By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – As a second-generation Greek American, and a member of Saints Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church in Marlborough, Hudson resident Steve Caragian found it to be an easy transition to sign up for membership in the Marlborough chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) in 2005. Since then, he’s risen in the ranks to his current post as the chapter’s president and has enjoyed supporting local scholars and veterans through the association’s charitable activities.
According to the organization’s national site, AHEPA is the largest and oldest American-based, Greek heritage grassroots membership organization. Members strive to promote the ideals of ancient Greece, which they note to include philanthropy, education, civic responsibility and family and individual excellence to the community.
On the local level, according to Caragian, the Marlborough Chapter supports the “Sweats 4 Vets” program and has a scholarship program for Marlborough High School seniors and for their members’ high school seniors and college seniors. Additionally, Caragian added, the chapter donates money to the Greek church in support of their festival and annual golf tournament as well as occasionally collecting donations for a family or person in need.
In May, Caragian was proud to congratulate this year’s senior college scholarship winner, Greg Polechronis, alumni of Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, as he prepared for graduation from University of New Hampshire being newly commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Last December, Caragian was pleased to accompany Marlborough High School teacher Mark Vital, an active member of the Sweats 4 Vets program, to distribute sweatshirts to homeless veterans at Veterans, Inc., in Worcester.
The philanthropic deeds carried out by the local chapter perpetuate the positive community action that the larger AHEPA organization was founded on in 1922 when it formed “in response to the evils of bigotry and racism that emerged in early 20th century American society.”
AHEPA’s long history includes the development of AHEPA family branches which make up three affiliated organizations that work in tandem to carry out their common mission.
Per the national AHEPA’s historical report, The Daughters of Penelope, which launched in 1929 as the women’s affiliate of AHEPA, supported the development of Penelope House, the first shelter for battered women in Alabama.
The organizations Junior Auxiliaries include the Sons of Pericles which started in 1926, and became the Junior Order of AHEPA in 1928, while the Maids of Athena was born in 1930 as the Junior Women’s Auxiliary of AHEPA. The two auxiliaries have jointly contributed to various causes including Muscular Dystrophy, Deborah Heart and Lung Foundation, Special Olympics, St. Basil Academy and Cooley’s Anemia research.
Combined, according to information distributed by the national AHEPA, the four organizations have contributed more than a billion dollars to national projects since their inception.
Caragian feels a strong connection to both the ideals and the members of the organization. The Marlborough chapter currently has 55 members and continues to welcome anyone who is interested in joining.
“An important component of AHEPA’s mission is to create an awareness of the principles of Hellenism [Ancient Greek ideals] to society,” he said. “Many of my friends and relatives are members of AHEPA and it gives us an opportunity to socialize once a month at a dinner meeting.”
The Marlborough chapter convenes at the Marlborough AHEPA lodge at 80 Northborough Road East in Marlborough. For further information or to join the chapter, contact Caragian at 978-562-1014.