NEW YORK – The Hellenic Initiative (THI) will host is third annual charitable fundraising gala for Greece on September 30 in at World Trade Center 4. The special event space of the Ground Zero tower has a spectacular panoramic view of New York Bay Lower Manhattan and 600 people are expected to attend.
“All the proceeds will go to our programs in Greece, which are increasing,” Mark Arey, THI’s Executive Director told The National Herald.
THI was “founded in 2012 by members of the global Greek and philhellene communities who were compelled to respond to the worsening economic crisis and inspired to help shape Greece’s long-term recovery,” according to its website.
THI is focused on crisis relief, entrepreneurship – especially support for young entrepreneurs, and economic development.
THI will finance the attendance winners of its Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards, which are spearheaded and financed by the Libra Group, and of representatives of companies THI has sent to the SXSW Interactive Festival, “an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity” that takes place in Austin, TX. For two years THI has enabled promising young Greek entrepreneurs attend, providing them with opportunities to meet with investors.
The keynote speaker will be announced soon, and Arey told TNH they will be honoring three individuals of the community: the late Agnes Varis of Brooklyn, whose generosity is well-known in the art and music world, represented by the trust established in her name; businessman John Catsimatidis; and real estate magnate George Marcus, who is based on the West Coast but has investment interests across the country and offices in New York.
Marcus and Catsimatidis also happen to be THI board members, and as an entrepreneur, the latter has been very supportive of THI’s entrepreneurial efforts. Marcus has been a contributor to International Orthodox Christian Charities and has been supportive of the THI’s work with IOCC and Apostoli, the philanthropic arm of the Church of Greece.
George Zvokos, a trustee of the Agnes Varis Trust, is also chairman of THI’s philanthropy committee, which reviews the recommendations of THI’s staff for contributions.
“We try to identify those NGOs that can demonstrate measurable and tangible results… and it works very well,” Arey told TNH. He noted THI never gives an organization the entire award up front. They have to demonstrate as the projects move along that they are delivering on what they promised.
“THI learned a lot from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation..they helped us identify organizations doing good work, whether it’s feeding and clothing the poor and providing them with heating oil and medicine,” Arey said, adding that now with the migrant crisis, there is an even greater strain on the Greek safety net, increasing the importance of groups supported by THI.
Attendance exceeded expectations for the first two years, filling the venues to the brim – almost 600 were present at the Museum of Modern Art in 2014. This year, the capacious event space at WTC 4 will accommodate projected throng with comfort.
“It’s a huge space for the reception and dinner, and there will be an after party,” Arey said, who added it will be a moving experience for many of the guests.
“A lot of people will be looking at Ellis Island and thinking about their grandparents or parents – or even about themselves.”
Guests will also be able to see the St. Nicholas National Shrine, whose construction has just begun, a powerful symbol of hope and resurrection which is linked in the minds of many the construction of a new Greece.
“I am very proud that many of our board members are major donors to the rebuilding of St. Nicholas and I think it’s exciting the guests will have a chance to see the site,” Arey said.