Anyone who has enjoyed the festiveness of Charles Street during the holidays, skating on the Frog Pond on a crisp winter's afternoon or ducking into the Bull & Finch pub for a warm nip has had their day brightened by Beacon Hill resident Thomas Kershaw.
Kershaw, known by some as "Boston's host who has done the most for the city," according to his bio, is easily among the city's most generous boosters. The owner of the Hampshire House, the Bull & Finch (now known as Cheers Boston) and 75 Chestnut, he also donates much of his time and wealth to numerous city boards and projects.
He Believes In Boston
"I just think he believes in the city, and he wants to contribute to his neighborhood," Michele Giacomozzi, Kershaw's director for catering at the Hampshire House, said. "He wants to help Boston succeed."
As one of the founders of the Beacon Hill Business Association, the former chairman of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and the current chairman of the Freedom Trail Foundation, Kershaw has had a hand in beautifying and strengthening the city.
His Idea To Decorate Charles Street For the Holidays
On Beacon Hill alone, Kershaw's influence is palpable. It was his idea to start decorating Charles Street for the holidays two decades ago. "As the president of the (Beacon Hill) Business Association, I just felt it was important to decorate the main business street," Kershaw said. Since then, "it has (taken on) kind of almost a life of its own."
Not entirely. Although the effort has grown to include decorating all of Beacon Hill's 1,100 poles each December, Kershaw still plays a big part in getting this done. For 16 years, he has donated the annual holiday decorating party for Beacon Hill at the Hampshire House. The event not only goes a long way toward raising the $12,000 needed to trim the poles, but it helps spur community building by energizing the effort to draft much-needed volunteers to hang the decorations.
"It's one of my civic contributions this time of the year," Kershaw said.
But it's far from the only one. Each year he donates an elegant Thanksgiving dinner to the neighborhood's seniors.
Hosts Thanksgiving Dinner For Seniors
"I've been hearing about this from seniors since I started," Alexandra Curry, the marketing & community relations associate for the Hill House, which helps organize the event, said. "They are so excited about it. They love it, they're all very grateful. They've been trying to sign up for this for months."
The three-course meal, held in the stately main room at the Hampshire House, is a free event seniors anticipate each year. "The staff was great and Tom was there for part of the night," Curry said. "It seems like something he really likes doing."
His Work Helps Haiti, Boy Scouts, Boston Children
Kershaw also donates parties to benefit CRUDEM (a charity for the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Haiti), Hostelling International, the Boy Scouts of America, Cheers for Children (Kershaw's own organization has raised over $1 million for children's charities in the city) and Bunker Hill Community College. He is also a committee member for Light Boston, which helps light up monuments around the city.
"He's just a truly giving, generous man," Deb O'Hara, of CRUDEM, said. "He genuinely – when we told him about Haiti and our hospital – displayed a true caringness for the poor people and their condition. He generously opened up his heart and his resources."
But according to his bio, his "most significant civic project" was working with Mayor Thomas Menino to create the ice skating rink at the Frog Pond, which he ran through a nonprofit organization for 14 years.
"Beacon Hill is very fortunate to have Tom Kershaw as a neighbor," Suzanne Besser, executive director of the Beacon Hill Business Association, said. "Over the years he has contributed in many ways to our quality of life, ranging from founding and maintaining the Boston Common Frog Pond to hosting charitable events at the Hampshire House."