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Michael Iasilli

This past weekend, the Port Jefferson-based Chapter 319 of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, also known as AHEPA, held its inaugural car show fundraiser in the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox Church of Assumption on Saturday, June 4.

George Kallas, vice president of Chapter 319, discussed the history of the organization. “Back in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was persecuting Greeks in [the state of] Georgia,” he said. “They were intimidating the citizens not to go to the Greek diners and they were burning crosses on Greek lawns. A couple of Greeks got together, they went to Washington, D.C., they petitioned the president, they formed AHEPA, they were authorized to carry arms, they went back to Georgia and they pushed back against the Ku Klux Klan.” He added, “The whole idea was to help the Greeks assimilate into American culture and become American citizens.”

Michael Iasilli, a Greek Orthodox resident of Brookhaven whose father helped put this event together, spoke of the important contributions the chapter has made in bringing the community together and raising funds for people in need. 

“AHEPA is a believer in Hellenism, and there are a lot of social justice aspects that are a part of their mission,” he said.

Since its inception, AHEPA has stood for volunteering, community engagement, furthering education and philanthropy. In the Port Jefferson community, AHEPA hosts several regular events, including a fishing trip, New Year’s dinners at Pax Christi Hospitality Center and now a car show.

“The proceeds from this event will go to the church and will go to Ukraine,” Kallas said. Describing the car show, he added, “This is the first time we’re doing it. We want to do it on a regular basis, but we’re just feeling it out right now. It seems to be a success so far.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis