He came to America as a 14-year-old, following his father's wishes to seek an education and opportunities that were unavailable in the small Greek village where he was born. Settling with his older brother who had already immigrated to Michigan, John Chinonis went on to earn a degree in pharmacy at Ferris State University.
"My father wanted me to come to America where you have the opportunity to do whatever you want to do," John said. His father, a hard-working farmer, believed in the American promise that if you work hard, you can succeed. John has lived those beliefs.
As the owner of Franklin Pharmacy on Flint's east side, John worked long hours at the business. His wife, Linda, a former school teacher, raised their two sons. He provided jobs for people in the neighborhood, mentored young men and women and always encouraged them to earn an education. He supported one mentee throughout his youth, a young stock boy who worked at the pharmacy with dreams of becoming a pharmacist. John provided encouragement and financial assistance, and the young stock boy fulfilled his dream.
"He repaid me in full and became a successful pharmacist," John recalls. "It makes you feel good when you do something to help others."
That passion for giving was founded in his childhood. John remembers local villagers coming to his family's door with empty bowls, his father filling them with wheat and oil. He carried out that tradition as a pharmacist, never refusing to fill a prescription for a child in need.
"Society is as good as its people," John says. "To have a good society, you have to contribute to it."
John's contributions continued following early retirement from the pharmacy. He co-founded YaYa's Flamed Broiled Chicken with his brother, developing the restaurant's concept, ensuring quality products, employing hundreds of people and later providing franchise opportunities for others. He sold the business last year and is enjoying retirement with Linda. Together they are focused on new ways to contribute.
John and Linda created an annual charitable budget to support the causes they care about-including the Fenton Community Fund, Mott Community College, Ferris State University and their church.
"It comes down to having respect for mankind," says Linda. "We just feel that our contributions go for a good cause to support the important things in our community. We feel fortunate that we can do our part."