The 31st Annual Leadership 100 Conference that took place in Naples, Florida last week was dedicated to the Centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Leadership 100 was created in 1984 under the guidance of Archbishop Iakovos as an endowment fund of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to provide an opportunity for Greek Orthodox leaders to support the life-sustaining ministries of the Church.
Since its inception, Leadership 100 has distributed more than $65 million in grants that have ranged from providing scholarship funds for individuals studying for the priesthood at Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology to supporting a variety of National Ministries.
Today, with almost 2,000 members, Leadership 100 is a philanthropic driving force within the Church, the Greek American Community, and in the nation and the world that aims to transform institutions and lives.
Executive Director Paulette Poulos admits that there were concerns over hosting the conference due to the pandemic. “A few months ago, I was one of those people— I’m usually optimistic— that we should cancel this. We had many cancellations, even two of our speakers could not come, so we were in a bind,” she told Greek Reporter.
But with sheer determination, she picked up the phone and called prominent members of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek American community inviting them to the conference. They all accepted the honor. The 31st Annual Conference was a great success.
“We Greeks whether we are young, middle-aged or old, need to be together. We need that energy from each other. And when you saw people without the masks, because, here in Florida they don’t wear them, hugging each other… I’m guilty of that more than anyone, it was a beautiful spirit, it was a beautiful feeling,” Poulos said.
“Everyone shared with me how they’re leaving with a restored and renewed faith. Leadership 100 has always done that, but this year more so than any other year. And I believe that the young people, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, appreciate that the church cares for them.”
She described the heart-warming scenes when young people came up to her and hugged her as a big thank you “for bringing us together, for this dancing, for this—being together, just to feel the warmth of the Greek community…Leadership 100 does that. We’re a family.”
Leadership 100 humanitarian assistance to Greece
This year’s conference was dedicated to the Centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In 2021 the virtual conference was dedicated to the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.
In addition to grants, Leadership 100 has also provided humanitarian assistance during national and international crises.
“When the fires broke out in Greece this past year, his Eminence Archibishop Elpidophoros asked us to initiate the first $200,000 as a matching grant, with the understanding that would only be given if they could match it. They raised $1,200,000 with the archdiocese,” Poulos said.
She added that Leadership 100 has donated to the Ecumenical Patriarchate programs. “Even though our scope is America and the Archdiocese here, we are still part—and will always be part—of the mother church.”
Started with 100 people, now reached almost 2,000
Poulos is “ecstatic with joy” that Leadership 100 has reached this level. “Archbishop Iakovos is probably smiling down at us when we first talked about creating the group of 100 people. ‘If you raise 100 people, God can call me home’ he said. I replied ‘we will be going for 200 people.’ Now we’re almost at 2,000.”
Outgoing Leadership 100 Chairman Argyris (RJ) Vassiliou, told Greek Reporter that the Florida conference was a great success. “We had close to 500 attendees which is a very good year on a normal year, and we are growing.”
Leadership 100 trending younger
The encouraging sign for Vassiliou is the growing participation of the younger generation.
“I think we’re trending younger, the young professionals are growing in numbers. We have over 200 young professionals out of our total membership, we had over 125 attendees this year, and you can feel the spirit of the youth, and it’s really promising, not only for Leadership 100 but for our church and for the Archdiocese in America,” he said.
“It’s truly inspirational and I expect that my successor Demetrios G. Logothetis will continue on that trajectory, as we continue to get younger, and help both Hellenism and Orthodoxy here in America,” Vassiliou added.
“God created science, but Greeks brought it to humanity”
Among the speakers at the Leadership 100 conference were Father Andreas Vithoulkas and Dr. Alexander Kitroeff, who had written a book on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Also, Dr. George Yancopoulos the CEO of Regeneron, maker of one of two experimental therapies for the treatment of “mild to moderate” cases of Covid-19 that was authorized by the US’ Food and Drug Administration.
Yancopoulos gave a really inspiring talk on his company and his upbringing.
“I can point to my family, my heritage, my faith that made me who I am and made all of you who you are, and how somehow we all seem to connect to each other. It is in our genes, in our spirit, in our soul. I am so proud to be one of you,” Yancopoulos said and added:
“God created science, but Greeks brought it to humanity.”