NEW YORK - On Thursday, May 11th, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) Foundation hosted its annual dinner in support and celebration of New York’s Bravest.
The dinner included the FDNY’s annual humanitarian awards ceremony, which this year honored Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the SNF and Steven Fisher, Senior Partner of Fisher Brothers and Founder, Fisher Capital Investments.
The dinner brings together members of the FDNY and their many sponsors to support the FDNY’s mission and initiatives, including fire and life safety education efforts, professional development, and state-of-the-art equipment.
Speech by Andreas Dracopoulous, SNF Co-President:
It is a real pleasure and honor to be here this evening celebrating with you the amazing men and women of the Fire Department of NYC!
We are living in interesting times indeed, filled with amazing opportunities but great challenges too. News, whether fake or not, too many times are simply polarizing. Many people, too many and too often, are just frustrated. These are the times when we all have to work hard together to find common ground and do common good; and there is plenty of goodness around!
The Fire Dept. of NY’s mission offers such comfort and appreciation in knowing how much it offers to society at large as a truly public service. Such great public service organizations like the FDNY serve our communities day-in and day-out, no matter what is happening around us. Fire speaks no language, has no accent, has no borders, and has no ethics, no friends. The men and women of the FDNY, with its core values of Service, Bravery, Safety, Honor, Dedication, Preparedness, are always there to protect our lives and our properties with valor and great resiliency and efficiency, as clearly evidenced by last year’s lowest number of fire fatalities ever recorded, since back in 1916.
All of us gathered here this evening are proud to support the mission of the FDNY Foundation. An honorable mission indeed in supporting the FDNY’s equipment and technology, training and educational needs, as well as public awareness and community outreach programs.
Since our own’s Foundation’s inception in 1996, as a result of the extraordinary generosity of our late founder and my great uncle, Stavros Niarchos, we at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) have held a deep respect for public service and those who practice it, in its many forms. Whether it is here in New York, in Greece, or anywhere else around the world, we have repeatedly supported such efforts.
SNF’s philanthropic mission over the Foundation’s lifespan of 20 years as evident from our grant making activity in over 110 countries around the globe, has been broad in scope because there are so many institutions, initiatives, and ideas we believe are worthy of our support. Across the Foundation’s work in NY, we seek out partner grantees that enhance the city’s vitality, make it more accessible to all members of our community, and improve the lives of individuals who are facing challenging circumstances. We view all of our grantees as partners. We try every day to remind ourselves that with power comes responsibility, and among these responsibilities is the one not to become arrogant given our ability to provide significant financial support. One of the measures we use is that across our internal processes we place even more emphasis on being sure that whenever we decline a proposal we have made as fair an assessment as possible. I would not mind it so much if we ended up giving “too much” to a grantee but it would pain me if we declined one unfairly. Having such safeguards, I find helps those with any kind of power remain true to the spirit of their mission.
Our work in New York City is multilayered and reaches deep into the city’s urban fabric. It spans from targeting homelessness and food insecurity through organizations like WIN and City Harvest to promoting accessibility in arts and culture through the Museum of Modern Art’s Education Fund and a free ticketing program at The Frick Collection. Our Foundation has provided recent grants to support the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, Generation Citizen, America Needs You, the NY / Queens / Brooklyn Public Libraries, and Hostos Community College. In medicine, two new SNF-supported wings at New York-Presbyterian Hospital recently had ribbon cuttings—a Women’s Urgent Care Unit and a unit for children recovering from surgery. In addition to believing deeply in the FDNY’s mission, the SNF is proud to support the critical work of the NYPD. We have also sought to support both our local and national veterans’ community through the Pat Tillman Foundation, the Wounded Warrior-Scholar Project, Outward Bound and Puppies Behind Bars—an organization that teaches incarcerated individuals to train service dogs for wounded combat veterans returning home and for law enforcement officials. The SNF recently also collaborated with the New York City Departments of Veterans’ Services and Cultural Affairs to enable the city to name Bryan Doerries, the Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, as a public artist in residence for the next two years. This role will allow him to carry out a city-wide theater-based public health healing initiative for the local veterans’ community and civilians alike, based on readings of ancient Greek tragedies.
A theme that runs through each of these projects and that all of you at the FDNY demonstrate through your work each day is the Greek concept of philotimo. This word roughly translates to the spirit of simply doing the right thing and supporting your fellow human beings no matter the situation or the stakes. The FDNY as much as any organization I can think of embodies this ethos in all that you do, whether it is in rushing to a five-alarm fire or simply clearing up a false alarm. And on behalf of my children and myself I would like to say thank you to Commissioner Daniel Nigro, Chief James Leonard, Captain James Grismer and everyone at Engine 39/Ladder 16, to Chairman of the FDNY Foundation Steve Ruzow and Board members Chris Carrera (a personal friend for almost 30 years, and whose initial idea it was for me to be here this evening, thank you), Bob Zito, and Executive Director Jean O’Shea, for the extraordinary hospitality you showed us when we visited you a couple of months ago, it was an amazing experience for all of us, thank you!
It is public servants like yourselves at the FDNY, who provide the necessary structure and fundamental services for communities to function, remain safe, and thrive. An even higher level of appreciation, recognition and gratitude is due given that all of you inherently volunteer to place even your own lives and wellbeing at risk for the good of your fellow human beings. It is with a profound sense of gratitude and indebtedness for your work that I in both my personal capacity and as co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation are honored to play a part in supporting the exemplary men and women of the FDNY. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for the critical services you provide to our great city………and beyond!