By David Bjorkgren, Special to the Hellenic News of America
It began as a simple family tradition to help orphans and the elderly. Thanks to the generosity of the Greek American community in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, that tradition blossomed into a multi-event fundraiser, the Savas Siatras Concert Tour, that netted $32,000 last year in food and clothing for those in need at Greek orphanages and nursing homes.
Hellenic News of America and the Mid-Atlantic Greek-American Foundation (MAGAF) organized touring events in the three states in January 2016 to raise funds for orphans and elders of Epirus, Greece. Donations poured in from supporters and organizers and entertainers donated their time to make sure that money collected went directly to those who needed it. The events were held Jan. 15 at the Concordville Inn, Jan. 16 at the Kefalos Society of America in New York and Jan. 17 at the Ikaros Restaurant in the Baltimore-Washington area.
The owner and publisher of the Hellenic News of America, Paul Kotrotsios, thanks all those supporters for making those events such a success and for showing that positive results happen when the Greek American community takes action.
“We wanted to do the three events as an example to the rest of the community,” he said, to show that we can all make a difference to help the underprivileged and marginalized individuals struggling during Greek’s economic crisis.
Even as he looks back on the success of the 2016 tour, Kotrotsios is already gearing up for more charity events in 2017.
The inspiration comes from his mother, after a visit with her one summer in Greece.
His mother took him to a supermarket and loaded up the car with food, and then they drove to a nearby home for the elderly in Konitsa, where the food was unloaded and distributed to the residents.
“When we arrived, they all came out and greeted my mother,” Kotrotsios says. “They thought I was the driver.”
Donating food to orphans and the elderly was a tradition of many years with his mother Aphrodite and father Ioannis.
“My mother asked me to continue the tradition, to continue the legacy,” he said.
While in Greece, Kotrotsios toured local organizations in Epirus and saw they were struggling. He decided to take his mother’s simple act of charity and expand on it, believing he could mobilize the Greek-American community in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland to raise funds and help those organizations.
When he returned from Greece that summer, Kotrotsios contacted friends in the Greek American community asking for their help with the three events. George Rabos the leader of the Orchestra was the first to come with a positive respond. He traveled back and forth between Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore over three or four months to get the charity events off the ground.
With the help of his family and friends, Kotrotsios led three committees in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland to bring the concert tour to fruition. The Committee Leaders were (from Philadelphia) Professor John Lambris, Ph.D., Jenny Kravaris, Spiros Ntontos, and Chris Papadopoulos; (from New York) Chrisoula Zikopoulos, George Lolis, Angeliki Kolla Alissandratos, Nicholas Bardis, Thymios Papademitris, Dr. Catherine Tsounis, Stavros Ziongas; and (from Baltimore) Pitsa Balomas, Georgia Vavas, Aris Melissaratos, Stathis Dosis, Xenos Kohilas, Peter Tassis, Dimitris Hios, Alex Karras, and George Moniodis. Many others helped the committees as well.
“I found food, people to help. We brought in a singer from Greece,” he says. After speaking with the band members they agreed to donate their time to the worthy cause.
Kotrotsios recruited Savas Siatras, a renowned folk singer of Epirus, Greece, as the star of the event. Other musicians on hand were George Rabos & Orchestra, Stavros Theodorou, Christos Natsis, Kostas Siatras and George Bezanis, all of whom originate from Epiros and donated their time and talent for the cause.
“Savas Siatras, known as the voice of Epirus, sang his heart out for the audience at every event. Hundreds of people filled each room and reveled in the music and dance of Epirus,” states a Hellenic News of America article by Aphrodite Kotrotsios reporting on the 2016 concerts. “The most amazing aspect of each night was the interaction between Savas Siatras, together with George Rabos & Orchestra, and the audience. The musicians moved from table to table, singing to and with guests. During this time, the crowd felt the infectious spirit of Hellenism and enjoyed the traditional folk music and dancing.”
The goal was to raise money for The Orphanage and Elderly House in Konitsa, the Orphanage «Kivotos» in Pogonianni, the Iera Moni Sosinou, the Cultural Society in Saint Panteleimon in Parakalamos and the Orphanage of Deropolis in Northern Epirus, under the auspices of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania.
All proceeds from the fundraising events were donated to those institutions in Epirus, Greece, including funds for tuition that helped 17 students at the Orphanage Kivotos learn English.
“One hundred percent of the collected money was distributed to those people in Epiros, Greece and Northern Epiros,” Kotrotsios said.
He hopes to follow the same pattern as last year, with three separate events, hopefully using the same musicians.
One of the fundraising goals this year will be to help a Greek patient diagnosed with leukemia afford necessary medical treatment. His parents raised 450 K in Greece so he can have the operation needed but they are short of about $200K. It’s also hoped that a local non-profit cancer foundation in Delaware County, Greater Philadelphia will benefit from the fundraising, Kotrotsios says.
Making these fundraisers possible are the donors and sponsors. Kotrotsios, on behalf of the Hellenic News of America and the Mid-Atlantic Greek-American Foundation, offers them special thanks to each and every one and all together.
“Hundreds of Greek-Americans rallied behind this worthy cause to help save and support these organizations in Epirus, Greece. We are all proud and grateful for all the members of each committee, the musicians, donors, and participants at the events for supporting our mission of helping these organizations in Greece. Our motherland needs us, and this was just one way of giving back,” said Paul Kotrotsios in the Hellenic News of America article.
The 2016 donors and sponsors include: Aris Melissaratos, Dr. John Lambris and Family, Christos Marafatsos/Blue Sky Capital, Dr. Panagiotis Baltazis, Dr. Dimitris Faller, Paul Kotrotsios and Family/ Hellenic News of America, Judge Harry J Karapalides, Demation Society of Philadelphia, St. Paraskevi Society of Philadelphia, Hellenic Society of Prometheas, DC, Dr Peter Skiadas, Alkis Koutiouroumbas, Dimitris and Maria Korres / New York Custom Woodwork, George Karas, AHEPA Lord Baltimore Chapter 364, D. Zicopoulos, Dr. Roxane Hionis, Dr. Peter Patukas, Andonis Diakatos, Constantine Larigakis, Anna Tasiopoulos, H&S Bakery, Leon Andris, Theodore and Toula Onasis, Panagiotis Avramis, Bayview Pharmacy Inc., Prima Foods, Inc., George Kitsos of Gondolier Pizza, Efstathios and Maria Dosis, George Taratsidis, Mike Hiotis, D. Karamanidis, Zacharias Fessaras, John Vasiliou, A. Telios, I. Paraponiaris, Tzelios, P. Nikolos, A. Bournias, A. Hatzoglou, Anthony Galitsis, Rotsiakos, J. Tsatsis, United Bross Market, G Tzoulafis, T. Karakostas, Paul Matsiras, Evangelia Gavrilas, and Konstadinos Koutroubas. In addition, a special thanks to Stellar Imports, Inter Globe Printers, Argo Shipping, New Greek TV (NGTV), MGTV, Antenna, Mega, Greek News. A special thanks to Ikaros Restaurant, Kefalos Society, and Concordville Inn for their outstanding service at each event.
In addition to the proceeds of the three events, the medical equipment donated by Gus Apostolou of Baltimore were distributed in Greece to the Orphanages and Elderly Homes of Epirus and Northern Epirus, including the ancient Sosino Monastery.
The committee members and participants were pleased and declared their support for the second event to be announced at a later date. The goal is to build a legacy of contribution to these underprivileged communities through the efforts of the MAGAF non-profit organization.