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- AHEPA Celebrates 99th Anniversary and Greece’s Bicentennial with its Annual Convention in Athens
Founding Father Peter M. Dion
Peter M. Dion is along with Arthur Anton, Andrew Athens, Thomas Athens, George Chimples, Michael Jaharis and George Kokalis, a founding father of Leadership 100. Clearly moved and speaking to NEO magazine at the end of the conference, he recalled the inaugural meeting of Denver, CO in 1984 and how it managed to go beyond the initial, very optimistic, goal of 10 members to 18!
It’s the 30th Anniversary of an organization which you were instrumental in putting together. What are your thoughts as another successful conference is about to conclude.
This is indeed the best conference I’ve ever been. Now we have come to the next level and I think that before the end of the year we will have a thousand members and maybe more! I can tell you this conference is special because not only do we have people from all over the country, but we have young people. I am so proud to be a founding member of this organization and to be a Greek American. I came from the old country with no shoes and to me it means a lot to be part of this and to have helped start an organization like this.
Back then when you started it did you expect this growth?
Archbishop Iakovos did not believe we could get 10 Greeks to contribute $100,000 each. But we insisted and we won by one vote (in deciding to form the Leadership). That evening in Denver my wife and my daughters became members. And of course, so did the rest of the founders. To make a long story short, when we left Denver we had 18 members! And they all paid the full amount of $100,000! And for some time we had to pay for operating expenses from our pockets. So yes, I am very proud that the seeds we sowed then, have blossomed to this beautiful organization. And let me tell you something else: in our history as people, never before have 1000 Greeks come together, in unity, to do good for the Greeks! Everybody you see here, not only pay the membership fees, but they have to cover traveling expenses, accommodation, plus conference participation. (TURNING TO PAULETTE POULOS) I love this young lady; she is like my third daughter. Nobody knows better than me what she has done for this organization.
Paulette Poulos, Executive Director
“This was indeed a very moving and historic conference! My thoughts tonight went to His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, of blessed memory, and I’m sure he’s smiling down to all those beautiful founders and members. Because it was his dream, together with the dedicated laymen founders, to create this kind of an endowment program. With their vision, tonight we have over 935 members! None ever dreamed that we would reach this high level of membership and involvement. Even with the snowstorm, even with the cancellation 0f flights, to have 360 people out of 420 registered come, says a lot. Two of them drove eight hours to connecting flights into other parts of Florida and then rented cars and drove more hours to be with us tonight. That is definitely an affirmation of their love and commitment to Leadership 100. Archbishop Demetrios, our spiritual leader, mentioned to me, “I think this was truly one of the best conferences I ever attended.” Also, to have the Ecumenical Patriarch be a part of it with a patriarchal message means a lot to all of us! It was a beautiful message and it made us all feel connected to the Mother Church. So tonight, at the closing gala event of this conference, I am very proud and very happy.”