A GREEK COMMUNITY’S COMMITMENT TO ITS FOREBEARERS’ IDEALS

Since the first Greeks migrated to the United States of America, Greek Americans have been dedicated to helping others, becoming active role models in their communities, and having a strong desire to contribute to the betterment of society while fulfilling the American Dream.

Hellenism, which are the cultural ideals of civic responsibility, humanitarianism, and philanthropy, is a strong trait of Greek society.

The Order of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) is a unique service-oriented fraternity that was founded in 1922. Its affiliate women’s Order, the Daughters of Penelope, was founded in 1929. These two organizations became one of the vehicle’s through which Greek Americans practiced their ideals of expressing gratitude to their ancient and immigrant fathers as a way to give back.

A group of Greek Americans who fulfilled the American Dream, and had the desire to give back, were Leon Spanos and Dino Benos, along with Lou J emas, Ted Martin, Andy Millonas, Steve Milonas, and John Volas. This group from St. Louis had the foresight to envision the construction of a 117-unit building for low-income senior citizens in their community.

However, finding a piece of property and meeting government regulations was a difficult and exhaustive challenge. Once the piece of land was identified, economic obstacles to finance the project arose. Past Supreme President Sam Nakis and Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton assisted in helping secure a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which allowed the project to begin.

In 1980 through the group’s collective perseverance, the first AHEPA Apartments of 117 units was constructed. Today, St. Louis has four apartment buildings, totaling 256 units. The success of this dream allowed these friends the foresight to understand the need for affordable housing for our growing senior population, and their actions, based on the humanitarian ideals of their Hellenic ancestors made it possible.

AHEPA National Housing Corporation (ANHC) was later created, and since its inception, AHEPA’s national housing initiative has blossomed into one of the largest providers of affordable senior housing in the country. Thanks to an ethos­ based experience, knowledge, and an organization with a strong focus on resident needs. In 1996, ANHC formed the Grants Program, which has donated over $5 million to local charities across the count1y. One of a few notable foundations over the years is The Chicago Lighthouse, which is a world renowned social service organization that serves the blind, visually impaired, disabled and veteran communities with comprehensive vision care support. Another foundation, the Penelope House in Mobile, Alabama, provides safety protection and support to domestic violence victims and their children through the provision shelter, advocacy, and individual and community education.