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Float Your Boat: The Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Sails to New Heights

By on January 14, 2018

The 2017 Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC) celebrated its 69th Annual Dinner Dance at the Pierre Hotel in midtown. The classy atmosphere was the perfect backdrop to an evening of gracious speeches, impeccable service and, of course, dancing.

The evening’s honoree was Polys Hajioannou, CEO of Safe Bulkers. Nancy Papaioannou, Chairman of the HACC and Co-Chair of the event committee, states that the HACC has always been determined to honor individuals who share in the HACC’s interest to cultivate and support a legacy of excellence in business culture and community. “Polys Hajioannou is a man of character and an impressive example of someone who makes a difference not only in the shipping industry but also in the community at large.”

Presentation of Person of the Year Award to Polys Hajioannou by the Members of the Board of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.  Marble Boat commissioned by HACC to mark the occasion created by Petros Marmarinos from Tinos, Greece.

Presentation of Person of the Year Award to Polys Hajioannou by the Members of the Board of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce. Marble Boat commissioned by HACC to mark the occasion created by Petros Marmarinos from Tinos, Greece.

Ms. Papaioannou says, “This year’s event was a celebration of business and culture. Over 380 people from the various industries gathered to honor and celebrate Polys Hajioannou, a leading force in the shipping industry and a philanthropist.” The event featured a remarkable performance by Pericles Kanaris (Composer, Musician and Director) and his band Synolon. HACC also commissioned a variety of special products made and shipped from Greece for the evening, including: a marble boat designed by Petro Marmarinos, a craftsman from the island of Tinos and a handcrafted bracelet made by Apritati for each attendee. A portion of all the evening’s proceeds is being donated to Galilee, a free palliative care service based in Greece.

This was also the major debut for the HACC Young Professionals’ new leadership with Sofia D’Alessandro at the helm. In her speech mid-way through the evening Ms. D’Alessandro prompts everyone to open the little boats by their place setting – which was a sponsorship form – and invited attendees to “give whatever amount floats your boat.”

In addition to the new leadership, the new format of this year’s Gala gained the attention and admiration of many Hellenic Young Professionals in attendance.

Polys Hajioannou with Members of the Board of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce

Polys Hajioannou with Members of the Board of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce

George Michaelidis (Greek Trade Commissioner for the Consul of Greece in New York) points out that the HACC events promote the interaction of two, even three generations of Greek Americans, encouraging everyone to share their cultural and professional ideas and traditions. To this he adds his regards to the evening’s honoree. “This is a spectacular event and I’m thrilled to see Mr. Hajioannou honored this way. The Greek shipping industry was one of the first and oldest in the world. Greek Marine companies were the first in the global marine business, so of course it’s fantastic that this year’s honoree is from that marine and shipping industry.”

Brian Devine, President of HACC, Polys Hajioannou, CEO Safe Bulkers, Nancy Papaioannou, Chairman of HACC

Brian Devine, President of HACC, Polys Hajioannou, CEO Safe Bulkers, Nancy Papaioannou, Chairman of HACC

Stavros Karageorgiou (CCM, Commercial Litigation Associate at Farrell Fritz) has been an HACC member for over three years. “I’ve been to all their events. They’re all wonderful. We meet excellent people in the Greek community. I’ve created several long-lasting relationships from the people I’ve met through the Chamber. It’s also a great educational event and brings people together…. Also, every other month we get together for networking activities, which is also a good opportunity to build new connections.” Stavros’ impression of the Chamber’s Mission is that the events are getting stronger each year, with more attendance than in previous years. “There’s a breadth of different industries represented here and I think it’s going to go even further in the coming years…. It’s imperative that the young professionals start building their network early on. There are several mentorship-like roles here from the more senior members of the Chamber; they take the young professionals under their wing and they’re able to give guidance from their own experiences.”

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Despina Victory also offered her compliments to the organizers. “The event was beautifully organized. I also came last year and in comparison it did seem much larger, but tonight the young professionals and the more experienced people are sharing their advice and stories with each other, and that was nice. It was very good to get to know people that way, otherwise we wouldn’t have as many opportunities to come in contact with them. This is an amazing opportunity for everyone here. I will definitely come again next year.” Ms. Victory also shares that it’s very important for youth to get involved with the HACC early on. “It’s important for Hellenic youth to get involved here at the local and national level, and even in Greece. Look at all the charities and fundraising goals HACC has set out. As a new member, I hope to get more involved whether it’s for planning or anything else that would help out. I plan to be a very active member any way I can because I like what I’ve heard and who I’ve met and spoken to here so far. They’ve inspired me to reach this goal.”

For additional information about opportunities and events available through the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, their website is hellenicamerican.cc

About Chris Salboudis