The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) is the largest and oldest American-based, Greek heritage grassroots membership organization. Its scope is international with chapters in the United States, Canada, Greece, and Cyprus, and "sister" chapters in Australia and New Zealand under the auspices of AHEPA Australasia.
AHEPA was founded on July 26, 1922 in response to the evils of bigotry and racism that emerged in early 20th century American society. It also helped Greek immigrants assimilate into society. Today, AHEPA brings the ideals of ancient Greece, which includes philanthropy, education, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence to the community. Although a majority of the membership is composed of Americans of Greek descent, application for membership is open to anyone who believes in the mission of the organization.
The mission of the AHEPA Family is to promote Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence.
An important component of AHEPA's mission is to create an awareness of the principles of Hellenism to society. These principles include a commitment to humanity, freedom, and democracy. The preservation and promotion of these ideals is where AHEPA has, and always will be, deeply committed.
AHEPA educates the community on these matters through symposia, forums, and conferences.
AHEPA's commitment to education has been well documented throughout its history. Over $4 million is endowed at the local, district and national levels toward the use of scholarships and a half-million dollars is awarded annually. Thousands of young men and women have benefited as recipients of AHEPA scholarships at these various levels. The most famous recipient, perhaps, is ABC News' Host of This Week George Stephanopoulos. The scholarship program at the national level is administered by theAHEPA National Educational Foundation. It offers scholarships to a wide variety of students. Recipients are: traditional and non-traditional students; seminarians, including those entering Holy Cross Greek School of Theology; and high school seniors, college and post-graduate students who are looking to become tomorrow's leaders. The preservation of Hellenic or Classical Studies programs on college campuses is an important issue for the AHEPA Educational Foundation. A subcommittee of the Foundation, the Hellenic Cultural Commission, actively works to support the study of the Classics at universities. In addition, educational programs such as "Journey to Greece" and Washington Internships are sponsored by the Foundation.
Philanthropy and volunteerism have been pillars of strength for AHEPA. From natural disaster relief to raising funds for the elimination of life-threatening diseases to making significant contributions to our local neighborhoods, AHEPA is at the forefront of charitable giving.
AHEPA's philanthropic deeds are
evident in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; in the
Halls of St. Basil Academy, a childcare facility in Garrison, N.Y.; in the
care packages we sent to our troops in cooperation with the USO; and in the
building of healthcare facilities in Greece. Yet this only scratches the
surface of the numerous philanthropic works of the association. In addition,
countless charitable projects are undertaken every year by AHEPA's chapters
and districts. Civic Responsibility Our grassroots has a strong voice. With
chapters in every major metropolitan city and in rural areas of North
America, AHEPA communicates the positions of the Greek-American community to
elected representatives at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as
to our diplomatic leaders. These issues pertain to Greece, Cyprus, and
Turkey; however, our constituents are also interested in domestic policy
areas affecting the philanthropic, civic, and community service-based
programs in which they are involved. These positions are based upon our
American heritage and ideals with the best interest of the United States in
mind. AHEPA educates its constituents about these issues through seminars
and conferences, providing expert panelists from the U.S. government,
prominent Washington, DC Think-Tank organizations, and the business world.
Furthermore, AHEPA keeps a watchful eye on Congress with its Congressional Scorecard, a tool that evaluates each member of Congress on Greek-American issues.
Family and Individual Excellence
What makes AHEPA unique from other organizations is the creation of the AHEPA Family. Together with three affiliated organizations, the AHEPA Family works as a unit toward the fulfillment of a common mission. Combined, the four organizations have contributed well over a billion dollars to national projects throughout their history.
The Daughters of Penelope was established November 16, 1929 as the Women's Affiliate of AHEPA. It is the first Greek-American women's organization in the United States. One of its crowning achievements is Penelope House, a shelter for battered women in Mobile, Alabama. It is the first shelter for battered women and their children in that state.
The Sons of Pericles was established February 3, 1926, and was officially recognized as the Junior Order of AHEPA in 1928. Finally, the Maids of Athena was founded July 5, 1930 as the Junior Women's Auxiliary of AHEPA. The two youth groups have combined to contribute to such worthy causes as: Muscular Dystrophy, Deborah Heart and Lung Foundation, the Special Olympics, St. Basil Academy and Cooley's Anemia research.