WASHINGTON, DC – The Order of AHEPA has been in the lead representing the views – in the best interests of the United States – of the community in Washington, DC for decades. On March 25 its leaders and members brought their legislative agendas to the attention of Capitol Hill legislators and their staffs 2014 during their annual Capitol Hill Day.
“Our mission, strongly founded on our cultural heritage and our community service programs, guides our legislative agenda,” Supreme President Anthony Kouzounis. “As such, we have a diverse set of legislative interests, both foreign and domestic, that reflect our mission. We believe this makes the AHEPA family unique in its approach to Congress.”
He added, “We had representation stretching from California to Nebraska to Connecticut and states in between. We sincerely thank all our volunteer members who unselfishly took the time out of their busy schedules to fulfill their civic responsibility on such an important day in our Hellenic history, the anniversary of Greek Independence. Of course, we have more work to do to augment the geographic diversity of our grassroots presence.”
AHEPA family members from 17 states registered for the event.
According to Kouzounis, AHEPA family members who participated at the organization’s annual Capitol Hill Day discussed issues ranging from religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to ending the division of Cyprus to ensuring cost-effective, job creating, and lifesaving domestic programs are preserved and maintained in the federal budget. Domestic programs of interest to the AHEPA family include senior citizen housing, medical research at NIH, and domestic violence.
“In addition, our aim is to grow the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues back to the record-setting number we achieved in previous congresses,” Kouzounis said. “We are encouraged by the positive responses we received by members of Congress who are not members of the Caucus to join it. We expect to see it grow along with the newly-formed Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance.”
The supreme president added that he already received word that U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) has joined the Hellenic Caucus thanks to the grassroots efforts of Ahepans from Maryland who visited his office.
The day’s events included a morning reception where the AHEPA family received remarks from U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus and Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance; U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus; U.S. Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Gene Green (D-TX).
“We appreciate the strong show of support from the champions of Greek American issues,” Kouzounis said. “We look forward to working with them as the Congress winds down to achieve our goals and objectives.”
AHEPA IN FOREFONT OF GREEK INDEPENDENCE FETES
Across the country AHEPA chapters are hosting events related to their local Greek parades. Chapter 41, “The Brooklyn Chapter” whose president is attorney Ted Pavlounis, hosted its annual pre-Greek parade Eleftheria Gala at the Renaissance Event Hall in Astoria March 28. A portion of the proceeds is traditionally given to charity and this year it will be dedicated to Kefalonia earthquake relief.
Jimmy Kokotas, National Advisor to the Sons of Pericles, calls the chapter one of the Order’s great success stories. In its glory days, it produced not one but two AHEPA Supreme Presidents, but it underwent a period of decline. Volunteers like Matthew Mirones kept it alive and eventually helped bring about its renaissance by recruiting Sons of Pericles members from the 1980s and 90s.
Mirones also coordinates the chapter’s series of breakfast roundtables that have been attended by top government officials such as NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.