ASTORIA – The guests at the 35th Homeric Award Dinner of the Chian Federation packed its Cultural Center on December 7 to honor the 2014 recipient, Archbishop Demetrios of America.
The award, established in 1977, is given “to individuals who have distinguished themselves in their field, the advocacy of human rights, rule of law and democratic ideals, and have worked to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece.”
Markos Marinakis, chairman of the gala – he also chaired the first affair in 1977 – welcomed the guests and spotlighted the Archbishop’s achievements from the start of his tenure in 1999 during turbulent times for the community, through the terrible days after 9/11 when he provided comfort both to Greek-Americans and others at Ground Zero, to the recent blessing of the site of the new St. Nicholas Shrine.
A group of children presented the Archbishop with a gift basket that included not only the traditional fruit, but also books that he would appreciate.
Archon John Stratakis gave the keynote address and told of the history of the Homeric Award, He said the Archbishop was chosen not only for the leadership he has provided to the church and the community but also for his “limitless love and philanthropy,” although he also noted that Demetrios is a distinguished educator, with a Ph.D. from Harvard, where he also taught.
Demetrios was humbled by the applause which greeted him. “It is very difficult for someone to speak after everything I just heard. I want to begin by saying that this precious award does not belong to the Archbishop, but to the community – its clergy and it laity, because it is a team effort for anything great to be accomplished.”
He shared his recent moving experience among the Greek Cypriots enclaved in Cyprus’s occupied zone. The Archbihsop marveled at their dignity and learned once again about the power of the combination of Hellenism and Orthodoxy they represent.
He noted that Greek-Americans are at or near the top of every measure of success and praised the venue as not only a Chian House, but as a “palace of culture and education” in recognition of the valuable events the Federation hosts, especially the youth activities.
Several community leaders offered greetings, including NY State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who presented a proclamation, George Maragos, the comptroller of Nassau County, Stavros Haviaras, Federation president and Petros Galatoulas, president of the Federation of Hellenism Societies of Greater New York.
Philip Christopher, president of PSEKA, told the guests said he was happy to participate, first, to thank the Federation for supporting the Cyprus cause from the beginning and to thank the Archbishop for supporting Cyprus.
CBS News correspondent and anchor John Metaxas was the MC and after the invocation by Fr. John Vlahos, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, young singers Georgia and Marianthe Linaris performed beautiful renditions of the national anthems.
Among the dignitaries were Amb. George Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece, and his wife Anthousa, and Manos Koubarakis, Consul of Greece.
Stephanos Cherpelis told TNH he passed on several events that night to be present to honor both the Archbishop and the Chians.
Haviaras told TNH “We selected the Archbishop because he is our spiritual father and because he supports and represents us well in philanthropic cultural and intellectual matters, which are important to the Federation,”
Amb. Tsillas, who attended with his wife Penelope, echoed Haviaras’ words, adding that honoring Demetrios with the Homeric award was most appropriate.