ORLANDO, FLA.—The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the leading membership-based association for the nation’s millions American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, hosted its 95th Grand Banquet, the pinnacle event of the annual Supreme Convention, July 29, Walt Disney World Yacht Club Resort, Orlando, Fla. The Grand Banquet serves to honor excellence in the community and to salute dedication and service to the Order.
This year, the honorees were Minister of Defense of the Hellenic Republic Panos Kammenos and Chick-fil-A President/COO Timothy P. Tassopoulos.
Minister Kammenos, an Ahepan, received the 2017 AHEPA Pericles Award for excellence in public service. In presenting the award, Past Canadian President Nick Aroutzidis cited Minister Kammenos’ diligent efforts to enhance relations between the United States and Greece, longtime NATO allies, especially in the areas of defense and security.
Mr. Tassopoulos, an Ahepan from Chapter 519, Marietta, Ga., received the 2017 AHEPA Aristotle Award for excellence in one’s profession. In presenting the award, Past Supreme President Ike Gulas cited Mr. Tassopoulos’ professional achievements, his commitment to the community, and appreciation for AHEPA’s mission, including philanthropy and service. In acceptance, Mr. Tassopoulos noted that lessons he learned about service and generosity at Chick-fil-A are also lessons shared by AHEPA. In reflecting about AHEPA’s work in the community, he stated the organization’s investment in education has “paid off,” and he encouraged AHEPA to continue to “pay it forward."
Moreover, an "Appreciation Presentation" was made to Walt Disney World Resort President George Kalogridis for the amazing hospitality Walt Disney World afforded the AHEPA family conventioneers during the week. Supreme President Andrew C. Zachariades, Chairman of the Board Nicholas A. Karacostas, PSP, and Executive Director Basil N. Mossaidis presented Mr. Kalogridis with a work of art depicting “Poseidon” by his favorite artist, Josh Garrick. In 2014, AHEPA presented Mr. Kalogridis with its highest honor, the AHEPA Socrates Award.
With more thanks to Walt Disney World, two video presentations were shown to the audience: a 95th anniversary commemoration filmed during the spring and a highlight reel that captured the convention’s week-long events. (Look for the videos to be posted this week.)
The AHEPA Veterans Committee, chaired by retired Col. Nicholas P. Vamvakias (U.S. Army), made a special presentation of the AHEPA Medal for Military Service to approximately 200 Veterans in the audience, which included His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America. Five AHEPA Past Supreme Presidents, each one representing a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, participated. They were: PSP A. Steve Betzelos, United States Air Force; PSP Andrew T. Banis, United States Coast Guard; PSP Franklin R. Manios, United States Marine Corps; PSP James S. Scofield, United States Navy; and PSP Nick Smyrnis, United States Army. Defense Minister Kammenos and U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, who is vice-chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, also participated. Members of the Sons of Pericles and Maids of Athena assisted with the distribution and pinning of the medals upon the recipients.
Banquet Program Highlights
AHEPA National Educational Foundation Chairman George Vorkas served as Master of Ceremonies. Executive Director Basil N. Mossaidis welcomed the audience. The banquet program featured speakers who expressed their thanks to AHEPA for its assistance and effectiveness as an organization during its 95 years.
The audience received inspirational remarks from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, who conveyed the love and prayers of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. His Eminence also updated the audience about the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas National Shrine and Greek Orthodox Church at World Trade Center. His Eminence added the AHEPA Family is a “special gift,” and he gave thanks for the organization’s founders, its middle generation, and its new generation.
Congressman Bilirakis, co-chair, Congressional Hellenic Caucus and the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance; and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Leonidas Pantelides, each offered timely speeches.
The ambassador conveyed greetings from President Nicos Anastasiades and touched upon Cyprus’ deepening partnership with the United States. Ambassador Pantelides also expressed it is his government’s belief that resilience, and a determination to succeed, are imperative to finding a Cyprus solution.
In a post-convention statement, Rep. Bilirakis said, “AHEPA’s mission to promote Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, family, and individual excellence has set the standard for ethnic organizations and has helped Greek Americans become one of the most successful ethnic groups in the United States. I am proud to work with AHEPA to strengthen relations with Greece, secure religious freedom and protection for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and promote solutions to the Cyprus and Macedonia.”
AHEPA Australasia National President Peter Yiannoudes delivered a special greeting to the audience from the Brothers and Sisters "Down Under."
In addition, AHEPA family leaders offered farewell remarks as their terms in office came to close. They included: Supreme President Andrew C. Zachariades, Daughters of Penelope Grand President Jan Spanos, Sons of Pericles Supreme President Nick Apostolou, and Maids of Athena Grand President Tria Charnas.
Grants, Donations Announced; Ahepans Receive Accolades
Chairman of the AHEPA-Saint Nicholas Capital Campaign Nicholas A. Karacostas, PSP, announced AHEPA is $160,000 shy from reaching its $1 million goal to help rebuild Saint Nicholas National Shrine and Greek Orthodox Church at World Trade Center. Thousands of dollars in donations were presented by AHEPA districts and chapters to Chairman Karacostas, Supreme President Zachariades, and Archbishop Demetrios for the capital campaign.
During the course of the evening, tens of thousands of dollars in grants or donations were announced by AHEPA family entities to worthy causes, including by the AHEPA National Housing Corporation and its president, Angelo Kostarides. The Maids of Athena announced a $10,000 donation to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nonprofit that responds to the world’s humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives are shattered by disaster and conflict.
Additionally, Supreme President Zachariades oversaw the presentation of several AHEPA National Awards, including:
AHEPA Lifetime Achievement Award – Brother Nick Stratas, Mobile, Ala., a founder of the AHEPA National Housing Program and current Board Chairman;
2017 Ahepan of the Year – Brother Past District 12 Governor Sam Benjamin of Crown Point, Indiana
2017 District of the Year – Automotive District 10, Michigan
2017 Chapter of the Year – Delphi Chapter 25, Manhattan, N.Y.
Three AHEPA Philanthropy Awards were presented to:
Brother Past Supreme Governor Peter Baltis, Albany, N.Y., for his decades of charitable giving to AHEPA;
The Estate of Nancy Horton, which gifted $1.25 million to AHEPA for annual donations to be made to the AHEPA Hospital in Thessaloniki; and
Gus Cherevas—Estia-Pindus Chapter 326, Flushing, N.Y. for the chapter’s raising of $60,000 for the campaign to rebuild Saint Nicholas, the most amount gifted by any chapter thus far.
(All photos courtesy: Disney)
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Founded in 192 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
AHEPA's mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
For more information, please visit www.ahepa.org.