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Architect Saky Yakas Honored at HANAC Annual Gala
by Cindy Klimek
The Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee (HANAC) honored architect Saky Yakas, AIA, at its 44th annual gala at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City. Approximately 400 guests, including Vassilis Philippou, the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus, Emmanuel Koubarakis, the Consul of Greece in New York, US Representative Carolyn Maloney, New York City Council Member Costas Constantinides, and New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas attended the event, which began at 7:30pm with cocktails, followed by dinner and awards. Comedian Basile Katsikis was master of ceremonies, and the evening included a dance performance by children from various HANAC programs.
This year’s recipient of the Man of the Year award was Saky Yakas, AIA, a partner at the New York City-based SLCE Architects firm. According to a HANAC press release, Yakas was chosen because he “has been the partner-in-charge of numerous low income, special needs and senior housing, schools and institutional projects. His experience with the governmental funding and approval processes has helped initiate and develop numerous successful housing and mixed-use projects for multiple nonprofit organizations. In 2009, the George T. Douris Tower, the crown jewel of HANAC facilities, opened its doors to provide spacious, affordable housing to low income seniors. Serving as its design and managing architect, Saky was instrumental in the creation of a state-of-the-art senior housing facility that continues to serve as a standard.” Yakas, who is also a two-time cancer survivor, is currently helping to build two more senior living facilities for HANAC.
The 2016 Volunteer of the Year award went to Eileen Baker, a longtime HANAC supporter. According to co-founder and Chairwoman Evangeline Douris, Baker was chosen because she “selflessly volunteers countless hours to the George T. Douris JVL Harmony Senior Center.” Ms. Baker also sits on the Center’s Advisory Council.
The gala is a favorite of Chairwoman Douris, who says, “I like the positive response to the fundraising from the community and from our partners, and to HANAC’s commitment to improving the lives of people in need. I love the euphoria felt at the culmination of a successful event. And I absolutely adore creating the flower arrangements with my florist Louis from Avenue J Florists. I also love the venue, the Mandarin Oriental. HANAC was the first to hold an event there when it opened five years ago.”
The 45th annual gala will be held on Friday, October 27, 2017, though no word yet on who the Man of the Year or Volunteer of the Year will be.
HANAC was founded in 1972, with a contract from the New York City Human Resource Administration to provide assistance to Greek immigrants in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, NY. According to Douris, HANAC’s mission was “to provide education, vocational training, and support services to enable everyone to reach their full potential.” Today, the organization is funded by City, State, and Federal agencies and offers a wide range of services to youth, the elderly, and immigrants for diverse and multi-ethnic communities across four boroughs. Adds Douris, “I believe the mission has not changed. What has changed is HANAC’s extraordinary growth from a very small grassroots organization into one of the largest city-wide multi-faceted social service agency, serving 35,000 people a year.”
A rapidly-expanding organization means constant obstacles, but Douris says HANAC is up to the task. “The challenge, as always, is acquiring the necessary funding for existing and future programs. Through the years, HANAC has continuously accepted the challenges presented and responded. Whether assisting immigrants to acclimate to their new country, youngsters to explore their talent and accept new responsibilities, families to confront the problem of poverty, dysfunction, and drugs, or the elderly to enjoy their leisure time and sustain their health. But the challenge in the future will be the elderly. HANAC must continue to fulfill its commitment to developing affordable housing with services for the elderly who are of modest financial means. In November, groundbreaking of our fourth affordable senior housing development took place, scheduled to open in 2018. A fifth project is expected to open in 2019. In addition to housing, senior centers, and other services designed to serve the needs of the elderly, HANAC must address the high incidence of mental health issues among the elderly that are being brought to our attention. In response to that need, HANAC has submitted an application to the State Office of Mental Health for the establishment of a mental health clinic that will fill a vacuum in services for the community. Lastly, my initiative this year will be to interest young people to embrace HANAC in order to ensure that its mission continues. I am proud of the work we have done and look forward to meeting the challenges ahead of us,” she says.
To learn more about HANAC, their website is hanac.org/index.php