Athenians’ Society Cuts Vasilopita

The Athenians’ Society invited the entire community to join them for a dinner and cutting of the Vasilopita at Stamatis restaurant on January 12, and from the way the back room of the popular Astoria eatery was jammed, Greek-Americans in New York have learned from experience that the society’s events are not to be missed.

Indeed the crowd overflowed into the main dining room and perhaps not all the guests heard them being welcomed by Katy Alexandropoulou. She offered a review of the Society’s activities in 2013, which included social and cultural events of high quality and philanthropic endeavors in the United States and in Greece, and she promised “the best is yet to come.”

The spirited gathering, which long outlasted its scheduled 4-6 PM time, proved the truth of Alexandropoulou’s words that the Society’s philosophy is not to cater to members but to bring together friends.

Serafim Lazos, singer and guitarist, entertained the group from start to finish, but he was also accompanied by the guests ringing the traditional triangles during the singing of the holiday kalanta – carols.

Alexandropoulou thanked the attendees and all who volunteered for the Society’s endeavors throughout the past year, and later the Society’s president Panos Adamopoulos also thanked her.

Manos Koumbarakis, the Greek Consul in New York, on behalf of the Greek Consulate offered wishes to the community for a happy new year, “filled with success, love and peace” and urged its members to continue to do the things that make Greece proud. He wished the Society success in its cultural, social and philanthropic endeavors and community activities.

Koumbarakis expressed what was in the hearts and minds of many present when he hoped 2014 would be a year of recovery and development for Greece.

2013’s highlights included the celebration in Washington, DC of the 150th anniversary of Constantine Cavafy’s birth at an event held in conjunction with the Library of Congress, the Greek Embassy and Georgetown University, and additional cultural events in New York and fundraisers for the Society’s charity of choice, the Vrefokomio Athinon – The Municipal Foundling Home of Athens.

A substantial donation was also made to St. Basil’s Academy.

The Athenians’ Society has is finger on the pulse of the needs and future of the Greek-American community though its policy of continually reaching out for cooperation and coordination with other organizations.

In October they presented their annual celebration of the liberation of Athens in 1944, where Ambassador Lucas Tsillas was the keynote speaker, and they were co-organizers of commemorations of the 1973 student rising at the Athens Polytechnic and a concert of music set to the poems of Nikos Gatsos.

The Society also played a pivotal role in the resurrection of The Greek Writers Guild of America, and they closed out the year with a joint presentation with the Ionian Cultural Federation of a program of Kalanta.

Athanasia Sfyroeras, who said she is “Athenian on one side and the other side by marriage” is a public relations executive and the youngest member of the Society’s Board. She was thrilled about the event: “You can see this is a very packed room,” and noted “we strive as a Board to deliver programing that brings people together in different contexts.”

And they do not only target Athenians. Sfyroeras told TNH that since Athens is the capital of Greece and is thus the place of “many people’s first step into and first step out of Greece, we feel an obligation to produce quality programming.” Her special personal mission is to reach out to the younger generations.

Pauline Manos said the success of the event demonstrate s that “the people love the society – these are not just members you see here – and I am very proud of it.”

“Hellenism is alive and well in the United States and New York City,” said Zan Zaharoula Manolakos Manos. “It’s happening right her for everyone to see, here in Astoria. People are working very hard to present great functions and perpetuating their societies, and the Athenians’ Society’s leaders are doing a great job, including the wonderful things they are doing to help Greece.”

Adamopoulos wished everyone a happy and healthy new year, filled with joy and hope, and emphasized that the core of hope is the community’s children. He thanked the officers and members of the Society for their “exceptional work and thanked everyone who through greater or lesser efforts helps to maintain the organization.” He also thanked the owners of the restaurant, Anna and Stamati for hosting the affair.

The Society plans new initiatives 2014, such as a book club that will be centered on the library that it is establishing at the Greek Press Office in Manhattan.

Among the upcoming events is the Apokreatiko Glendi – Carnival they are hosting with the Hellenic Medical Society and the Ionian Cultural Federation on February 22 at the Omonia – Cretan House. Net proceeds will benefit the Vrefokomio.

TNH was informed that there will be another delivery of food by the end of February and they are currently raising funds for cooking equipment.

The Society has a representative in Athens, Valia Argyriou, who helps to facilitate the flow of assistance, but they would like to do so much more. The Society has 501c3 tax-exempt status, but like many Greek-Americans, they are frustrated with the lack of progress in making charitable donations tax exempt in Greece – a matter that even Prime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed sympathy about during his recent visit to New York.