Revitalizing the Village of Vatoussa: 
Philanthropic Foundation Board Meets with
Governmental Officials

Rye, NH and Vatoussa, Lesvos (HCS)--Plans have been finalized for completion of the St. Nicholas Chapel Park in Vatoussa, Lesvos, a project underwritten by the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Vatoussa Revitalization Foundation, with assistance from expatriate villagers worldwide and several local organizations. (See also HCS articles: "Town Records of Vatoussa, Lesvos Restored," "Vatoussa's St. Nicholas Chapel Walking Trails Become a Reality," and "Selected Proceedings of the Symposium on Noted Journalists from Vatoussa, Lesvos Sponsored by the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Vatoussa Revitalization Foundation.") Begun several years ago as a conceptual design of noted Aegean architect George Sosonides, the project has continued to move forward. It has received widespread support and approval, from the villagers themselves, to expatriates, Orthodox hierarchs and governmental representatives.

"It is," in the words of one Vatoussan, "the realization of a long-held dream for local residents." Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, President of the foundation, met in Eressos with Mr. Polydoros Abatzis, the mayor of the dimos Eressou-Antissas, and with Christos and Mary Papoutsy, establishers of the foundation, to review final details of the plan. Mayor Abatzis reiterated his full support of and appreciation for the project, pledging assistance from the dimos for outdoor lighting. Plans call for a small outdoor amphitheater, park benches, retaining walls, fountains, and other improvements to the park grounds. Actual work on the project began in 2003 with the grading of areas around the chapel grounds and the collection of special stone materials for the construction of the retaining walls.

A 300-foot-long, hand-crafted masonry retaining wall along the front border of the park has been completed, one of the lengthiest phases of the entire project. For months, villagers and workers scoured old quarries and razing sites for stones suitable for the walls. Because Vatoussa has been designated a traditional village by the Greek government, all construction and renovation projects fall under strict guidelines to preserve their traditional architecture and appearance. When the final phase of the park has been completed, the appearance of the grounds and walls will blend in with the existing architecture of the village. This entire project is scheduled to be completed in two years, with estimates of the final cost to be about two hundred thousand U.S. dollars.

This latest project is one of many undertaken by the foundation to assist the area. They seem to have made a difference in the lives of local residents. Following more basic efforts like installing heat in the local church and offering assistance to poor elderly, this latest project aims to elevate cultural and community life by offering residents an outdoor assembly and recreational area. Situated on a knoll on the outskirts of the village, the sloping grounds of the chapel have long been the destination of evening strolls.

Christos and Mary Papoutsy established the foundation in 1998 after visiting Vatoussa, the birthplace of Mr. Papoutsy's father. The warmth and hospitality of the villagers and the charm of the village won the hearts of the Papoutsy couple, who pledged to support revitalization efforts. Over the years a diverse array of projects have been undertaken and completed, among them the establishment of a local youth chorus, winter outings for the elderly, and improvements to key buildings. The efforts of the foundation have begun to generate outside interest in this historic village. As a result, older homes have been purchased and renovated in increasing numbers. The charm of Vatoussa continues to draw people.

With the construction of the St. Nicholas Chapel Park villagers hope to enjoy an attractive recreational area with sweeping vistas and an outdoor amphitheater. Board members of the foundation, municipal officials, and villagers are busily arranging a series of inaugural activities for the opening of the park in 2006. The public is welcome and invited to attend all festivities in this enchanting village in the rich, legendary land of Lesvos. Additional details of the inaugural events will be posted to HCS as they become available. For more information about the foundation, contact Hellenic Communication Service, referencing the foundation, at PO Box 710, Rye Beach, NH 03871; (fax) 603-379-8141; (email)

(Posted 10 February 2005)

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