By James P. Zafiros,
Regarding Art Dimopoulos’ comments about the National Hellenic Society and those of AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis and Supreme President George E. Loucas (Aug. 18), I respect their points of view, but more needs to be said, to understand the AHEPA landscape of this generation.
The analytical data shows, The Order of AHEPA still is the backbone of the Hellenic American Community even though its domestic membership has been in decline for some time now. AHEPA is not alone, as other organizations have experienced similar declines. It is not that these organizations have changed, but America has changed. Moreover, in spite of aggressive efforts to initiate new members, the issue is not recruitment but retention. The loss of membership in the United States represents a loss of capital and civil engagement. Today, potential members are constrained by lack of time. In addition, they may not see much in an organization whose prestigeand vitality have declined.
The decline of AHEPA's domestic membership has forced AHEPA to develop and expand the brand in new markets, like Europe, to make up for the loss of revenue, image, and prestige. Moreover, we need to understand what makes organizations flourish and what makes them languish. Social economic factors, including mixed marriages, divorces, newfound, wealth and time management all have impacted AHEPA and other social organizations.
The Greek-American and Philhellene today are more likely to be considerably more successful and resourceful and better-educated with advanced degrees than their AHEPA counterparts of previous generations. While their priorities remain family, career and education, status has entered into the equation of lifting their image, especially in the much larger Anglo community. They want association and recognition with leadingmembers of their community. They want their children exposed to a better social environment so they can interact and network withpeople, not necessarily of their own ethnicity, which accounts for the large numbers of mixed marriages.
This generation’s Ahepans seek upscale, social, diverse, and economic mobility. In an effort to achieve their goals, many have leftAHEPA and have joined other organizations in an attempt to get closer to their heritage and achieve their goals.
It is not enough to simply rely on routine monthly meetings, distribution of scholarships, or the next philanthropic project to rise to the occasion. AHEPA has the built-in advantage of being an "American" grass roots organization, but it needs toreinvent its performance on an ongoing basis and it has to focus its attention in its own backyard.This would appeal to the ever-increasing numbers of Philhellenes, who are becoming members and even leaders in their chapters. That's what the “A” stands for in AHEPA.
Some AHEPA Chapters are consciously aware of these socioeconomic factors and are more innovative than others, and are more likely to succeed. Signature events likeCareer Days, Legend Tributes, Supporting Wounded Warriors, Nationwide AHEPA Homes, guest speakers, and involvement and co-sponsoring events with other multicultural organizations – not necessarily Greek ones – fill their calendars.
As a former Vice President of Sales and Marketing for NBC-TV, my mentors insisted I know who my "customers" are, an anecdote to remember for today’s and tomorrow’s AHEPA.
James B. Zafiros is Vice President, AHEPA Chapter 405, New Rochelle, NY.