By Sophia A. Niarchos
Oyster Bay, N.Y.
“Three times in three years. That’s just too much,” said Patricia Hatzis, president of ELPIDES, a voluntary referral resource organization for Greek-American women and their families.
Hatzis was referring to the murder and murder-suicide cases that have made headlines on Long Island and in Long Island City, serving as a reminder that domestic violence is not a stranger to the Greek community in the New York metropolitan area ELPIDES serves.
It is especially troubling to Hatzis because, she noted, it can be prevented.
“All you have to do is pick up the phone,” she said. “There is so much available in terms of helping victims to obtain assistance before the abuse becomes fatal.”
And ELPIDES’ board members are committed to providing that assistance for the community.
“We are not a social or networking organization,” Hatzis said. “We are not in it for personal glory. We are concerned about the whole family, and it is heart-wrenching for us to hear about cases where we could have prevented a tragedy if the victims had only called for help.”
Among the difficulties ELPIDES faces today is the shortage of funds available to non-profit organizations post-9/11. As a grass-roots organization, ELPIDES’ must focus on a wide range of domestic abuse-related areas, and this becomes a drain on its resources.
“Before 9/11, we used to get government funding from the New York Foundation,” Hatzis said. “Since then, we have not been able to get funding and are struggling to get the organization going.”
Determined to bring public attention to this crime that affects not only the victim but everyone in the family and community, ELPIDES recently held a well-attended event featuring Olympia Dukakis, who spoke on “The Mindset of Domestic Violence.”
“We were so fortunate that Ona Spiridellis Public Relations was able to arrange this event and elated that Olympia Dukakis spoke for us,” Hatzis said. “More than 125 people attended and heard Ms. Dukakis’ perspective on domestic violence, which, she observed, comes out of relationships where one individual is giving respect and the other isn’t reciprocating.
“Ms. Dukakis added that it is not only important to focus on helping the victims of domestic abuse, but it is also important to help the perpetrators of the violence. ‘We have to reach the men who are doing this,’ she said.”
The event, Hatzis said, “was a great joining of two groups, and we will explore plans for future collaboration. Ms. Dukakis is planning to begin a documentary on domestic violence.”
ELPIDES seeks to broaden the scope of its services and is reaching out beyond the Greek-American community for assistance. On July 17, 2003 the organization will be the featured charity at an event sponsored by The Women’s Mosaic, whose mission it is to foster the growth of a unified, universal women’s movement by dispelling cultural ignorance, prejudice and bigotry and by providing women, both here and abroad, with the resources and tools necessary to be masters of their own lives. The event, proceeds from which will be divided between the two groups, will be held at Gus’ Place in lower Manhattan. As the featured speaker for the evening, Ms. Hatzis will highlight ELPIDES’ services and future plans.
Those plans will build on ELPIDES’ past functions which have included referral to appropriate service agencies and professionals in several areas connected to domestic violence including mental health, gambling, alcohol, and drug addiction, and legal services; lectures on such themes as youth violence and the difficulty Greek immigrants encounter in making the transition into mainstream American society; law clinics; and an annual mental health day to educate the public about these aspects related to domestic violence. ELPIDES also has a weekly woman’s support group where, while maintaining their anonymity, women affected by many different difficulties gather to discuss their situations and look for solutions or emotional support.
“This fall, through the generosity of a private donor and under the auspices of ELPIDES, children who have been identified as suffering from emotional problems will be able to get together with an art teacher at St. Demetrios School in Astoria on Saturdays and participate in a form of art therapy.
“For troubled teens in families experiencing crisis, art workshops or classes are unaffordable; and they have nowhere to go to be creative. Through this program, for which ELPIDES past-president Deanna Balhatsis deserves the credit, they will be able to relax while doing something creative and bonding with other people,” said Hatzis, a behavior management specialist and special education teacher for severely emotionally disturbed children in New York City’s public school system.
A long-term goal of ELPIDES is to establish a halfway house to provide women who need a place to stay as they get back on their feet while recovering from a domestic violence situation. According to Hatzis, the board is especially concerned about children in these situations who can be negatively affected for the rest of their lives unless their mother can bounce back and for whom paying the rent is an obstacle to their recovery.
In the fall, on October 18, ELPIDES will hold its annual gala dinner dance, this year honoring State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris and AKTINA Productions founder Elena Maroulleti for their unwavering support of the organization.
The officers of ELPIDES are Patricia Hatzis, president; Alexandra Diolis, vice-president; and Mina Kogos, treasurer. The members of the Board of Directors are: Deana Balahtsis, an attorney in private practice specializing in family law and formerly with the Legal Aid Juvenile Rights Division; Anna Condoulis, Executive Director, Special Programs and Events, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, New York University; Alexandra Diolis, Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist; Patricia Hatzis, Behavior Specialist-Special Education teacher of the Severely Emotionally Disturbed; Mina Kogos, Branch Manager and AVP of Marathon National Bank; Helen Lucaitis, a journalist with Court TV; Maria Lyrist, R.N. with Lenox Hill Hospital; Chrisoula Zikopoulos with the Federation of Hellenic Societies; and Theodora Ziongas, Executive Director, Children’s Blood Foundation.
ELPIDES (718.932.2879) has been serving the Greek-American community in the New York City area since 1993. The organization works together with such groups as HANAC, the National Philoptochos, and the Daughters of Penelope to keep the flame of hope alive in challenging and critical situations and receives the indirect support of the Greek American Women’s Network (GAWN) and the Hellenic American Women’s Council (HAWC). The organization promises complete confidentiality to all callers.