Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 Kicks off 2023 with Blessing, Cutting of Vasilopita
As part of the agenda for their first business meeting of the year, the chapter reviewed their goals and objectives planned for 2023, continuing AHEPA’s mission to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
The chapter officers were overjoyed to see the record-breaking attendance, which included all five of the new members that were recently initiated into the chapter in December of 2022- Pelops Damianos, Howard Frampton, Eleftherios (Apollon) Zoumpanidopoulos, Salvatore Del Gigante, and Spiros Mountzouros.
Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 Celebrates 5th Anniversary and Initiates 5 Members
A dinner banquet was held at Limani Grille in Commack, NY, with 40 guests attending. Among them, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas congratulated the chapter on its anniversary, referring to the “twin pillars of Hellenism,” one being the Greek Orthodox Church and the other the Order of AHEPA.
As part of the celebration, Gus Kapassakis, a long-standing member with over 40 years of service, was surprised by Fr. Demetrios Calogredes with a plaque and a commemorative 40-year lapel pin. Supreme President Kokotas also presented him with a pin for the 100th Anniversary of AHEPA. Kapassakis made a very moving speech at the event, going back to his childhood in Crete, Greece, remembering the many hardships he and his family endured before immigrating to the United States. One of his seven sisters took the floor to thank Kapassakis for his determination and support during those hard times, recounting the fact that Gus, only 12 years old at the time, would go up into the mountains to set traps for birds and rabbits, bringing his catch back home to feed the family.
(‘It’s good to be an American, to be a Greek a miracle, but to be Cretan is a great thing’- TNH translation.)Also on December 10, Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 hosted a new member initiation ceremony, bringing in five new members, Pelops Damianos, Howard Frampton, Eleftherios (Apollon) Zoumpanidopoulos, Salvatore Del Gigante, and Spiros Mountzouros.
As has been the custom now for over five years, the AHEPA chapter hosted the ceremony at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook Long Island, which is owned and operated by the longstanding chapter member John Tsunis, Esq.
Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 Vice President George Kallas, who also leads the new membership committee for the Chapter, congratulated the five new members, now bringing the total in Port Jefferson to 42. Chapter President Nicholas Calogredes declared: “Our goal for 2023 is to continue increasing our members’ participation and to expand our Chapter with more members so that we can do more to pursue AHEPA’s mission of philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving the Hellenic identity of Greek-Americans.”
The event was once again a success with the chapter providing bait, tackle, food, and refreshments for the guests, including fellow Ahepans, family, and friends.
This signature event always takes place the last Saturday in September aboard the Celtic Quest. This year Brother Paul Zaferiou took the helm of the committee to bring the trip to its successful fruition. While the original date of September 24th was sold out with some on a waiting list, a few could not attend on this rain date due to other commitments. Still the boat had over 52 enthusiastic attendees.
AHEPA’s mission of promoting the ancient Hellenic ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism is always the chapter’s mission.
A fundraiser has been organized by AHEPA Brothers from a number of New York chapters, in support of Ahepan Brother Haralabos (Bobby) Gemelas, who has been undergoing some medical issues recently. For more information on this fundraiser please visit the following link here: https://bit.ly/3KUTkiX. Also joyfully relevant is that he and his wife welcomed into the world their first child, Kalligrace, on August 24!
Founded in 1922 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.
The show included classic cars from the past, modified vehicles, monster trucks, and a contingent of Suffolk County Police Department Exhibition vehicles – not to mention the original Batmobile! A $1,000 prize was given to the best in show winner chosen by independent judges. Also, at the event, the brothers of the AHEPA Chapter honored Sheriff Errol D. Toulon of Suffolk County for his efforts and successes in the service of Suffolk County. Special thanks to Ahepan Brother Ray Iasilli for being the spark and committee chair, bringing the entire event to fruition. Aside from being a fundraiser to help needs in the Ukraine, additional fundraising was conducted by Ahepan Brother John Mihalos for the AGAPE Charity, a ministry of the Church of the Assumption. This charity is responsible for feeding 150 children on the weekends who would not have any support for their meals otherwise. While the chapter’s efforts did indeed raise funds for all these charities, seeing all the Ahepan brothers pulling together as team for a common cause was heartwarming.
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.
Nicholas Calogredes, AHEPA 319Chapter President, began the ceremony with a summary of AHEPA’s accomplishments, then introduced Ahepan Brother John Tsunis, who presented the parishioners with a summary of the focus of the competition and how it came to be.
President Calogredes presented a history of AHEPA and its mission. He spoke about its 100 years of service to the world and its never-ending commitment to education.
The four winners of the Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 scholarship competition for 2022 are: Eleni Haralampopoulos ($1,000), Faith Keller ($1,000), Eros Lari ($500), and Marie Lolis ($500). Ahepans John Tsunis and George Vlachos presented the students with their award checks, certificates of scholastic achievement, and AHEPA medals.
The coffee hour at the church hall was sponsored by AHEPA and the Philoptochos.
Five new members were welcomed into the AHEPA Family including Michael Hartofelis, Dino Hartofelis, Nicholas Manolis, Sam Zubalake, and Vassili Nafpliotis. Also in attendance were members and officers of Babylon Chapter 416 and Constantine Cassis Chapter 170. Also present was AHEPA District 6 Governor Dean Moskos. AHEPA District 6 Lt. Governor Chris Pappis attended via Zoom.
The chapter plans on having a car show fundraiser in June to benefit the chapter and its philanthropic endeavors. Please visit http://www.ahepa319.org for more information.
The event culminated with Brother George Kallas, flanked by members of the Chapter, presenting a check to the Greek School of Port Jefferson in the amount of $500 for the advancement of Education and Hellenism.
Every year this event also brings together several AHEPA chapters, and this year was attended and supported by Brothers from Shrine Chapter 500 Greenlawn, Andreas T. Stamboulidis Parthenon Chapter 495 Whitestone, Constantine Cassis Chapter 170 Hempstead, Delphi Chapter 25 Manhattan, District 6 Treasurer Peter Ragoussis, and Past District Governors Demi Pamboukes and Michael Capous. The brightest, most significant and satisfying by-product of this event is the enthusiastic and joyful participation of students from St. Basil Academy in Garrison, NY, thanks to the generous AHEPA sponsors, including Past District Governor Louis Katsos. Shrine Chapter 500 from Greenlawn took it a step further and provided all the students with a gift at the end of the trip as they disembarked from the boat.
Special thanks go to Brother Haralabos (Bobby) Gemelas, who was most instrumental in the success of the event, spear-heading the sales and production, Brother Alex Vogiatzis, for help preparing and serving the food, and Port Jefferson Chapter Treasurer, Brother Mike Kontonicolas, for the management and handling of all the ticket sales.
George Kallas of AHEPA Chapter 319 and Professor Stella Tsirka of Stony Brook University partnered to create a scholarship competition targeted for students of the Center for Hellenic Studies. The theme of the essay competition was developed by Professor Tsirka and focused on documenting the experiences and history of people of Greek and Cypriot descent who immigrated to the United States.
Each participant interviewed five elderly/older Greek residents and documented how they were received and blended into the American culture, learned the language, and became established in the community as citizens of the United States. Correlations were encouraged to be drawn to the current immigration environment. Access to elderly Greek and Cypriot residents was facilitated by AHEPA.
John Tsunis, AHEPA Chapter 319, who personally donated the $1,000 for the scholarship, presented Electra Dovas, the winner of the scholarship competition, with the award. Dovas, who completed her sophomore year at Stony Brook University, was thrilled, not only to have won the competition, but also to have had the opportunity to experience interviewing the elderly Greek immigrants, including members of her family, and learning about their experiences coming to the United States.
Participating in the virtual ceremony were AHEPA members John Tsunis, George Kallas, and Mike Kontonicolas, Stony Brook University Faculty Members Professor Stella Tsirka, Nikos Panou, and Maria Athanasopoulou, and students Maria Karamitas and Electra Dovas.
AHEPA and the Stony Brook University Center for Hellenic Studies intend to keep this scholarship going year after year, and Professor Tsirka plans to build a volume of the essays, capturing the extraordinary experiences of the immigrants, along with their feelings, comments, and messages. The faculty members that reviewed the essays were moved by the stories they read, and noted how there was a common theme to all them that included sacrifice, determination, nostalgia, and a fierce love for their mother country of Greece.
AHEPA is very proud to have had the opportunity to make this scholarship available to the students of SBU’s Center for Hellenic Studies and will continue to do so as part of its mission of philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving the Hellenic identity of Greek-Americans.
Tsantes has been a very active and generous member of the Assumption Church in Port Jefferson for many decades as well as many other communities in Long Island. He has also been an active member of AHEPA for over 50 years. Several years ago, Tsantes and his family made a generous donation to Stony Brook University to create a center for Hellenic Studies. Fr. Nicholas and Mr. Kokolakis presented a silver icon of the Panagia to Tsantes in recognition of his many years of dedicated service to the Greek Orthodox Church and AHEPA. In attendance were his daughter Sophia Brandon, son-in-law Michael Brandon, and granddaughter Petroula Brandon.
“The community of Assumption Church and AHEPA 319 are honored to have Mr. Tsantes as a member,” Chapter 319 said in a statement via email.
The AHEPA Meals for Those in Need effort was spearheaded by Chapter 319 brothers with assistance from Gus Xikis, a church parishioner. They prepared and delivered marinated oven-roasted pork loin served with gravy, spanakopita, tyropita, Greek salad, cooked mixed vegetables, roasted potatoes, rice pilaf, soda, and pita bread.
It was such a success that Chapter 319 is now planning to formalize it into a recurring chapter event.
Pax Christi offers guests who are homeless a safe alternative to the streets. Pax Christi offers case management, drug and alcohol counseling, mental health counseling, links to benefits and resources in the community, as well as the basics of food and shelter. Over 50 active volunteers assist with cleaning, making beds, painting, serving meals and providing food and clothing for guests. More information is available online: https://www.hhm.org/pax-christi.
Students of the Greek Afternoon School Katerina Rodolico and Alexandros Manolis read essays about the lives of the Saints and their contributions to Greek Education. Continuing the program, the AHEPA leadership spoke about the Chapter’s activities during the past year. The Chapter donated 1,000 masks and 1,000 pairs of gloves to parishioners and friends. They also donated $1,000 for scholarship to students at Stony Brook University who are enrolled in the Hellenic Studies Program. Donations were also made for the victims of the terrible fires in California. AHEPA 319 is dedicated to promoting the Greek Language, culture, traditions, philanthropy and the precious Greek Orthodox Faith to all members and families throughout the community of Port Jefferson and beyond.
Thanks to the outstanding outreach and diligent efforts of the local AHEPA chapters, AHEPA Global Headquarters has received numerous city and state proclamations to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence.
The Chapter issued the following statement about the event, “Thank you to all who donated their time, to those who helped spread the word, and a very big thank you to everyone who helped sponsor the kids from Saint Basil Academy in Garrison, NY. It was a special day for the kids and staff members of Saint Basil's and we hope to create more memorable opportunities for them in the future!”
Though 2020 was a challenging year for the whole world and for Chapter 319 as well, as President Calogredes reviewed the Chapter’s accomplishments for 2020, it was also a year of progress and advancement which included the following initiatives:
Providing masks and gloves to the church community for protection against COVID-19Launching a scholarship for students at Stony Brook University’s Hellenic Studies ProgramAnnual Fishing Trip FundraiserCalifornia Wildfire DonationLaunching the Greek Food to the Hungry programDevelopment of the AHEPA Trifold Brochure to help attract new membersThe Chapter goal for 2021 is to increase their members’ participation and expand the Chapter with more members in order to do more to pursue AHEPA’s mission of philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving the Hellenic identity of Greek Americans.
AHEPA Chapter 319 wishes everybody a fulfilling, productive, safe, and Happy New Year in 2021!
Through the use of today’s latest technology along with some innovative thinking, the chapter was able to brainstorm, implement, and execute a plan to extend a helping hand by raising enough funds to send out 1,000 masks and 3,000 pairs of gloves to almost 250 families and parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson, NY. We look forward to continuing to help our community through our efforts so that we can overcome all obstacles together, united, and as a family.