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National Hellenic Society Fundraiser in NY for the Promotion and Preservation of Greek Heritage a Great Success
When it comes to philanthropy, Greeks invented the word, but do they put their money where their mouth is? Some might say that Greeks could do more to help each other, and while they are saying that, there are many philanthropic individuals already among them doing just that – helping others and putting their money down on the table for a good cause. In this case, it’s a casino table. If you give them a reason to have fun, network, and help others they are the ones rolling the dice and making it happen in the ethos of true Hellenism.
Casino Night, a fundraising initiative of the NY Chapter of National Hellenic Society (NHS), was held recently at the Woodside Country Club in Muttontown, NY. All proceeds from the event went to the Heritage Greece Program, an initiative of the National Hellenic Society to preserve and promote Greek culture, history, and education.
Heritage Greece is a cultural and educational immersion program that is open to Greek American college students. The program was established over ten years ago. Students accepted into the program travel to Greece and stay in dormitories at the American College of Greece in Athens and exchange experiences with their Greek peers, while becoming more acquainted with their ancestral birthplace and their Hellenic heritage. NHS Board Chairman Drake Behrakis and Executive Director Art Dimopoulos firmly believe in the NHS mission, as they put it “to celebrate, disseminate, and pass on the paradosis of Hellenic heritage to future generations.”
While they do this through various programs and events geared towards networking among Greek Americans, the goal and model with the Heritage Greece Program is similar to that of Birthright Israel. They want this to be a life-changing experience for students. According to Drake Behrakis and Art Dimopoulos the purpose of this NHS program is to “sponsor students of Greek descent and take them on an odyssey of self-discovery of their respective heritage, culture, values, and roots in Greece. Proceeds from the event provide scholarships to Greek-American college students. The NHS has sponsored 600+ students and through efforts such as this continues to scale and expand the Program to host more students on this life-changing experience.”
Dr. John Frankis who is one of the sponsors of the Casino Night fundraiser here in NY along with NY Chapter members Nick Katopodis, Nick Pashalis, Dimitri Belesis, Steven Spucces, Paul Tsoumpariotis MD, and John Venetis, agrees. His daughter was selected into the program a couple of years ago and he was very impressed with her enthusiasm for the program and how much she benefited from it. Dr. Frankis understands the importance of preserving our Hellenic heritage, especially now, more than ever, as we become a more culturally integrated global world: “It’s going to happen. Your children will marry someone who is not Greek, and so will their children, so you want to keep the culture alive as much as you can.” His vision as a member of this worthwhile organization is to see more NHS chapters across the country do more nights like “Casino Night” to maximize fundraising efforts and send as many students as possible.
The cost per child is about $3500 for the program, and it has now expanded into the city of Thessaloniki with an immersion program being offered at the American College there. There has been discussion of doing something similar in LA and Chicago. Dr. Frankis remains optimistic that this fundraising initiative will continue to flourish and expand, all in the name of Hellenism, for future generations to continue their Greek odyssey. With additional funding, NHS hopes to continue expanding participation in the Heritage Greece program. One of their goals for 2023 is to collaborate with the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation to offer Heritage Greece scholarships to recipients of the PanHellenic scholarship, as well as provide career advancement opportunities to the students upon their return from Greece and encourage volunteerism and involvement with NHS programs and activities on a regional and national level. Drake Behrakis and Art Dimopoulos resonate the value of continuing these fundraising efforts for future planning and long-term preservation goals: “The Greek diaspora has rapidly evolved, and if we are to continue to keep Hellenism thriving, relevant, and part of a person’s identity, programs such as Heritage Greece are part of the long-term solution.”
In the words of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The NHS is taking that giant step with a single step forward into a philanthropic journey where Greece represents the “nostos”, the nostalgia of a glorious past easily lost in a globalized world. Each student is offered a chance to have their own Homeric journey, a homecoming where their Greek heritage is never forgotten and remains a proud reminder of all the heroes that fought to preserve it for them and future generations to come.
The National Hellenic Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation dedicated to the preservation of Greek heritage in America. It is a proud association of leaders, visionaries and philanthropists who perpetuate and celebrate our rich heritage by developing engaging programs that promote Hellenism.