By Jerry H. Bloom, Staff Writer
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) a fraternal organization founded July 26, 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, in response to the evils of bigotry spearheaded by the KKK and to assist Greek immigrants to assimilate into American society. AHEPA joined with B’nai B’rith and the NAACP to combat discrimination. The mission of the AHEPA Family is to promote Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence.
An important component of AHEPA’s mission is to create an awareness of the principles of Hellenism to society. These principles include a commitment to humanity, freedom, and democracy. The preservation and promotion of these ideals is where AHEPA has, and always will be, deeply committed.
AHEPA Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos, as interviewed by Paul Kotrotsios, Founder and Publisher of Hellenic News of America:
Mr. Kotrotsios: Mr. President, what are the priorities of AHEPA? I heard your speech today, and you talked about AHEPA history and that you want to make changes. I want to convey your thoughts through Hellenic News of America as a media company in Print, Digital, the Web, and Social Media.
President Frangos: Our priority is to continue the involvement of the Organization to come into the twenty-first century to employ all of the techniques you mentioned in Print, Digital, the Web, and Social Media. We are focusing this year on Membership; we are talking about an increase of ten percent in our membership and inviting people to share in our premier organization.
A program we are also highlighting is asking each District all over the country to create a new Chapter in all of the 25 districts. This will be our source for our future leaders. I’m talking about five years to develop these bright young people as our new leaders.
We are also looking to expand our Journey to Greece program. AHEPA pioneered this program. Others have tried to emulate this program. We did send a number of youngsters to Greece last year, but we are lacking quite often, the funds, it costs about five to six thousand dollars. I want to see each District join the National in sponsoring a youngster. I don’t want a youngster to lose this opportunity because their parents can’t afford to send them.
Mr. Kotrotsios: AHEPA is the largest organization in the Greek American community. What is the relationship of AHEPA with all the other organizations. Are you planning to organize under one umbrella in the future to function better and also what is your view of Greeks today with all of their needs today. I don’t mean that AHEPA should solve all the problems of Greece, but we must support more programs.
President Frangos: With the relationship of AHEPA with other organizations that have arisen, I know that there are many organizations that help some aspect of the Greek American community, and I welcome that. I don’t think they would welcome coming under one organization.
AHEPA is the only organization other than the church that penetrates over 400 communities in this country. We are a true Grass Roots organization. I want to see our organization leverage that more. We go to Washington to meet our Representatives, but we don’t invite them to our local meetings. We should invite our local Congressman to break bread with us at our local dinners and meetings. When I was in Washington, our local Congressman said, “Where are you Greeks anymore? You don’t invite us to your functions, so we don’t know what’s going on in the Greek American community.”
Mr. Kotrotsios: Are you planning to take some initiative to helping the people in Greece? I don’t mean about the Debt. They created it and they can solve it. I’m talking about the people’s organizations …
President Frangos: AHEPA has given more than a half a million dollars to help feed the middle class in Greece. One of our more dynamic programs is to ship medical supplies to Greece and we have sent several million dollars worth of medical supplies to support this program and we are continuing to do that.
AHEPA will also be a major player in the rebuilding of St. Nicholas in Manhattan, NY. We will participate in the Ground Breaking on October the 18th. We have not announced our fund raising target, but we will be a major supporter.
This effort is more than just a religious undertaking. This is a symbol of our religious freedom. When you see what is happening in Syria, when you see our Bishops kidnapped and lost, when you see the Orthodox Christians in Egypt reduced from thirty percent to less than seven percent of the population, it’s important to show this as a symbol to the support of our Patriarchy.
I’m disturbed that The New York Times shows their ignorance saying that St. Nicholas was based on a Mosque design, when in fact the mosques took their direction from St. Sophia.
I want people to look at our organization not as an ethnic organization, but as a representative of Hellenism and freedom that inspired the Founding Fathers of this country and that remain relevant today.