By James Krikelis Petkovits
Serving as a unifying force for Hellenism in America by chronicling the history of the community since 1987.
On the evening of Sunday, May 1, 2022, a fantastic event was held at the splendid Grand Marquis banquet facility in Old Bridge, New Jersey, to mark the 35th Anniversary of the Hellenic News of America [HNA].
The 350-plus persons in attendance were treated to a lavish cocktail hour, a gourmet dinner, and an exciting live music program of Greek traditional and contemporary music, while honoring the founders of the HNA and the eight recipients of the prestigious HNA awards for their efforts to put the ideals of Hellenism into practice.
The attendees represented a diverse mixture of Hellenes and PhilHellenes from the Business, Arts, Religious, Academic, and Scientific communities throughout the United States and Greece.
Spirited and moving renditions of the national anthems of The United States and Greece by renowned Soprano from Greece, Anastasia Zannis, and President of the ‘Daughters of Epirus’, Eli Rizou. His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Media blessed the occasion and expressed his congratulations on behalf of his Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros.
Welcoming comments were made by Mrs. Aphrodite Kotrotsios Tsilomelekis, the Publisher of the Hellenic News of America. She described the 35-year effort by her parents Paul and IIiada to the guests. “My parents, unknowingly at the time, created a movement that inspired many to get involved in this unique initiative aimed at uniting Hellenes across America not only with one another but with Greece. From that moment on, the paper had become more than just a news outlet. It had become a beacon of light for the Hellenic American community, perpetuating the Hellenic ideals, culture, language, and spirit in America,” Aphrodite expressed.
Larry Michael, Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and voice of the Washington Redskins for over 16 years, assumed his duties for the evening as the Master of Ceremonies.
“Paul was gracious enough to invite me to MC this event tonight. Paul was a very good friend of my Father’s over the years who was very active in the Greek American community. When Paul asked me to MC this event, I jumped at the opportunity,” shared Mr. Michael with the crowd. He also went on to share something special that had happened to him while he was checking in at his hotel. He met an older gentleman that was wearing a Pan Laconian pin. He asked if he was from Sparta and the man said yes. Mr. Michael shared that his parents were from Vasaras, Sparta and the older gentlemen mentioned to him that he had a good friend from there named Perry Michael. Mr. Michael was in awe as he couldn’t believe he met a dear friend of his father’s at the 35th anniversary gala of the Hellenic News.
After a touching moment for Mr. Michael, he went on to introduce Congressman Frank Pallone [6th Congressional District- NJ] who then praised the efforts of Greek Americans who honor their heritage. He spoke fondly of his recent visit to Greece and thanked the Greek Government for its loyal service to NATO and for the assistance it has provided to beleaguered Ukraine.
Next, the Speaker of the General Assembly, Craig Coughlin greeted the guests and shared, “The work of the newspaper is something that is critical and uniquely American. All of us are fiercely proud of our heritage and fiercely proud of being Americans and it is that combination that makes it all so special.”
Stefanos Spyrou, First Counselor for Public Diplomacy, Embassy of Greece in Washington greeted the guests afterward “Her Excellency Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou extends her wishes for a continued bright future for the newspaper. The success of the 35 years of the Hellenic News is not coincidental but is based on the reliability of your newspaper and the need for Greek Americans to learn about current events in Greece but also for Greeks in Greece to learn about the Omogeneia.”
Mr. Michael went on and introduced the chairman of the 35th-anniversary gala, Dr. Spiro Spireas, Chairman and CEO of Sigmapharm Laboratories.
“I have known Paul, Linda, and the girls for more than 20 years. They try to do their best and they have given us a tremendous product. I wish for there to be a continuation through your children and grandchildren, because the Greek media, the Greek newspapers, must be preserved because if they are not, the Greek American Omogeneia will have an issue. We cannot expect only the church to keep us together, we need to be able to keep ourselves together because life is strange sometimes and things happen and we need to know that we are Greeks, Hellenes, and Philhellenes. Hellenic News is a very dear newspaper to me because you get to meet and connect with other people. Congratulations Pavlo and Aphrodite. You must succeed, Aphrodite.”
Mr. Michael & Mr. Paul Kotrotsios continued with the program and the presentation of Hellenic News of America’s prestigious awards to the following eight deserving recipients;
Dr. James P Lambrinakos received the HNA’s Healthcare Hero Award for providing more than 40 years of medical services to patients, including many members of the Greek American community, in Northern New Jersey. Presently, he is the Senior Attending Physician at Raritan Bay Medical Center [RBMC] in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
Honorable James Polos received HNA’s Public Service Award for his remarkable service to the Greek American community and American society. With a dedication to public service, Jim began his political career in 1983 as the youngest Councilman in history in Highland Park, New Jersey. He is active on numerous levels within his community and in particular his church, Saint George Greek Orthodox Parish in Piscataway, New Jersey. He has been designated as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He is currently serving as Commissioner of the NJ State Chiefs of Police Accreditation Commission and was appointed by Governor Murphy to serve as a Commissioner of the New Jersey Police Training Commission.
Louis Katsos received HNA’s Philotimo Award for his passion, dedication, and service to Hellenism in America and American society. He is currently the President of EMBCA, the Chairman of AHEPA’s Hellenic Heritage Commission, Board Member of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. He has more than 40 years of experience and success in all aspects of real estate development.
Kathy Bizoukas, received HNA’s Philotimo Award for her dedication to Hellenism in America. She currently serves as Grand President of Daughters of Penelope. She is also the Chief Financial Officer of her family-owned business.
Eirini Xakousti received HNA’s Philotimo Award for her service as President of Amaryllis Chapter #421 of the Daughters of Penelope in Athens, Greece. She is active in numerous service organizations such as UNESCO and the Hellenic Relief Foundation. She has a major role in the day-to-day operation of her 130-year-old family-owned industrial company in Greece.
Sevasti Ziogas Vartimidis received HNA’s Paideia Award for her dedication and promotion of the Greek language in America. She is a Greek-born educator specializing in the teaching of the Greek Language to all levels of students. She has taught at the highly regarded Athenian Academy Charter School in Pinellas County, Florida for over 15 years.
Thomas Paschos received HNA’s Business Leadership Award for his success in the field of law. He has served as Past President of the American Hellenic Lawyers Association, Past President of AHEPA Hercules Sparton Chapter #26 [Philadelphia], and past chairman of the Pan Macedonian National Convention. He is currently the managing partner of Thomas Paschos and Associates law firm which has offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey.
Dionysis A Pashalis received HNA’s Leadership for his success in the pharmaceutical industry and for his philanthropic efforts. He is the founder of the Dionysis A Pashalis charitable foundation in Greece. He has received an award from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for his many services to those in need. He is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Vaigormed, a Greek Pharmaceutical company that he founded.
Finally, Mr. Michael introduced the man of the hour, the Founder and Chairman of the Hellenic News of America and President of the Hermes Expo, Paul Kotrotsios to address the guests of the 35th-anniversary GALA.
Mr. Kotrotsios thanked his family and all the many supporters of the Hellenic News during the last 35 years. He described some of the many accomplishments and challenges of the publication during its history and his vision for its future. Mr. Kotrotsios spoke with fervor as he shared with his guests, “The connections and awareness that we promote have left a meaningful impact on our communities and on the greater American society. Our promise to you is that we will continue to invest in the future and the perpetuation of the Hellenic identity here in America.”
Following the Award Ceremony attendees were treated to a spirited performance of traditional Epiroti Dances led by Mrs. Eli Rizou, President of the Daughters of Epiros Society. The party really started as attendees spent the remainder of the evening dancing to the exuberant live sounds produced by well-known Greek folk singer Giorgos Velissaris and his orchestra, assisted by DJ Karas.
Lastly, representatives of the Hellenic News of America reached out to several of the honorees to learn what their impressions of the celebration were and how they felt about the awards they had received.
Dr. James Lamprinakos: “I would like to thank the Hellenic News of America for the award I received this evening. I am deeply honored to be among the distinguished awardees at this fabulous event. I am also pleased that Paul Kotrotsios is being honored for his service to the Greek American community and his dedication to the ideals of Hellenism.”
H. James Polos: Tonight’s affair was a beautiful celebration of the honorees’ hard work and dedication. I am humbled and honored to be counted among them. However, the night really belongs to Paul and his family for their 35-year effort to preserve and support our culture’s heritage and values.”
Illias Katsos: “I salute Paul Kotrotsios for the significant efforts he has made, both domestically and internationally, to promote our universal, collective Hellenic values. I am humbled and honored to receive an award from an organization, that for 35 years has had a major role in the preservation and promotion of Hellenism in The United States. Through the Hermes Expo platform sponsored by HNA, the trade show vision has expanded opportunities for collaborative mainstream trade, business, professional interests, and interactions amongst various groups for the mutual benefit for all involved.”
Sevasti Ziogas Varitimidis: “I salute Paul and his wife for their constant and unrelenting efforts to promote Hellenism and I am pleased that his efforts are being recognized tonight. I am honored to receive the award and feel that it also reflects positively on the Athenian Academy for all of their efforts, over the years, to train our youth to take pride in their culture.”
Kathy Bizoukas: “I am deeply honored to be recognized at this wonderful event, I was truly fortunate that that Past Supreme AHEPA President and Chairman of the Board Nicholas A Karacostas and Past Supreme President and Vice Chairman of the Board George G Horiates were present to congratulate me and to enjoy this wonderful event.”
Thomas Paschos: “Paul thank you for the honor tonight. I have known you for a very long time, 35 years, and one thing that Larry Michael said this evening, the one word that really describes you, he said is remarkable, and that describes you perfectly. You are a remarkable man. A lot has changed in 35 years but not your passion and commitment to the Greek American community.”
Larry Michael: “Congratulations to the Hellenic News of America for staging such a first-class event on the occasion of their 35th anniversary. This evening will never be forgotten by those in attendance. Here’s to the next 35 years and beyond.”
The 35th-anniversary banquet of the Hellenic News of America was an unforgettable event for those who attended it. Great food, surroundings, entertainment, and the opportunity to honor those who advanced Hellenism, all combined to create a truly memorable evening.