Honoring AHEPA This Easter Sunday

Photo courtesy of Norwich Bulletin

Columnist Bill Stanley

Photo courtesy of Norwich Historical Society

10th anniversary outing of the Norwich AHEPA chapter taken in July 1936.

1 May 2005, Special to the Norwich Bulletin
Reprinted with permission of Norwich Bulletin

Once upon a time, the Greek Orthodox Church was on Boswell Avenue, just off Centennial Square. That was so many years ago, and how I remember many Greek weddings at the old, wooden church with such wonderful friends.

Today, for Greeks, is Easter Sunday, and it is the most important of all their holidays. About 95 percent of all Greeks are members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Greeks, who are Eastern Orthodox, and the Roman Catholics were once a single religious body, but because of cultural, political and theological differences, they separated into two churches. As our Jewish brethren celebrate with a special calendar, the Greek Orthodox, unlike the Catholics and Protestants, celebrate Easter on the Julian calendar. That is why their Easter is on a different day.

This morning I thought might be a proper time to write about AHEPA, a caring Greek organization that has done so much good in Norwich. AHEPA has a special day coming. The Greek community has embraced the building of housing for the elderly, and what a splendid success for Norwich.

AHEPA will, on May 14, have completed 138 units of moderate- to low-income elderly housing in Norwich. As president of St. Jude Common, I perhaps realize more than most what a big job they have done for our elderly.

We at St. Jude care for 50 frail elderly people. Like AHEPA, our rents are very low. Rent at St. Jude is $314 with congregate fees added to that. At AHEPA, the rents can be from $200 to $400 a month, but never more than one-third of a resident's income. The major difference between AHEPA and St. Jude Common is St. Jude's is dealing with the frail elderly, and we provide the major meal every day, but the Greek program accommodates so many more seniors with its 138 units.

This morning's picture was taken of AHEPA members back in 1936, on their 10th anniversary. In the picture are some legends that many old-timers will remember. In the back row on the left is George Yakis of Martin Studios, and in the front row, second from left, is Dan Coulopoulos of Recreation Billiards. Fourth from left is John "Jesse" James, who ran Dairy Land.

While it has been organized in Norwich since 1926, AHEPA's housing program started in 1986 with the construction of the first building of 50 units.

In 1994, it completed another 42 units. In a few weeks, the third and newest building will add 46 units, making the total 138. Truly a monumental achievement.

It is no small matter building, maintaining and managing that many units, and my hat is off to Tony Petros, president, and Sotero Daniska, vice president, who oversaw the entire project.

There are benefits beyond the obvious. Elderly folks in Norwich, on fixed incomes, would have an impossible task to find proper housing without AHEPA, but is also helps the housing market when elderly folks, often living alone, can sell their homes to younger families and move into comfortable quarters at Hamilton Avenue's AHEPA.

The problems of aging confront everybody. If the young people only know how important it is to prepare for the years when their income will be fixed and far less than they made during their productive working years. The cost of medicine and food, and the inability to move around, as well as living alone in a house where the snow must be shoveled, and the lawns must be mowed, and the oilman must be paid. It can become a nightmare, which is made easier by facilities that accommodate those needs to well and so economically.

There is something very special about AHEPA. Over the years, has helped so many organizations, and has been a real part of our community. When we had our 300th anniversary, it was the Greek float in the parade that won the grand prize.

Down through the years, there were so many Greek businesses, from Louie Stavrou on Columbus Square, to Jesse James at Dairy Land, Dan and Chris, who ran the pool room on the third floor of the Sellas Building, and of course, Sellas's Restaurant, Alexander's, Beverly's Tea Room and the Boston Candy Kitchen.

Doing good in this world should be everyone's job, but the Greeks do it so well, and they asked me to invite you all on May 14 to the dedication where Congressman Rob Simmons and several others will speak. Following that, there will be wonderful food served, prepared by another Greek restaurant known as Olympic.

Today's picture brings us back. The dedication on May 14 carries us forward in a time when most of the founders are gone, but their good purpose carries on.

Bill Stanley's latest book,
Once Upon A Time, is available at Lawrence & Memorial and The William W. Backus Hospital gift shops, Suburban Card & Gifts, Magazines & More, Johnson's Flowers & Gift Shop in Norwich, Dime Savings Bank, Otis Library, Wonderland Books in Putnam, or by mail by calling 1-800-950-0331. You can contact Bill Stanley by e-mail at gatewayair@aol.com.

HCS readers who wish to view Mr. Stanley's article in situ can do so at the URL http://www.norwichbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2005505010318.  The editorial staff would like to thank Acting Managing Editor Francesca Kefalas of the Norwich Bulletin for graciously granting permission to reprint this article by Bill Stanley. Thanks go to Andrew Kaffes, too, Director of Public Relations at AHEPA national headquarters in Washington, DC (www.ahepa.org) for bringing this article to our attention.

Readers who enjoyed this article may wish to consult other articles about AHEPA under the HCS archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/contents.html#AHEPA Family Releases.

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