What is AHEPA
The mission of the AHEPA Family is to promote Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence. We have many programs and initiatives that can interest you. If you are interested in joining AHEPA, please feel free to reach out to us.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) is one of the largest Hellenic heritage groups in the world and an important community service organization in North America. The AHEPA Family is an umbrella organisation that encompasses four divisions: AHEPA, the men’s division, the Daughters of Penelope, the women’s division, the Sons of Pericles and the Maids of Athena, the youth divisions.
The organisation was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in July 1922. Since then it has borne chapters across the world – Canada, Greece, France, UK, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Panama, Australia, New Zealand and Cyprus.
On October 28, 1928, AHEPA Supreme President George Philies started the first Canadian Chapter of AHEPA in Toronto. 10 years after that date, AHEPA was coast to coast in Canada and serving the members, society, and leaving an incredible impression in each community in which we were engaged. Montreal, Ottawa, Belleville, Windsor, Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria.
AHEPA was founded as a fraternity in Atlanta, Georgia 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. In the 1960s AHEPA was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, teaming up with B’nai B’rith and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to bring racial justice and equality to America.
With the full assimilation of Greek Americans and the success of the civil rights movement, its mission evolved toward philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving and honouring the Hellenic identity of the Greek Americans and Greek Canadians.
Today, AHEPA, along with its affiliate organizations the DOP, SOP and MOA is the oldest and largest Greek heritage membership organization in the world, with over 400 chapters in the United States, Canada, Greece, Cyprus, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Its membership comprising both Hellenes and Philhellenes numbers over 20,000.
“AHEPA stands ready to assist and contribute to the ever strengthening bonds between Greece and its diaspora.”
– Supreme President George G. Horiates
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, liberty, and democracy, education, philanthropy and individual and family excellence. 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.
What is Hellenism?
The word “Hellenism” is derived from the Greek word “Ellinismos” (ελληνισμός). In Greek, Ellinismos has been 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. First appearing in English as Hellenism in 1609, the word came to represent all things related to Greece including a body of humanistic and classical ideals associated with ancient Greece, and includes reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, moderation, and civic responsibility. See the website of the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.
What is Philotimo?
One of the highest values of Hellenism is Philotimo, the sense of doing what is ‘right’ or dutiful even if it inconveniences or costs you personally to do it. You do it because your sense of doing the right thing out ways the benefit of doing what is more expedient or personally profitable. Doing the right thing brings you respect and admiration from your peers while it honours you and the family to which you belong. It means being honour bound or duty bound. According to the Greek philosopher Thales, one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece, “Philotimo to the Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it. He might as well not be alive”.
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 neighbourhoods, 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 such as the AHEPA Hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece, the AHEPA Wing of the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, Greece and the Educational Centre of the Shriners Hospital in Montreal, QC, Canada.
During the Greek crisis AHEPA, in association with IOCC has funded the shipment of 10 containers of medical supplies valued at over $10 million to hospitals across Greece and donated over $500,000 to the Apostoli Mission to provide food to needy families 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.
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 among many others.
The Ideals of Ancient Greece Important to All
AHEPA members are proud of the contributions the ancient Greeks gifted to Western Civilization. As Canadians, we share many of the values put forth by them: civic responsibility, philanthropy, education, family and individual excellence, and the ideals of democracy. This is the essence of our heritage. This is the core of our mission.
Moreover, throughout the span of its history, AHEPA has served as a vital vehicle for the progressive development and emergence of American and Canadian citizens of Greek heritage into every facet of society: government, business, education, and the arts. This fulfillment illustrates the promise of the North-American Dream and symbolizes the hard work ethic of our immigrant forbearers who laboured to achieve that dream with the principles of Hellenism rooted deep in their hearts.