New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
The Hellenic Initiative (THI) was begun by people of Hellenic descent in the diaspora to provide various forms of relief during Greece’s economic crisis: assistance with food, medical care for women on Greek islands in order to encourage them to have families, vaccinations, support for start-up enterprises, and hosting an annual Venture Fair to give new companies opportunities to introduce themselves to investors, among other initiatives, Harriette Condes Zervakis, the niece of Charles C. Condes told the GN, in an interview about the new Charles Condes Venture Impact Award (VIA).
The gift from the Charles C. Condes Trust enables THI, which invested in Greece’s start-up community during the crisis, increase its ability, helpingalready existing Greek companies of promise during the COVID-10 pandemic.
In the words of Peter J. Poulos, Executive Director of The Hellenic Initiative, the gift “makes a real difference.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the first presentation of the Venture Impact Awards established by The Hellenic Initiative (THI), and with the support of the Helidoni Foundation and a $500,000 donation from the estate of Charles C. Condes, took place online from Athens on December 17, 2020.
GN: What qualifications mustbe met by Virtual Impact Award recipients? Who chooses the winners?
HCZ: Approximately 120 Greek businesses applied for a Venture Impact Award.They submitted a written application, an introductory video presentation, and any supplemental written materials that might be pertinent. Program Director Michael Printzos did much of the screening,narrowing the applicants to 25 and a panel of judges voted on their top 10 choices. The three top vote-getters received $30,000, six businesses received $20,000, and fivereceived $10,000. My son Pete and I were happy to serve on the panel of judges.
GN: What motivated you to establish an award that would help the youth of Greece?
HCZ: My husband, Tassos, and I travel to Greece at least twice a year. Comparing the downtown Athens of 15-20 yearsago, just “eyeballing” the streets, one notices that there are fewer Greek young people than there were before. The Greeks are middle-aged or older. Families that we know have all seen their twenty and thirty some-things leave for Sweden and the United Kingdom, and others for Dubai.This brain drain has been very troubling.What kind of future does Greece have without its youth? Years ago, my grandparents’ generation left Greece for better opportunities, but they left siblings behind in their villages. Today’s Greek youth, more often than not, are only children who leave no siblings behind. Villagesare also eerily empty of vibrancy and life.Anything we can do to encourage Greek young people to stay and energize the economy appeals to us. The Venture Impact Awards appealed to me for this reason.
GN: How did you choose to develop the project with The Hellenic Initiative above other organizations?Were you involved in the work of the THI?
HCZ: If there are other organizations in addition to The Hellenic Initiative that have identified the goal of reducing the Greek brain drain, I am not aware of them. My understanding is that The Hellenic Initiative was begun by people of Hellenic descent in the diaspora to provide various forms of relief during Greece’s economic crisis: assistance with food, medical care for women on Greek islands in order to encourage them to have families, vaccinations, support for start-up enterprises, and hosting an annual Venture Fair to give new companies opportunities to introduce themselves to investors, among other initiatives. With Peter J. Poulos,Executive Director of THI, I discussed the $500,000 donation from The Charles C. Condes Trust and how I thought my uncle would like the money to be used.
GN: When did you begin to develop the Venture Impact Award?
HCZ: I first contacted Peter Poulos last spring. I had thought about establishing a Charles C. Condes Foundation, but it would take an awful lot of time for me to establish the foundation, publicize it, work out the legal aspects as they relate to moving funds from the United States to Greece, organize a structure and make necessary contacts in Greece, and the myriad other details that would present themselves. Using a recognized organization was much easier.
GN: Was your uncle aware of The Hellenic Initiative?
HCZ: No. His trust identified the churches and charities which were to benefit from the fortune that he left behind. I was given discretion over a small portion that was to benefit Greece in some way.
GN: I remember that your uncle was an early benefactor of the National Hellenic Museum, in Chicago.
HCZ: While he lived, Uncle Charles was a philanthropist who “flew under the radar,” contributing to many worthy causes such as the Philoxenia House in Rochester, Minnesota, the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, the Pan Hellenic Scholarship Foundation based in Chicago, and, of course, he was a fulfilled member of Leadership 100. He was encouraged to join Leadership 100 by his late first cousin and Leadership 100 Charter Member, NickasJ. Yiannias of Dubuque, Iowa.
Charles Condes travel to Greece? revitalization.” Such goals would appeal to my uncle. The Charles C. Condes Trust has also generously benefited the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in Florida, St. Basil Academy in New York, Orthodox Christian Fellowship of Boston for college student aid, and seven Greek Orthodox Churches in the Midwest. The largest church donation, close to two million dollars, goes to his home parish of Holy Taxiarchai/St. Haralambos in Niles, Illinois.My understanding is this donation has enabled the community to continue a major construction project, even during the pandemic.
GN: Did your uncle visit Greece?
HCZ: As I have often said, my uncle left Greece, but Greece never left him. In 1946, Uncle Charles visited Greece for the first time. He had served in the U.S. armed forces across North Africa, the Middle East, and Cyprus, as a meteorologist attached to the Royal Air Force. At that time, Greece was devastated, but in spite of their sufferings, Uncle Charles found his relatives and the common people to be warm and welcoming.Years later, he returned several times, both as a bachelor, and together with his lovely wife, Phyllis. I think his ability to communicate with the people of Greece and Cyprus increased his fondness for them.A graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, he was well-educated through academics, extensive reading, and world travel, however, his parents had tended to his Greek education, as well. He spoke, read, and wrote Greek fluently.
Charles Constantine Condes (baptized Eftyhios), born in Chicago, Ill, was the son of Constantine S. Condes from Niata in Laconia and Haricleia (Yiannias) Condes from Alea in Arcadia. He was raised with strong ties to his Greek Orthodox religion, Greek culture and language, and his extended family.