Hellenic Center to Be Created at Kimisis Church

byCatherine Tsounis

The holiday season generates growth and new directions. Unexpected surprises occur. On Sunday, December 24th, a unique moment in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America happened at the Kimises Tis Theotokou Church of Southampton, Long Island, New York. A filled parish was present to hear Ms. Coula Johnides pledge one million dollars for the establishment of the first Center of Hellenic Learning in Eastern Long Island.

"We have a future and not a past," said Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, protopresbyter of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church. "It is not us that are going to build a parish, but the Lord." Children, who performed in the Christmas Pageant, surrounded Ms. Johnides when she said, "I remember the early years. It gives me warmth and comfort to be here. These children are beautiful. We must never forget our Greek heritage. Our church is a house of love and happiness. We must proceed ahead." (Photo at right: Rev. Alexander Karloutsos describing Ms. Coula Johnides unique gift to the Kimisis Tis Theotokou church.)

Proceed ahead is what is happening with this unique one million dollar donation. The Johnides are Greek-Americans who own the famous old Stove Pub Restaurant in Sagaponick located in the Hamptons. The family has roots in the heartland of the Byzantine Empire: Asia Minor. Families from this area, known as Ionia during the time of Alexander the Great, have a pioneering spirit in establishing churches, Greek schools and Hellenic centers. The website http://www.hamptondining.com/pageRestaurant.asp?RECORDID=140
describes the Johnides family business.

Mrs. Coula Johnides, in a letter dated November 15, 2006, wrote to the Greek Orthodox Community of Kimisis Tis Theotokou and Rev. Alexander Karloutsos outlining her family's intentions. "In honor of my family, I decided in 2004 to donate one million dollars from my estate to construct the Johnides Family Cultural Center on the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church," said Ms. Johnides. "I wish to have oversight over the cultural center and be on it's committee. I will require an accounting of how all monies are spent in it's construction. I will make a 100-thousand-dollar donation by January 1, 2007 to reserve the naming opportunity for the center. It would bring great joy to my parents and siblings to know that their many years of hard work will build this center of learning and culture in the Hamptons. Though I may not be in church every Sunday, I live and breathe our Greek heritage and culture and hope our community will enjoy the Johnides Cultural Center for generations to come."

The Christmas Eve services concluded with Rev. Karloutsos expressing "the thanks of our children for this gift: the gift of love glorifying God. Our community will call you Theia Koula, (Aunt Koula)." This is a term of respect and love used in the Greek language for respected members of one's family. Dimitrios Hatzistavrou is the President of the Parish Council. For more information, visit the website http://www.kimisishamptons.ny.goarch.org.

Above: Ms. Coula Johnides being greeted by the
youth of the community; Left: An adorable Angel
posing while children greet Ms. Coula Johnides

(Posting date 20 January 2007

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