Combined Vasilopita at NY Cathedral

(L-R) Guy E.C. Maitland, Chairman of HAAC, John Stratakis, Costas Kellas, Judge Harriet George, Greek Consul General George Iliopoulos, HMA President Dr. Nicholas Mezitis.

NEW YORK – The professional organizations of the Greek-American community in New York invited members and friends to join them for their 4th annual combined Vasilopita – New Year’s Cake cutting in the Ballroom of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan on January on January 9.

The guests who filled the ballroom were welcomed by Costas Kellas, president of the Hellenic American Bankers Association (HABA) on behalf of the organizers, and Fr. Anastasios Gounaris, the Dean of the Cathedral, which provided the space for the food and wine and fellowship that fueled what has become the kickoff event of the community’s social calendar

Fr. Gounaris offered prayers and a brief history of the tradition whose origin is ascribed to St. Basil, the early Christian saint whose establishment of hospitals, orphanages and other innovations that are that are now called the safety net earned him the title “Icon of social responsibility.”

The leaders of the organizations received the five Vasilopita cakes from Fr. Gounaris and distributed them to their members in the groups which included the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce (HAAC), the Hellenic Medical Society of New York, the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic Lawyers Association.

Dr. Mezitis, HLA president, was pleased with the event because “it’s an opportunity for the professional societies to network and represent our community in the best light to the City of New York.”

He echoed the words of guests who appreciate the annual gathering as a vehicle for strengthening community cooperation. For HLA, Dr. Mezitis said “Such events also reflect the HLA’s social responsibility and special obligation to the community, here in New York and to Greece.”

His guarded optimism for Greece was accompanied by an expression of the community’s responsibility.

“We feel there are opportunities for progress through initiatives in the Greek-American community and positive efforts happening in Greece. It will be a difficult period but our responsibility is to show that good things can be achieved, that there is reason for optimism and that we do have solutions even for the difficult problems.”

Kellas acknowledged the presence of leaders including Elena Paraskevas-Thadani, President of HLA, Michael Theodorobeakos, President of HAAC and Nicolas Nicolaou, Vice president of the Cyprus-US Chamber and thanked the executive directors and administrators who helped organize the event, including Evangelia Tsavaris and Despina Axiotakis.

Among the dignitaries present were George Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece and his wife Anthousa, the Greek Consul Manos Koumbarakis, Nikos Papaconstantinou director of the Greek Press office, and  Grigoria Kamaterou, the director of the GNTO’ s office in New York whose busy start in the new year bodes augurs well for another record braking year for tourism in Greece.

Numerous conversations revolved around plans to visit Greece in 2014.

Longtime HABA member Ted Klingos said “The wonderful thing about all these organizations getting together is that we have an opportunity to see the Hellenic community in its entirety, to see people you know and learn about different organizations and see how we can support each other.”

He is also happy the event is held at the Cathedral. “We are thrilled to have it here and look forward to continue to have it and expand it,” he said.

Former HABA president Georgia Mouzakis told TNH “I would love to wish all Hellenes and Philhellenes and all the organizations and their members who are working to bring us all together to continue the good work that everybody is doing.”

HABA member Esther Lainas is a banker with Capital One. She and her sister Maria enjoyed the event and said “it’s great to see good friends and to be able to wish each other a happy New Year.”

“We are able to see people at least once a year that we can’t see otherwise and I think it’s part of the fabric of the community here in Manhattan and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Bod Scott, president of the Inkwell Solutions graphics company.

Judge Harriet George told TNH “I drove all the way from Forest Hills. It’s nice to see all these people, young and old, enjoying themselves. It’s a tremendous success.”