Celebrating 99 years, the order of AHEPA commenced in Athens with its international convention in plenary sessions and ceremonies, bestowing the organization’s highest honors on the President of the Hellenic Republic, the Prime Minister of Greece and the President of Cyprus.
The convention, that ran from July 25 to 31, ended by installing its new governing board for the entire AHEPA family, including the Daughters of Penelope (DOP), Sons of Pericles (SOP) and Maids of Athena (MOA). Elections took place on Friday.
US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt welcomed the attendees when the session opened Sunday afternoon. The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) is a fraternal organization founded on July 26, 1922, in Atlanta, Georgia. AHEPA was founded to fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.
Upon arrival to Greece the organization’s members took part in receptions and ceremonies across venues in Athens including the Presidential Mansion, the Athens War Museum, the Stavros Niarchou Foundation, the Grande Bretagne Hotel and the Divani Caravel.
AHEPA Honors Hellenic Republic President, Prime Minister
On Tuesday afternoon, Katerina Sakellaropoulou hosted the AHEPA family at the Presidential Palace. Supreme President George Horiates bestowed the Socrates Award on Greece’s first female president. Also present was DOP Grand President Celia Kachmarski.
Sakellaropoulou said of the AHEPA organization, “During all this time, it has grown astoundingly, becoming a role model, both within American society and beyond, with remarkable community service through inspirational projects, while never forgetting the motherland.”
Wednesday Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, received the Socrates award at a reception at the Divani Caravel.
Mitsotakis said, “Our history, the history of 200 years, as one of our leading historians has written, was indeed a history of triumphs and catastrophes, moments when we did great things, but also traumatic, painful tragedies. There has never been a more painful time, Mr. President, than the tragedy in Cyprus 47 years ago. Cyprus remains a divided island under occupation. And I can assure you, I can assure the people of Cyprus, I can assure all Greeks in Greece and abroad that we will dedicate all our energy in order to promote the goal of a free and reunited Cyprus.”
Mitsotakis added “I had the privilege of spending seven years studying in the United States. I have very strong ties with the Greek American community. Dear George, I would like to congratulate the AHEPA organization for all its achievements, and for the fact that it has always been there in the good times as well as in the difficult times. AHEPA is always present in the fair struggles of Hellenism. We know we can count on you and you know you can count on us.”
The prime minister said, “The relationship between Greece and the United States is not only becoming stronger, but is paving a path of strategic importance for both our countries, which makes us feel extremely optimistic. You know that we have been facing significant challenges at regional level for the last two years, but we remain firm in our belief that if we rely on the fundamental principles of international law, the principle of good neighborly relations, we can and will be able to meet these difficulties.”
Greek Diaspora recognizes US Presidents with Socrates Award
The Socrates Award recognizes prominent men and women who have emulated ancient Hellenic ideals. This is the most prestigious award AHEPA awards. Among the recipients are US presidents: Joseph Biden-2015, George W. Bush-2002, Bill Clinton-1996, George W. H. Bush-1990, Ronald Regan-1986, Richard Nixon-1971 and Lyndon B. Johnson-1966.
AHEPA’s initial mission was to promote the image of Greeks in America, assist them with citizenship and assimilation into American culture, and combat prejudice.
With the full assimilation of Greek Americans, its mission evolved toward philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving the Hellenic identity. AHEPA is present in Australia, Canada, the Bahamas, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and the UK.
AHEPA represents the Greek diaspora with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition, the chapters report to 28 different districts. Those 28 districts report to the Supreme Lodge and Headquarters, located in Washington, DC.
AHEPA Athens Convention Honors Chrysoulakis, Archbishop
AHEPA honored two individuals, Yiannis Chrysoulakis, Deputy foreign minister of Foreign Affairs of Greeks Abroad, and His Eminence Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens.
Chrysoulakis, also an AHEPA member, complimented the Horiates on the work he has done, over the past two years, despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Chrysoulakis said that the Greeks from abroad have a passion for Greece rivaled only by those who currently live there and that without the diaspora communities, things would be much worse.
His Eminence Archbishop Ieronymos could not attend the event in person. A letter, on his behalf, was read to delegates by his representative.
AHEPA Convention attendees were also welcomed to Athens by U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt. “The Greek American diaspora, and especially grassroots organizations like AHEPA, put our democratic principles into practice, advancing the U.S.-Greece relationship and playing a vital role in helping us to advance our shared goals.”
Pyatt said “From your study abroad and summer excursion programs to your recent support for the restoration and cleaning of the Harry Truman statue here in Athens, and the assistance that you provided to the Greek people during the COVID 19 pandemic, AHEPA has demonstrated time and again what a force multiplier you are for our bilateral relationship.”
Awards Presented at Niarchos, War Museum
Greek National Defense Minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos and General Konstantinos Floros, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, each were presented with the AHEPA Pericles Award for their service to Greece. The event to took place on Monday-July 26-to commemorate the 99th anniversary of AHEPA’s establishment in 1922.
“The Hellenism of America is the strength of Greece,” the Greek Minister of National Defense said.
“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for presenting me with the Pericles Award,” Panagiotopoulos said. “I am extremely honored to receive this award from AHEPA on this very important occasion of your 99th Supreme Convention in Athens Greece, where democracy was born, in the Golden Age of none other than Pericles.”
AHEPA developed the Pericles award on both the National and District level to honor those individuals in government. Past awards have been bestowed to Senator Paul Tsongas, Senator Paul Sarbanes, Senator John Glenn, Congressman Mike Bilirakis, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Congressman Gus Yatron, Congressman George Gekas, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Peter J. Visclosky and Panos Kammenos.
The board of the museum presented Horiates with the first Medal of Honor given by King Otto to the brave fighters of the Greek Revolution.
Dendias, Patoulis Honored at AHEPA Convention
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation venue was the site for an “AHEPA Greek Night” event Tuesday that included award presentations.
AHEPA honored Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias with the AHEPA Pericles Award. On behalf of Foreign Minister Dendias, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandra Papadopoulou, accepted the award from Supreme President Horiates. The ambassador expressed appreciation for the mission and work of AHEPA.
AHEPA also recognized the governor of the Region of Attica, George Patoulis, for his contributions to helping make the event held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation a memorable success.
Ambassadors Pyatt and Papadopoulou Honored by AHEPA
US Ambassador Pyatt and Greek Ambassador to the US, Alexandra Papadopoulou, were honored for excellence in diplomacy on July 29.
Ambassador Pyatt received AHEPA’s newly established George C. Marshall Award and Ambassador Papadopoulou received the AHEPA Pericles Award from president Horiates.
“For me, this Marshall award, like the AHEPA-funded statue of Secretary Marshall standing outside my office, symbolizes the ongoing friendship between the United States and Greece. It reaffirms our commitment—from the Greek Revolution until today—to support each other through whatever challenges our democracies may face,” Ambassador Pyatt said.
Ambassador Papadopoulou conveyed her gratitude for the honor and her appreciation for the mission and work of AHEPA and the DOP. Ambassador Papadopoulou is the first female ambassador to represent Greece in the United States.
On July 30 Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis and Haris Theocharis, minister of Tourism, were honored by AHEPA at an evening reception at the Acropolis Museum. Also present was Gianna Aggelopoulou-Daskalaki, who presides over Greece 2021 Bicentennial celebration.
Greek Reporter spoke with 15 year veteran of DOP, Anna Goritsas-Tsaparas. The native of Chicago, who moved to Greece in 1997, is serving as the president of the Hesperus Chapter of DOP in Athens. “Ahepans and Daughters from around the world are here to honor our forefathers and to celebrate our heritage,” said Goritsas-Tsaparas. “During our five days of meetings, we came together to express ideas, concerns in different ways not only to help improve our organization as a whole but to give a strong message to our neighbors that the Diaspora is here and will ‘Defend Hellenism!'”
Goritsas-Tsaparas has served as president, vice president, secretary and adviser as a member of the Hesperus chapter. “An important component of AHEPA’s/DOP mission is to create awareness of the principles of Hellenism to the international community. These principles include a commitment to humanity, freedom, and democracy.”
She said “AHEPA educates the community on these matters through symposia, forums, and conferences. Since 2006, the AHEPA family hosts a ‘Journey to Greece’ program designed to immerse university students in Greece and the Hellenic Culture. In addition, AHEPA Supreme President George G. Horiates has been “re-energizing” Hellenes and Philhellenes worldwide.”
The Daughters of Penelope was the realization of Alexandra Apostolides’ dream. Her desire was to create a woman’s organization and because of her perseverance and the encouragement of her husband Dr. Emanuel Apostolides, a devoted AHEPAN, she formed EOS Chapter#1 with 25 charter members on November 16,1929 in San Francisco, California.
Much like AHEPA, the Mission of the Daughters of Penelope is to promote Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, Family and Individual Excellence.
Philanthropy and volunteerism have been pillars throughout the country for the Daughters of Penelope over its many years of existence. From natural disaster relief, to raising funds to eliminate life threatening diseases, to making significant contributions to our local municipalities, the Daughters of Penelope is at the forefront of charitable giving.
Margarita Vartholomeou, a recent join to the Karyatides chapter in Athens attended the convention as a first time delegate. The Karyatides chapter was one of the first to be created outside the US, founded by Helen Tranta. The chapter is a legacy across the AHEPA family as Tranta and her members founded and built a school for girls in the Athens suburb of Nea Ionia that today has served as a day care center for under-privileged children, from 6 months to five years in age.
Vartholomeou told Greek Reporter, “DOP is non-profit organization, which not only takes positive action, but also educates and promotes responsibility among citizens.” Vartholomeou’s son, who won acclaim this past year as an international award winning young poet, Dimosthenes-Dimitris Despotithis, read some of his poems at the final AHEPA session. “What moved me most was the love and warmth with which the DOP demonstrated.”
Leadership Elected for 2021 -2022
The delegates of the AHEPA convention elected Jimmy Kokotas as Supreme President. Other members of the Grand Lodge elected for the 2021- 2022 administrative year are Lou Astaves, Supreme Vice President; Emanuel Constans, Canadian President, Savas Tsivikos, Supreme Secretary; Chris Kaitson, Supreme Treasurer; Demetrios Kirkilis, Supreme Counselor; Nick Kavadas, Supreme sons of Pericles Advisor; Chris Atsaves, Supreme Athletic Director. Regional governors include Kostas Sofikitis (1), James Gregorakis (2), Vassos Chrysanthou (3), Dalton Repass (4), Demetrios Papadopoulos (5), Sam Benjamin (6), Marshall Monsell (7) and Alexander Mallas (8).
DOP convention delegates elected Kathy Bizoukas, Grand President for the 2021-2022 administrative year. Bizoukas is a 36 year member of the AHEPA family. Bizoukas is currently a member of Daughters of Penelope Pleiades Chapter No. 50 and was also a Maids of Athens in Maids of Athena Chapter Dionysia Chapter No. 141. Her husband, Dave Kurow, is a member of AHEPA Chapter No.123. Kathy has two children, Jordan, 31, and Courtney, 29 who are also members. Kathy’s parents, George and Cleopatra, have been a part of the AHEPA Family since 1958.
Elections for the DOP board were held on July 30. Other members of DOP Board elected include Grand Vice President Georgette Boulegeris of Bedminster, NJ; Grand Secretary Marianthi Treppiedi of Spokane, WA; Grand Treasurer Margaret Dritsas of Ottawa, Canada; Grand Governor Zone I Antoinette Marousis Zachariades of Brick, NJ; Grand Governor Zone II Dorothea Williams of St Clair Shores, MI; Grand Governor Zone III Elaine Koutsoukos of AppleValley, MN; Grand Governor Zone IV Robbie Jackson of Spokane, WA; Grand Governor Zone V Nicki Douklias of Manitoba, Canada and Grand Advisor to the Maids of Athena Patty Didik of Hudson, FL.
The 2022 AHEPA convention will convene the week of July 17 at Disneyworld at the Coronado Springs Hotel in Orlando, FL. The organization will celebrate its centennial in 2022.
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