ASTORIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York held an open meeting of all its member organizations and the community to coordinate the relief effort for the fire victims of Attica at the Stathakion Cultural Center on July 27.
The new President of the Federation, Cleanthis Meimaroglou, began the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of the victims who perished in the deadly fires.
He then noted that the Greek community should once again stand up for their homeland and those affected by the fires, in the appropriate manner and proceeding with transparency.
Federation Treasurer, Athanasios Aronis, welcomed the response of the Greek community so far, despite the fact that a large percentage are away on summer vacation.
“We have to rally, reach into our pockets and help the situation. I see many individual donations, especially on GoFundMe platforms, which are not always effective. There should be unity, not competition between us on who will raise the most money,” Mr. Aronis observed.
It is noted that the account number for the Federation of Hellenic Societies at Atlantic Bank is 06096751. In addition to the donations raised on Friday, ranging from $100 to $2,000 from individuals and businesses, another $3,000 has already been deposited in the account.
In this way, the existing money creates a good financial “springboard.”
Along with Meimaroglou and Aronis, First Secretary Dionysios Pylarinos and the First Assistant Secretary Spyridoula Tsoukalas were also present at the meeting.
The representatives of the various member associations and ordinary expatriates referred to the efforts already underway, either by collecting money or material goods.
On behalf of the Messinian Benevolent Association “Aristomenis,” Stavros Giannopoulos noted that their own members have already mobilized, besides financial aid, also collecting clothing, while he expressed the opinion that, given that a large part of the Greek community is still on vacation, a first sum should be sent immediately by the Federation, if possible.
In response, Meimaroglou said that the release of funds is difficult at the moment for a bureaucratic reason, since the Federation’s First Vice President, Petros Galatoulas, is away, and his is the second required signature for the account. Nevertheless, he assured everyone that the deposits will continue and announced that a meeting will be held on the issue after September 15.
Federation of Cypriot American Organizations Executive Vice President Nicos Paphitis spoke about the possibility that the donation could be used for a public service project for the fire-stricken areas.
“We need time to gather a respectable amount for a specific project,” Mr. Paphitis said.
Meimaroglou addressed the practical issues for this project, “If there is a project, someone should be there who will be supervising for the duration,” he said.
Elli Stephanede, who has relatives in the affected areas, said there were political engineers from her family who would take on this role.
Concerns about the use of the financial donation were also noted by the former president of the Greek American Homeowners Association, George Alexiou, who recalled the uncertainty that still remains today about what happened to the $16,000 that his Association had donated for the relief efforts after the fires in Ilia in 2007.
Chian Federation President John Kontolios voiced his and the Board of Directors support for the relief effort. “We have some connections with organizations and can ship containers of pharmaceutical material and anything else needed.”
It was also noted that, according to the law, donations are used for specific purposes with the corresponding service receipts. In other words, no cash will be given directly to individuals affected by the fires or to other persons.