New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
George D. Horiates, Esq., of Moorestown, N.J., unanimously elected Supreme President of AHEPA at the 97th Convention of the Order of AHEPA in Chicago in July, is a 28-year member of AHEPA Chapter 69, located in Cherry Hill, N.J. Supreme President Horiates has served AHEPA in many offices at the chapter and district levels as well as on the Supreme Lodge in recent years. “Like many of us, I was inspired by the potential of AHEPA to be advocates on behalf of Hellenism and its programs that have kept our communities together,” the 52 year-old Horiates said in a recent interview with the GN in which he spoke from the heart.
GN: What means the most to you about being a member of AHEPA? What inspires you about having been elected the organization’s Supreme President?
GH: Two items have special meaning for me: first, the brotherhood and fellowship. The relationships forged around the world with fellow Hellenes and philhellenes are a treasure. Second, how AHEPA is truly woven into the “fabric of America” and how it has nearly a century of service to the community. To travel and see firsthand the significant amount of volunteerism and community service Ahepans provide on an almost daily basis is what inspires me.
GN: What problems does AHEPA face today?
GH: The challenges AHEPA faces are not unique to nonprofit, volunteer membership-based service organizations that resemble it–membership recruitment and retention and sustaining revenue streams. However, we are singularly unique in that we have almost 100 years of grassroots throughout the world, stated another way, it is not a replicable model as it would take almost 100 years to develop this amazing global organization that promotes and defends Hellenism.
GN: Do you foresee redirecting the focus of AHEPA this year?
I am unsure if redirecting is how I would describe it, but I am placing a more intense focus on membership recruitment. I recognize I’ve set an ambitious goal of 100,000 members by AHEPA’s centennial anniversary, but we have to set the bar high and strive for it. There is certainly a call now more than ever for civic engagement on Capitol Hill, as well as in countries throughout the West where AHEPA has a global presence. From Washington to Brussels, from Canada to Australia, we have seen a new reality.
The powers of the West with their singularly Hellenic democratic roots have recognized that today Turkey is not a reliable ally. That they never were. With exploration and exploitation serving as a second invasion of Cyprus …with religious freedom still under attack… with museums in London, France and Germany using and profiting from stolen artifacts from the cradle of civilization…With the recognition by the West of Greece’s geostrategic importance and Greece as a reliable ally …when the Pontian Genocide is not recognized by its perpetrator, when lobbyists descend on our western institutions from Turkey to diffuse the existence of this genocide, to diffuse human rights violations and continues unimpeded border violations, the need for a robust AHEPA in the global community is more important now than it ever has been.
GN: What AHEPA initiatives would you like the community to know about?
GH: Ahepans work on so many worthy initiatives that span the scope of AHEPA’s mission. First, let me start by citing an initiative we have just proudly completed with the presentation to Archbishop Elpidophoros of America at our Supreme Convention in July of its $1 million commitment to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to rebuild Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center in New York City. Our members, chapters and districts, in a true act of grassroots activism, fund-raised and worked extremely hard to collectively raise the $1 million. It’s a testament to AHEPA, and the AHEPA Family’s grassroots strength.
AHEPA continues to address the public health crisis in Greece that was exacerbated during the economic crisis. In addition to getting a “green light” to proceed with the establishment of a burn unit at Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, over a period of seven years, AHEPA partnered with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to secure 10 shipping containers of medical supplies for delivery to as many as nine different hospitals all across Greece. Each shipping container was carrying between $650,000 and $850,000 in medical supplies.
Ahepans are contributing in so many other ways–seven “Milk for Flint” drives to help victims of Flint’s Water Crisis, raising tens of thousands of dollars for Thalassemia and cancer research, raising nearly $500,000 to sponsor 30 service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD; and, of course, AHEPA is a primary source of scholarship awards for students from around the world through our chapters, districts and national educational foundation.
GN: Please tell us about some of the programs that AHEPA is developing which you think should be brought to Capitol Hill.
GH: America is second to none as the world’s leading democratic power. However, the question needs to include all areas worldwide where the American Hellenic ethos, code for Western civilization, is apparent. Greece and Cyprus are the new Eastern front of Western civilization.
Broadly, AHEPA works to bring the public policy priorities that impact its mission and programs to the attention of members of Congress. We always ensure opportunities are taken advantage to educate and convey the state of a strong U.S.-Greece strategic partnership, the importance of bolstering U.S. engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean, and all our policy priorities—whether that’s through meetings, briefings, or other programs. Right now, it is critical we grow the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, which stands at 109 members, and we need the community’s support to grow it. We also are proud of our annual Capitol Hill Day, which has been held annually since 2006. It is important for our community to bring its grassroots presence to the halls of Congress. We must continually build on this program.
Additionally, AHEPA empowers its members to lead on an international stage to address issues of security, human rights, etc. Ahepans are problem-solvers, doers. Ahepans don’t sit there from the comfort of a Twitter handle and troll foreign governments. Ahepans go and meet and have frank discussions with those with whom we have differences. Because Ahepans truly lead. These reasons and many more are reason enough to be an active, hardworking member of AHEPA.
GN: What are the ways in which you plan to recruit new membership in the four orders of the AHEPA Family. Do you foresee different approaches for increasing youth membership, for increasing philhellenic membership?
GH: Yes, I believe you’ve got to utilize different approaches and tactics and tailor them to the specific target audience. An approach to a young adult demographic will be different than one geared to a philhellene, etc. In the end, AHEPA offers a variety of programs that may attract someone to join. For example, one may join because of the organized athletic competitions AHEPA provides; someone else may join because they enjoy donating their time to a cause that helps veterans or patients suffering from a disease; another individual may join because they want to become civically engaged.
Membership in AHEPA is a simple proposition. Not only the unmatched programs we have as previously stated but the call to be actively engaged as a community in defense of Hellenism is a mandate for all to join now as with the current state of affairs, we are uniquely situated to make a difference. We have an obligation to ensure through advocacy and strength in numbers that the basic precepts of Hellenism which Western civilizations have enjoyed for millennia continue in our modern-day society. If we do not do it, who will? If we all wait for someone else to do it, no one will. Then the greatest gift to mankind will be extinguished…followed by darkness. We have tried that path…and it’s called the dark ages for good reason.
GN: How do you foresee working with AHEPA worldwide during your tenure?
GH: AHEPA has seen significant growth and expansion in Europe, and I believe that is a testament to AHEPA’s mission and programs and the hard work of our brothers overseas. I look forward to working with them to fulfill our initiatives that will contribute to the strengthening of U.S.-Greece people-to-people ties and relations as well as projecting our message in Brussels, London, Vienna, Stuttgart, and other major metropolitan cities in Europe. Our brothers in Canada also contribute significantly in leadership positions and to our public health initiatives in Greece. In sum, I foresee working in concert with Ahepans from across the globe to project and protect Hellenic ideals.
GN: Please talk about AHEPA’s importance in helping Greece.
GH: AHEPA’s importance to providing aid to Greece since AHEPA’s founding is well-documented. For nearly a century, AHEPA has been the bridge between our nations. Greece is a proud EU nation and invaluable NATO partner, and to its credit, has utilized and leveraged these meaningful relationships on an international stage when needed. However, AHEPA will always stand by Greece’s side in times of crisis or great need.
GN: How do you see AHEPA’s work with Archbishop Elpidophoros developing this year?
We see it developing quite well! We are excited to build on our relationship with Archbishop Elpidophoros, a relationship that began when the Archbishop was the Metropolitan of Bursa and dean of Halki Seminary, to collaborate on issues and projects of mutual interest. We wholeheartedly and resoundingly echo His Eminence’s remarks at our Supreme Convention where he stated that this is an opportunity for us to affirm our great potential in anticipation of celebrating the centennial anniversaries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and AHEPA in 2022; and we share in His Eminence’s hope and prayer that our relationship will bear fruit and become stronger as we approach this milestone together.
The Horiates family are all active members of the AHEPA family, an allegiance that extends beyond
the family’s human members. “We have a dog,” says Horiates laughing, “aptly named GG AHEPA!”