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Executive Director of HANAC, Stacy Bliagos, HANAC’s Volunteer of the Year, Alice Yaworksy, and Emcee Andrea Stassou at the annual HANAC dinner.
NEW YORK – The elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan has been the stage for the Annual HANAC banquet for many years and one of the highlights of this beloved Community event has been the elegant presence of Evangeline Douris, especially the moments when she offers her heartfelt thanks to the supporters of the civic and philanthropic organization she co-founded 50 years ago, as well as her thoughtful expressions of appreciation to a given year’s honorees. This year, on October 21, it was her turn as all rose to honor and thank her.
The Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder of HANAC, who is affectionately and respectfully known to all simply as ‘Mrs. Douris’ was honored as the 2022 Person of the Year at an emotionally charged gathering whose poignant moments included numerous references to George Douris, HANAC’s founder and husband of Evangeline. George, a proud Ahepan and Greek Orthodox Christian with a background in journalism and public service, started from scratch the organization that began with the establishment of facilities and programs for the elderly – especially his fellow Greek-Americans. HANAC evolved to an into a broad-based community services organization, and more than that, a force for uniting the Queens community, and beyond, regardless of the nationality or background of its clients and supporters.
In an emotional speech, Evangeline Douris noted that they were a small group when they started, just trying to direct Greek-Americans who couldn’t speak English to the right public services to meet their needs. George Douris turned to then-Mayor John V. Lindsay for help, and they obtained the funding to do a study, in order to ascertain the problems and issues faced by the Greek-American Community.
With that $75,000 they hired students from NYU and Columbia and sent them to do the study and document the needs of the community, hoping, after that, to fund those needs, Evangeline Douris said.
In her speech, she referred to George Douris’ initial ideas and the challenging beginnings for HANAC. She described the gradual support they received from city agencies, and the contributions of the volunteers, staff, and managers of HANAC, which has reached the point, 50 years later of having facilities that provide both affordable housing for the elderly as well as social services to the public at large.
She emphasized, however, that, to date, HANAC’s main concern and priority is the needs of the elderly. The first Senior Center opened in 1973 and gave the elderly in the opportunity to receive hot meals and transportation to medical appointments – but George Douris’ dream was to build affordable housing for seniors, Evangeline Douris said.
This dream began to take shape with the opening of HANAC’s Archbishop Iakovos Senior Residence in Astoria in 1995. George Douris passed away immediately after that, but Evangeline Douris said they continued to work on his dream and now there are four senior living centers, including the beautiful George T. Douris Tower – and two are more under construction.
Their daughter, Litsa Douris, in an emotional and inspiring presentation, spoke about the character of Evangeline Douris, but also of the tireless efforts of George Douris.
There was also a ceremony honoring HANAC’s Volunteer of the Year, Alice Yaworksy, and which also recognized the contributions of all the staffers and volunteers who are the driving force of HANAC.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President of Queens Donovan Richards, and New York State Senator John Liu spoke briefly and presented proclamations to Evangeline Douris. Liu offered greetings on behalf of the State Senate. The officials recognized HANAC’s contributions to society, especially at a time when affordable housing in New York is limited and large sections of the public, especially seniors, are underserved.
Journalist Andrea Stassou was the Emcee and the Executive Director of HANAC, Stacy Bliagos, greeted the many guests.
The Consul of Greece, Dimitrios Papageorgiou, the Deputy Mayor of New York, Loraine Grillo, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, businessman and benefactor of HANAC, John Catsimatidis, former FBI director George Venizelos, and the former president of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Papaioannou were among the dignitaries who were present to pay their respects to the dedicated and energetic leader who serves both Greek-Americans and the Greater New York community.
Arkansas is the home of the razorbacks, of course, wild hogs that are the symbol of the state's university and why the fans at football games all scream “Soooo-ieee!” to disorient the other side but who knows if they're good eating.
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