By Fotios Kaliampakos
The Greek Orthodox Church of Evangelismos in Jersey City, New Jersey, has a long history and is not only the Greek Orthodox Church for Jersey City but also of the neighboring areas, such as Hoboken, Secaucus, and the nearby coastal zone, not far from New York.
For years, Dionysis Koukounaras has had the heavy responsibility for the financial viability of the church, and consequently, the continuity of the Greek Orthodox presence in the region. Speaking exclusively to the Hellenic News of America, Mr. Koukounaras explained that since assuming this responsibility, he has managed to make the community sustainable with a series of actions and initiatives, but this effort certainly does not stop, as the needs are many. In particular, he referred to his tireless efforts through the labyrinth of American bureaucracy to secure the necessary permits to take advantage of the community’s real estate around the church. Mr. Koukounaras managed to create a parking area, all of which the proceeds go to the church. With these two actions, he not only managed to make the church sustainable but also freed up and utilized other spaces for the school and the created event space.
However, the church recently needed funds for a series of necessary repairs, which could not be covered by the fixed income created. Mr. Koukounaras met the Chairman and Founder of the Hellenic News of America, Mr. Kotrotsios at an event and told him about the problem he was facing with the church. Immediately, Mr. Kotrotsios offered the community an opportunity to raise funds by donating a cruise for two with luxury cruise line Celestyal Cruises on behalf of the Hellenic News of America and Hermes Expo. A raffle was created and all proceeds would go towards the renovations of the church. Any initial hesitations were immediately overcome when the leaders of the church community saw Mr. Kotrotsios’ ability to inspire others to get involved in the fundraising efforts and as well as to find additional resources. In just one day before the effort had even begun, entrepreneurs had already contributed $5,000!
Mr. Koukounaras secured the necessary permits, and the effort began and ended with the collection of the desired amount. As such, the community of Evangelismos wanted to thank Mr. Kotrotsios for his efforts and organized a luncheon in his honor after church service on March 1st.
At the luncheon, Mr. Koukounaras and Mr. Kotrotsios jointly handed the winners the vouchers for the cruise and introduced them to the audience. The drawing happened during the 31st Hermes Expo on November 16, 2022. The lucky winners of the drawing were an engaged couple, Antony LaTempa and his fiancee that will go on the cruise for their honeymoon.
Also at the luncheon was a businessman in the field of medicine and cosmetics, as well as a benefactor of educational efforts of the diaspora, Dr. George Drogaris, that attended to pay tribute to Mr. Kotrotsios but also to his first parish in the USA. Dr. Drogaris also showed interest in the community’s educational efforts.
The luncheon in honor of the prize donor, Mr. Kotrotsios, and the raffle winners was a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate their remarkable achievements. The parishioners of Evangelismos were excited to participate in the raffle and are looking forward to the 32nd Hermes Expo on June 14th! The young couple will be back at the Hermes Expo in June to share their experience with Celestyal Cruises.