HOLMDEL, N.J. – The Order of AHEPA, which was founded in 1922, is not content merely to be known as one of the first Greek-American organizations. By investing time, resources, and energy in attracting youth, it is leading the way and showing other community institutions how to ensure their relevance deep into their second centuries.
AHEPA’s educational and philanthropic activities are the gold standard in the community, and it has pioneered the use of athletic programs as both a service to its children and as a recruiting bridge to the new generations
District 5, which comprises New Jersey and Delaware – Asteris Fanikos is the District Governor – is keen on developing more local events for members who cannot go to the national convention every year.
Ted Vittas, the District Athletic Director, is excited about the upcoming 2nd Annual AHEPA Basketball Invitational tournament on April 2-3 in Holmdel, N.J.
Reflecting the Order’s commitment to cooperating with the community’s other organizations and reaching out to all its members, the tournament is not open only to AHEPA teams. “It’s open to all Greek-American organizations, including college Greek clubs and groups of adult men of Greek descent aged 21 and up…mostly in their 30s and 40s and as high as their 50s,” Vittas said.
Lou Loucopoulos is the tournament’s chairman, assisted by Joe Antonakis. For more information, Vittas can be reached at 973-513-3672.
Vittas, whose roots are in Central Greece, is a computer programmer working in the insurance industry and a past district governor. Currently he is president of the Liberty Chapter 532 in Clifton.
Vittas noted that long ago there was a basketball league in the District that played every week, but there is room for an intensification of the current efforts.
“With so many excellent facilities that have been built by the parishes of the Metropolis of New Jersey in the past 5 years in places like Ocean, Wyckoff and Toms River,” he said, organizers are making full use of them.
“They are beautiful gyms and we are rotate the tournament among them,” said Vittas.
Teams are invited from throughout the Tri-State Area came from as far as Whitestone in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn to the tournament held last November in Clifton. They hope to be joined this year by The Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL).
“We are developing a well-rounded athletic program, including fishing trips, to attract younger people into AHEPA,” Vittas added. The district also organizes golf tournaments, and 5K runs – one will be held in Liberty State Park in Jersey City in October.
Another tournament will held in May 21-22 for the Sons of Pericles – teens and college age men, at St. Nicholas Church in Wyckoff.
“Young people are always interested in athletics and it’s always a big draw. These events get them interested in AHEPA and we have to work to keep them involved. We have our scholarship program that helps them get through school…opportunities to get more involved in the community…and positions” to help them develop their leadership skills, and networking opportunities to help their careers get started, Vittas said.
Among the national projects with local significance in New Jersey is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. Last year there were two fundraisers, a cigar night in Cherry Hill, and a dance in New Brunswick.