Many volunteers participated in the Thanksgiving holiday meal of the Association of Greek-American Homeowners. (Photo: TNH/Ch. Athanasatos)
NEW YORK – The big turnout was accompanied by a festive mood, and a note of optimism was struck by the participation of the younger generation in the 32nd philanthropic meal of the Greek American Homeowners Association that took place at its headquarters in Astoria on Thanksgiving Day.
According to the forecasts offered prior to the event by the Association’s president, George Kitsios, by 4 PM, when the preparation and distribution process was to be completed, it was expected that more than 1,500 servings would be provided. This ensured the Association’s longstanding intention of offering a traditional meal to individuals or groups who are unable to provide for their holiday tables by themselves.
“First of all, I would like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Everything looks good. We’ve been hosting this event for 32 whole years. We have many people attending and many volunteers here. I believe today we will distribute 1,500 servings. The entire community knows about what we’re doing, and many come to celebrate with us,” said Kitsios.
This year, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America visited the Association’s headquarters, exchanging good wishes, taking photographs with the Association’s Board and volunteers, and congratulating everyone for their initiative.
“The essence of Thanksgiving Day is exactly what you are doing. We thank God only when we thank people, our fellow humans, and share all the good things that God has given us, with everyone. Then we become richer in soul and heart, but we also become happier. That is happiness, because when you give, first of all, you receive,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros.
The Archbishop then joined the volunteers serving the meals, symbolically serving a portion alongside the young people before sitting down for a meal with the president and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of America, Father Nektarios Papazafeiropoulos.
“Be well, I wish you many years. Continue this tradition, and the Archbishop, as your primary servant, will always be there for anything you need. Happy Thanksgiving,” concluded Elpidophoros.
As previously reported by The National Herald, this year the Association only offered delivery orders to the needy, avoiding a mass gathering at its headquarters in an effort to protect the health of the attendees. Nevertheless, the volunteers and everyone who remained in the main hall worked preparing the meals that were sent out, and they also dined in a pleasant atmosphere, entertained by the music of Serafeim Lazos, with Tasos Papaioannou adding his distinct musical touch.
The president of the organizing committee, George Alexiou, expressed his satisfaction with the project’s realization. However, he emphasized that to maintain the organization, the younger generation would need to step into the organizational responsibilities.
“I am satisfied. We’ve been doing this for 32 years, but believe me, I am truly tired now. I don’t know how much longer we can continue; I am 80 now. We can’t do it anymore. When we started, we had the support of the older generation, with many volunteers. Now, yes, we have some volunteers, but the new generation needs to get involved organizationally. I enjoyed it from the time we started; we had the strength to begin it, but now we’re starting to get tired,” concluded Alexiou.
Finally, as every year, Michael Gianaris, the Deputy Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, attended the event, engaging in warm conversation with the Association’s officials.
“It’s like we’re all a family as an Omogenia. For so many years, here at the Greek American Homeowners Association, we all come to wish each other ‘chronia polla’, many years, and to spend Thanksgiving Day together before we go to our families. Today is also my father’s birthday; he turns 94,” emphasized Gianaris, the last of the elected Greek-Americans in Astoria in public office following the departure of Aravella Simotas and Costas Constantinides.
“Indeed, I was elected first, and now I am alone here again. To speak seriously, the neighborhood is changing. Many Greeks have moved to Whitestone, Long Island, and elsewhere. But this is generally the history of New York. The neighborhoods, the communities change. New people come, but the Omogenia is strong. I am the only one from Astoria, but we have quite a few [legislators], both in the State Assembly and the State Senate, as well as in Washington. We still have strength; we even had the Archbishop at the Capitol for the first time. We struggle and do everything we can to keep the Community moving forward, and we will continue,” concluded Gianaris.
Alexiou publicly thanked George Fakiris, Michael Arapis, and Nicholas Gavalas, while making a special reference to the former president of the Association, Petros Stathatos, who was also present.
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