The Hellenic Initiative, a nonprofit organization founded “to support sustainable economic recovery” in Greece in 2012 – amid the country’s financial crisis – raised $1.6 million at its eighth annual and first-ever virtual gala, which took place on November 12.
The virtual event was co-hosted from Athens by singer Sakis Rouvas and from New York City by ABC News chief anchor and political correspondent George Stephanopoulos.
“Covid 19 has stolen much from Greece, but it cannot take our pride, our heritage, our strength as a community, or our compassion. We ask all Greeks who are able, please show your love for Greece, help your fellow citizens in need with your generosity. We can keep our country healthy and together, we will make it strong again,” Stephanopoulos said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a message to the event.
“For the last eight years, THI has been at the forefront of helping Hellenes in need and investing in a new Greece and in fantastic job creation programs, like ReGeneration and the Venture Impact Awards. This gala is, of course, the largest fundraising event in the global Greek diaspora. But it also helps to build partnerships and knowledge, sharing between two communities, separated by geography, but united by identity and history. That help has been invaluable – and unprecedented,” he said.
“Funds raised will provide pandemic relief and help Greek businesses and entrepreneurs who took a huge hit when travel restrictions devastated Greece’s all-important travel industry,” THI announced.
“So many philhellenes and Greeks from around the world heeded the call for support and together we hit a real home run for investment in Greece… results exceeded our greatest expectations,” THI Executive Director Peter Poulos said. “The unseen benefit in going virtual was that it enabled people internationally to stream our event. Moreover, speakers and entertainers didn’t need to be on hand in New York City or London to participate.”
“This pandemic is going to be with us for a while [but] we will get through this and we will come out of it stronger than ever before,” said THI Board Chairman Andrew N. Liveris, adding that Greeks “know that we do thrive and survive and make things happen in times of need.”
Other people sending messages included actresses Rita Wilson and Nia Vardalos, philanthropist Marianna V. Vardinoyannis and singer Nana Mouskouri, and Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who blessed the event for benefiting those in need and expressed hope for a brighter future.
Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the Xprize Foundation, talked about one of the beneficiaries, Enaleia, Greece’s only professional fishing school.
“Fishing has become so much more than simply casting a net. Today it is about protecting the marine ecosystems and keeping healthy fish populations alive. With a donation of 25,000 euros, Enaleia can expand its outreach and clean up a port that’s been littered with old netting. They will recycle the old netting, turning it into clothing, and breathe life back into the port, all while making young Greeks into lifetime fishermen.”