamber members, Makin — who founded Westerly’s Professional Planning Group more than 40 years ago, and has been a champion and supporter of a number of local organizations ever since — wiped away tears as he walked to the podium.

After taking a long, deep breath, Makin first paid tribute to the members of the Westerly Veterans Memorial Committee who had been honored moments before with the chamber’s Key Award for their dedication to preserving and improving the war memorial in Wilcox Park.

Makin also thanked his wife, Martha, who was surrounded by family, and asked her to stand. “Part of the reason I am here tonight is because of her,” he said. “The love of a good woman … it’s true … it happens.”

“All of us here tonight have a story,” said Makin in his acceptance remarks, “I am here tonight because of some people who went out of their way to make sure some kids in the middle of nowhere were taken care of … that they had something to eat and were OK.”

Makin, who was raised on a farm in West Greenwich “in the middle of nowhere,” may have been poor as a youngster, but he was looked after by generous, kindhearted people, according to his son, Daniel Makin. Those kindnesses shaped Makin’s life.

Praising organizations like the YMCA, the WARM Center, the Jonnycake Center and the Westerly Library, Makin said there were “people out there in the shadows,” people in need of the same sort of kindnesses that were shown to him as a child.

“There’s no reason on God’s green earth that I should be standing here tonight,” he said. “But I am … all because someone made sure that a little kid got what he needed.”

“It takes a village,” he said, urging others to say “Yes” when the opportunity arose.

“I didn’t do anything that you all haven’t done,” said Makin, who recently completed a two-year term as president of the association board of the Ocean Community YMCA. In that time, the Y completed an $8.4 million renovation of its facility in Westerly. 

During a video tribute, created by local photographer Christopher Walsh, shown just before the award was presented, Makin was described as warmhearted, thoughtful, generous, passionate, and athletic by friends, colleagues and family members.

“Mal has dedicated a tremendous amount of his personal time and finances to support the YMCA and various other local nonprofits,” said Bruce Morrow, the outgoing chairman of the chamber’s board. “He is known as a dynamic, thoughtful and generous leader who believes passionately in giving back to the community.”

Makin was the unanimous choice of the committee created to select this year’s honoree, according to Lisa Konicki, chamber president. 

The committee considered a number of criteria, said Konicki, like “leadership role in the community, specific contributions in business and civic/nonprofit organizations, promoting the community image, improving the quality of life in our area, personal and professional characteristics including integrity, creativity, communication skills and broad social perspectives.”  

 “Mal represents what makes our community great,” said Sen. Dennis Algiere in the video tribute. “A great place to work, play, live and raise a family.”

“He’s quiet and reasoned and he’s energetic,” added his friend, Richard Holliday.

Makin, the father of four and grandfather of six, earned his certified financial planner designation in 1981. He is also an avid golfer and is a past president of the American Seniors Golf Association.

Makin’s association with the Y began at the Westerly YMCA branch as a member of the board of managers. He joined the association board in 2006.

He sponsors the Zamboni at the Washington Trust Community Skating Center, is a major sponsor of the Mystic Golf Tournament, the UBS Golf Tournament and the Leadership Recognition breakfast. He is currently in his fourth year as chair of the Ocean Community YMCA Annual Campaign, which is expected to raise over $500,000 to support financial assistance for individuals and families involved in various YMCA programs, activities and camps.

In addition to the YMCA, Makin has been a strong supporter of Stand up for Animals, the Buttonhole Foundation, the Westerly Library, and the NEARI Children’s Fund.

Makin’s friend, William Nardone, a Westerly attorney spoke in the video of Makin’s “quiet confidence and steadfast loyalty to family, employees.”

 Attorney Matthew Lewiss spoke of Makin’s “deep sense of love for his fellow human beings.”

“Life is good,” Makin said. “Life is very good.”








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