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September 2007
Celebrating two pillars of Hellenism in America

In 1922, visionary Greek immigrants organized what would become the primary promoter of Hellenism in America and received the charter from the Ecumenical Patriarch to organize their church in the new homeland. It was the same year that the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association was founded in Atlanta to protect Hellenes from the prejudice of groups such as the KKK. The weekend of September 7-9 Greeks from throughout the world are expected to converge in Atlanta in order to celebrate the 85th Anniversaries of these two pillars of Hellenism in America, with a series of events hosted by the AHEPA Mother Lodge Chapter No. 1.

“In 1922, the America of equality, which we cherish today, was not the norm. Greeks were treated as low-life foreigners who were different and unable to understand American society. But for the determination and steadfastness of the eight Greek-Americans in Atlanta, our accomplishments today would not have been realized,” Ike Gulas, AHEPA’s newly elected supreme president, stated saluting the occasion. “We not only owe gratitude to AHEPA for assisting our ancestors assimilate in a foreign and distant land, but we also owe them praise for the ability to foresee the need to establish an organization that would stand-up for what is right, not only for the Greek population, but also for all who needed a voice.”

AHEPA is the largest Greek-American association in the world with chapters in the United States, Canada, Greece, and Cyprus and sister chapters in Australia and New Zealand.

The Denver Convention

At least “people found out that Denver is not a cow town, we had more people here at the banquet and the Greek night that we had for many years,” Lee Rallis, Chairman of the Organizing Committee and former supreme president (1988-89), said in an interview with NEO. “It’s been a wonderful success and we want to thank all the brothers.”

Ike Gulas, a well known and respected lawyer from Birmingham, Ala., won a landslide victory in the election held at the end of the convention and was installed as Supreme President for the 2007 - 2008 year. "I am honored to be given the unique opportunity to serve as supreme president of the largest association of Americans who share a common bond of ancestry,” he said. “As we are in the midst of our 85th year, I intend to help AHEPA grow in terms of membership and international influence as we approach our centennial anniversary.”

The Supreme President thanked outgoing supreme lodge members and his family for their support. Gulas said he was particularly proud to have his father Aleck who has been an AHEPA member for more than 60 years, participate in his installation by reading the president’s charge.
President Gulas is a member of Chapter No. 3, Birmingham, a vibrant chapter in the AHEPA. His family has been there for more than 100 years and he is the founding partner of Gulas & Stuckey, P.C. of Birmingham.

The balance of the Supreme Lodge is a fine blend of veteran leadership combined with energetic newcomers. They are: Canadian President Fotis Antoniou, Supreme Vice President Nick Karacostas, Supreme Secretary Dr. John Grossomanides, Jr, Supreme Treasurer Anthony Kouzounis, Supreme Counselor John Galanis and Supreme Athletic Director Dr. Monthe N. Kofos.

The eight Supreme Governors are Charles Stamoulis, Colonel Nick Vamvakias, Lou Arvanitis, Connie Calliontzis, Phil Giavasis, George Pantazelos, John Georgifandis and Nick Perderis.

The remaining organizations that comprise the AHEPA family also held elections and Karen Stamatiades is the new Grand President of the Daughters of Penelope (DOP.) Founded in San Francisco in 1929, DOP is the first women’s organization of its kind established in the United States with the mission to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Hellenism, Philanthropy, Education, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence.

“I am humbled by the honor of being elected Grand President of such a dynamic organization by my peers,” said Stamatiades, who is a member of Menelaos Chapter No.53, Atlanta. “I look forward to the challenge of leading the Daughters of Penelope as we approach our eightieth year and I am committed to strengthening the core elements of our mission, especially civic responsibility and education, for the betterment of the community.”

Stamatiades, a 31-year member of the Daughters of Penelope, has served all major positions at various levels within the organization, including Chapter President, District Governor, and Grand Vice-President.

Elected to the Daughters of Penelope Grand Lodge were Grand Vice President Barbara Stavis Wolf, Covington, La., Grand President of Canada Eleni Inglis, Hamilton, Ontario, Grand Secretary Elaine Sampanis, West Chester, Ohio, Grand Treasurer Christine Constantine, Vernon Hills, Ill., Grand Governor, Zone I Anna-Helene Panagakos, Brooklyn, N.Y., Grand Governor Zone II Nicky Stamoulis, Seminole, Fla., Grand Governor Zone III Helen Santire, Houston, Grand Governor Zone IV Lois Kotzambasis, Tucson, Ariz., and Grand Advisor, Maids of Athena Joanne Saltas, Murray, Utah.

Rick Pecka was elected Supreme President of the Sons of Pericles, an organization with over 400 members. “The AHEPA family offers more opportunities for young Greek-Americans than any other special interest organization that I know of,” he said in an interview with NEO. “There are so many young people out there who maybe are unfamiliar with the Sons and Maids. We need to begin to spread the word more efficiently.”

Stephanie Maniatis was installed Grand President of the Maids of Athena and said: “Ever since I joined the Maids when I was 14, I’ve really believed in this organization and I just want to do as much as I can to inspire these girls, to get them closer together and move forward.”

“We don’t have a problem getting new members,” said Lee Rallis, past supreme president. “It’s keeping members we have. AHEPA first has to solidify what it used to be, the head of lay Greek people in the United States. We are not there anymore unfortunately. I remember that Archbishop Iakovos used to tell us, you take care of the lay people and we will take care of the church people. That was a wonderful situation and hopefully we will get back to that way.”

Next year’s supreme convention will take place in Athens, Greece.

Demetrios Rhompotis contributed to this report.

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