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Honoring Evangeline Douris at HANAC’s Golden Anniversary
On Friday, October 21, HANAC celebrated its 50th anniversary gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan, honoring Evangeline Douris, Co-Founder and Chairman of HANAC, with a lifetime achievement award for her service.
Evangeline was born on the island of Limnos and emigrated to NYC with her family. Her husband George Douris was a reporter at the Long Island Press who was stationed at Room 9 in New York’s City Hall, a journalistic institution that was, at the time, a powerhouse of reporting. The 1960s had seen an influx of Greek immigrants, and it became apparent that the Greek community needed some type of support. According to Mrs. Douris, “We were not unique. Other organizations were part of the ethnic movement. ESL programs were created to help immigrants get jobs.” George Douris approached Mayor John Lindsay and made a case for the need to help acclimate Greek immigrants in the 1960s. In 1972, he was awarded a planning grant of $75,000 to establish HANAC (Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee) as a solution to address the needs within the growing wave of immigrants in the Greek community, which also included social services for the elderly. Along with ESL services, additional proposals to the city were submitted for the development of a senior center. HANAC mushroomed from there to become a citywide social service organization with city, state, and federal funding that serves over 30,000 NYC residents and includes 650 affordable housing units for seniors throughout the borough of Queens.
While her husband, George Douris passed away in 1995, Evangeline has continued to tirelessly carry on the legacy he started. She was stunned and humbled by the great honor she received that evening. Admittedly she would rather be working: “Though George is not here, I continue his work. The important thing is that we take care of those who are in need and need our help, especially my seniors. I adore my seniors and I’m there for them all the time.”
Andrea Stassou served as the Master of Ceremony for this milestone gala. Fr. Alex Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, offered prayers and blessings in memory of George Douris whom he noted “made movie stars of everyone he met, touched, and inspired”, as a reflection of the true testament to his character, which was to help people in need. He then turned his attention over to the woman of honor, Evangeline Douris, who was also celebrating her birthday that evening. He wished her a happy birthday but not without highlighting her contributions and service to the organization, noting that “though her grace, perseverance, and intelligence has brought HANAC to the glorious heights of its golden anniversary.”
Stacy Bliagos, Executive Director, presented the volunteer of the year award and especially thanked HANAC staff, calling them “the heart and soul of the organization”. Additional comments included Donovan Richards, Borough President of Queens, who emphasized the organization’s growth: “We’ve watched this organization grow from helping mainly one demographic of a single location to that of over 30,000 individuals of all walks of life.” US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney shared her endearing sentiments upon first meeting Evangeline or Angie, as she affectionately calls her: “I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. She was so gracious, helpful, and wonderful, and throughout the years we have worked together to put up four senior housing developments aided with federal funding.” State Senator John Liu was thankful for all Mrs. Douris has done for the community, and State Senator Michael Giannaris honored her with a proclamation for her many years of service, noting that she is “the mother of the community”.
Evangeline Douris continues to be a dynamic force driving HANAC’s mission, along with a strong Board of Directors and HANAC’s dedicated management team and staff. With her own words, ‘I’d rather be working”, Evangeline has proven through her leadership that HANAC is hard at work, having impacted over 1 million people since 1972 by providing affordable housing, social services, adult and family services, and youth programs. HANAC has four additional housing initiatives planned and pending approval. New projects include Court Street Residences in White Plains, NY in partnership with Monadnock Development, and affordable housing units for seniors with the “Innovation Queens” development project in the Kaufman Arts District. This $2 billion development plan is part of a real estate project initiative of Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios and Bedrock Real Estate Partners to boost small business economy and create more jobs. And there is Evangeline, at the center of it all, making sure her seniors are not forgotten.
To those who may not know her, Evangeline Douris is a powerhouse of community service. To those who know her, she is an angel in disguise, extending her late husband’s wings, together with her own, to touch the lives of NYC’s most vulnerable.