ISLAND PARK, NY – The Long Island Greek-American Chamber of Commerce (LIGACC) held its first annual Summer Beach BBQ on July 11 at Pop’s Restaurant, in Island Park. The event was sponsored by Gold Coast Bank (GCB), known as “Long Island’s Community Bank” and the Chamber’s President and Founder John C. Tsunis- GCB Chairman and CEO. Additional sponsors were the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook and Gus Constantine, author of the Escaping Cyprus books. Among those present were the LIGACC board members- including Constantine, Minas Petrochilos, George Likourezos, James Johnis, Alba Spinelli, Cheri Morris, Nicholas Klopsis, family, and friends.
Tsunis spoke to The National Herald noting that the event was a way for the Chamber to celebrate the start of the summer season with all the members gathered together to show their philotimo for the “oikogeneia” (the family), because the organization and the Greek-American community really is a family.
He noted that the LIGACC was created as a way to connect people, business owners, and the community in order to help each other and to give back through various philanthropic causes the organization supports. Though only two years old, LIGACC is growing rapidly, already doubled in size, and with over 100 members.
Tsunis said that the organization is here to help any way they can and mentioned the recent honor received from the Ronald McDonald House New York for the record-breaking fundraising effort that he and the Chamber were very happy to support, especially such a good cause, assisting families with children battling rare diseases. He observed that “it meant so much to me, for a kid from Long Island.”
Noting his family roots in Nafpaktos, Tsunis told TNH that he was baptized at Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn before the family moved to Island Park in the 1950s. His father opened a concession stand on the beach and named it Pop’s which happened to be the name of the restaurant where the event was held on Tuesday night. Tsunis said he had heard about the restaurant and wanted to have an event there, contacting the restaurant and telling them about his father’s business that shared the name. The event as originally planned was only supposed to be drinks and hors d’oeuvres with a small donation from those in attendance to cover the cost, but the Greek owners, George Voutsinas, Jr. and his koumbaro Gus Potaris, instead provided the food and drink for free. Voutsinas said they are proud of their Greek heritage. The Greek tradition of hospitality, the friendly service, and great food at Pop’s added to the warmth and the convivial atmosphere of the event.
Tsunis also mentioned a meeting with the US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, and billionaire John Catsimatides, among others on June 28, noting that whatever we can do to help the community and the homeland, the Greek business community, Greek culture, to interact and support each other is extremely important. He said in the future, the organization may even support political candidates. One of the first speakers at a LIGACC event was Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. The success of the Greek-American community in so many different fields, Tsunis observed, is good for America and for the patrida.
The former altar boy at St. Paul’s in Hempstead, also recalled seeing the weeping icons in the early 1960s when he was about 8 years old and a visit by the late Archbishop Iakovos when one of the weeping icons was transferred by motorcade to St. Paul’s. Tsunis said that as the 40 or 50 cars began the drive from Island Park to Hempstead, three white doves appeared in front of the motorcade and flew along with it until they reached St. Paul’s, a 20 minute drive, and then flew away. The event stayed with him all these years, and though weeping icons may be scientifically explained, Tsunis noted the importance of faith.
The Long Island Greek-American Chamber of Commerce holds regular meetings and networking opportunities for the community to exchange ideas and share business advice with fellow members. The Chamber provides a forum for Greek-Americans who desire a greater knowledge of Long Island’s business community and its Greek-American heritage. The Chamber provides the latest information about Greek-American commerce and acts as a resource for both large and small Greek-American businesses and international corporations.