In my father’s footsteps, this past month I have entered the fraternity of AHEPA. For future articles where AHEPA and its good works will be mentioned, here is a brief description of this wonderful organization. Visit AHEPA Canada to learn more – and for Canadians of Greek heritage, I encourage you to join with us. – Chris George
The AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence through community service and volunteerism. AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of citizens of Greek heritage with over 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
The organization was founded in the Atlanta, Georgia in 1922 following growing attacks on Greek Americans and Greek American businesses by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and others. Its initial mission was to promote the image of Greeks in America, assist them with citizenship and to fight against KKK attacks.
On October 28, 1928, the first Canadian Chapter of AHEPA was founded in Toronto. (The anti-Greek riots of Toronto in 1918 had paved the way for AHEPA in Canada.) In the 1930’s AHEPA was coast to coast in Canada and serving the members and the public. AHEPA was leaving an incredible impression in each community in which we were engaged: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Belleville, Windsor, Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria.
The AHEPA Ottawa Chapter is active in its philanthropic and educational activities and has a history of donating to local causes, most recently to Ottawa Heart Institute and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). It also raises money for children organizations and hospitals in Greece. Each year the Chapter provides scholarships for post-secondary pursuits to students of Greek heritage as well as financial support to scholastic and cultural activities within Ottawa’s Greek community.
An important component of AHEPA’s mission is to create an awareness of the principles of Hellenism to society. The word “Hellenism” is derived from the Greek word “Ellinismos” which is used to describe the people of Greek lineage and also to describe a set of values for living that were invented by the ancient Greeks. These values became the basis of today’s Western civilization and include a commitment to humanity, liberty, and democracy. AHEPA strives to preserve and promote these ideals and educates the public on these matters through symposia, forums, and conferences in their Chapters’ communities.