Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Brief History of William Penn Chapter No. 61

The William Penn Chapter No. 61 of the Order of AHEPA was organized by one of the founders of the Order, the late George Polos.

Mr. Polos came to Reading in the early months of 1925, and spent several weeks talking to Reading Greeks about AHEPA and initiated the first group into the Order. On March 16, 1925, he initiated another group of 18.

Twenty-five of these brothers signed the petition on May 2, 1925, asking the "Supreme Council of AHEPA," as it was then known, to grant them a charter. The Reading AHEPA Chapter was the sixth one organized in Pennsylvania.

In 1926, the first major banquet was sponsored by the Chapter and among the dignitaries attending were Mayor William Sherman, Judge Shaffer, and Superintendent of Schools Rapp.

Another banquet was held in 1928 with Robert Birch as toastmaster, and among those attending were Mayor Stump, Rev. Miller, and Congressman Esterly.

In 1933, the Chapter was host to the District Convention, and just prior to the Convention the Reading Times published a glowing editorial on July 10, 1933, praising AHEPA.

Now came the Chapter’s golden years.  With capable men assuming the leadership, the respect for AHEPA grew, many activities of all kinds were held, and many more joined the Order.

The AHEPA Patrol was organized, and under the leadership of the late Peter Eleftheriou, won many awards including first prize in Easton’s 50th anniversary parade.

The AHEPA Greek Award was established and was given every year to a student of Albright College who excelled in the studies of Greek.

Then came World War II.  Many members of the Order served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some were wounded in combat, but all eventually returned with honorable discharges to rejoin their Chapter. The Chapter participated in the AHEPA drive to sell War Bonds and, as a result, the entire Order was commended by the U.S. Government for the millions of dollars of War Bonds that they sold.

In 1946, when Sts. Constantine & Helen Church bought the building at 8th and Court Streets, and moved the Church facilities there, the Chapter donated the cost of the Iconostation (Icon Screen). The cost of the Iconostation was $1,835.00, and this was at a time when Chapter dues were $6.00 per year, and Church dues were $12.00 per year.

When the present Church was built in 1970, that Iconostation was taken apart, brought over to the new Church and re-assembled, and was used until the present new Iconostation was installed in 1995.  Some parts of the old Iconostation are now in the church’s Heritage room.

On May 5, 1957, the Chapter hosted a banquet honoring President Judge Robert Mays and Judge Marks on their retirement that year. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was the main speaker.

In 1959, the Chapter entered in an agreement with the Church to rent the old Greek School building at 734 Walnut Street for $500.00 per year for its headquarters.

Although this was a commendable effort to provide a home for the Chapter, it later proved to the downfall of the Chapter and almost caused its extinction. Of course, the division of the church that took place about that same time aggravated the situation.

In 1974 the Chapter was re-organized and many new members were initiated, old members re-instated, and became very active. One of the members, Michael Firilas, was elected to the office of District Governor.

In 1978, the Chapter hosted the District Convention with many City, County and State officials attending the formal District Banquet on June 17th.

The Chapter enjoyed another renaissance from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, hosting another successful District Convention in 1988, establishing the first Chapter Scholarship Fund and winning recognition from Power District No. 4 for the initiation of most new members and reinstatement of past members. Chapter membership peaked at 80. The Chapter sent full delegations to District and National AHEPA Conventions throughout this 10-year period. Several chapter members served on the District Lodge and one member, Michael Firilas, was elected Supreme Governor. Michael Firilas was also named 1991 AHEPAN of the Year by Power District No. 4.

The Chapter also held several successful Banquets in honor of U.S. Congressman Gus Yatron and the two pastors who served the Greek Orthodox Churches in Reading.

After the financial scandals that rocked the national AHEPA during the mid-1990s, membership declined and the Reading  Chapter, like many others, fell into a period of dormancy.

In 2010, a new effort was put forth to bring the Chapter back to its glory days. Many new members were initiated, and many old members were reinstated. A new set of officers was  elected, who are worthy successors to their illustrious predecessors and who are working very hard for the Chapter today.

The Chapter re-instituted the Annual AHEPA Day in our Church. The day includes a Memorial Service for all our departed Brothers, a Social in the Church on that day, and also a Booklet with all the names of the departed Brothers, the present Chapter Officers, and the present membership that is handed out to all Parishioners.

In collaboration with the local St. Xenia Philoptochos Society, the Chapter organized a very successful Christmas Party for the children of our community in 2011, with about 250 children and adults attending.

Also, a new idea was put into practice of holding regular dinner meetings at Reading-area restaurants, where the Brothers can enjoy each others’ company socially, as true AHEPANS.

An annual AHEPA Golf Tournament was organized, bringing the brothers together for a game of golf, and their families joining them for a casual picnic social afterwards. The event was eventually named in honor of our late Brother AHEPAN Ernie Orphanos, who organized the first tournament and chaired the event for several years as Athletic Director.

By mid-2013, chapter membership reached 96, making William Penn Chapter 61 one of the largest AHEPA chapters in Pennsylvania.

- Compiled by Gust Kraras

Monday, March 25, 2013

AHEPA Statement in Support for the Citizens of Cyprus

AHEPA Statement in Support for the Citizens of Cyprus

WASHINGTON - AHEPA Supreme President Dr. John Grossomanides has issued the following statement in the wake of the 10 billion euro bailout deal reached to address Cyprus's banking crisis:
"The members of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, and the affiliated organizations of the AHEPA family, extend their support to the Republic of Cyprus and its citizens during this most difficult and challenging time.
"Our thoughts are with the Cypriot people. They are extremely resilient. We have every confidence that they will meet and overcome this adversity.
"I look forward to leading our annual AHEPA family delegation to Cyprus this April to personally convey our organization's support for the citizens of Cyprus."

12 must-see images of the Greek revolution

12 must-see images of the Greek revolution | Hellenic American Leadership Council

Greek Independence Day

On this day in 1821, Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Turks, beginning an 11-year struggle to drive the Turks from the Greek mainland. Ζήτω η Ελλάς!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Support AHEPAN George Zeppos

One of our members in William Penn Chapter No. 61 Order of AHEPA is participating in a local fundraiser.

George and Eleny Zeppos, owners of The Hitching Post  Restaurant & Bar, are participating in "Dancing With The Reading Stars," a fundraiser to support the Yocum Institute for Arts Education.

The event will be held April 19 at Stokesay Castle.

You can vote for the winning couple every time you make a $5 donation.

Find out how you can support George and Eleny and raise money for arts education in Berks County by visiting the Dancing With the Reading Stars website or by calling 610-376-1576.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

AHEPA Chapter Rewards Oratorical Festival Participants at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church

Congratulations to the nine outstanding participants in the 2013 St. John Crysostom Oratorical Festival at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Reading, PA. The event was held Sunday, March 10, 2013, with AHEPA member Andrew Maoury coordinating the competition. William Penn Chapter No. 61 also provided a gift card to each participant. The winner of the Senior Division was Anastasis 'Soci' Phyrillas. The winner of the Junior Division was James Phyrillas. As a former judge of the Oratorical Festival and someone who has listened to dozens of speeches over the past decade, I believe this year's competition was the toughest ever and I commend all our Greek Orthodox youth who participated and shared their love of the Lord and their faith with members of their church community. I don't envy this year's judges (which included William Penn Chapter No. 61 President Dr. George Giovanis. The top two finishers in each division go to the Regional competition in Camp Hill, PA, on March 16, 2013. Good luck to all the winners. Pictured above are the contestants from left to right: Patrick Phyrillas, James Phyrillas, Alex Lountzis, Kyran Mitchell, Vasilis Phyrillas, Alexandros Matthews, Andrew Lountzis, Stavanna Donahue and Anastasis Phyrillas.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

12 new members initiated into William Penn Chapter No. 61 Order of AHEPA

A dozen new members were initiated into the William Penn Chapter No. 61, Order of AHEPA, during a recent ceremony, in Reading, PA.

The new additions bring the chapter membership roster to 94 active members, ranking the Reading chapter among the largest in Pennsylvania's District No. 4.

During the past year, the chapter has hosted two Membership Roundup Campaigns in extending fellowship and service as members of the AHEPA chapter at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Reading, PA.

A total of 31 new members were initiated and/or reinstated during two mass initiation ceremonies on March 18, 2012 and February 21, 2013. This initiative brings the chapter roster to 94 active members. 

Chapter President Dr. George J. Giovanis presided over the initiation ceremonies with the assistance of Gust Kraras, Past District Governor of District No. 5, who has helped revitalize the Reading chapter over the past four years. 

The newly initiated members at the February 21, 2013 ceremony are: Yianni Barakos, Mark Chaknos, Chris Fecera, Jarett Fernez, John Frangakis, Nick S. Karetas, Nick Lambros, Stephen Mavreles, Richard Panagacos, Jeremy Reeser, Brian Szczawinski and Chris Zaffary.

The reinstatement and transfer of Harry Pappas, a former member of Chester-Delco Chapter No. 79, was also accepted by the Reading AHEPA Chapter.

(Pictured above are the new members with chapter officers. Photo by Chris Dikos)