Avgerinos is a village remotely situated in western Kozani region of Greece. Despite the fact that it is small and difficult to get to, thousands of people travel there every year to experience its pure beauty, warm hospitality and a resonating aura that it is “home”.
Avgeriniotes can be found all over the world in almost every continent. In the 19th century, many Avgernitiotes emigrated to Constantinople. There they became successful merchants and builders. Although they were far from home they never forgot their village and always strived to share their good fortune to benefit their families and their birthplace. Those Avgeriniotes came together and formed a Society with the sole purpose to fund projects back in their village. They called it the “Society of Avgerinos Agia Paraskevi” in honor of the church at the top of the hill in Avgerinos. Through the years they funded general infrastructure projects, schools and churches. In 1909, Avgeriniotes in Brockton, MA and Manchester, NH formed a Society by the same name with the same cause and spirit that inspired the forefathers. They would later work to fund the rebuilding of the school that was burned down during WWI. In the late 1960s, Avgeriniotes in Philadelphia and Atlantic City banded together and later funded the building of the Community Center in 1988 which is regularly used today for weddings, luncheons and dances.
In 2013, the spiraling economic crisis in Greece has revealed the reality that government resources have been greatly reduced and that the infrastructure in this beautiful village can no longer be maintained by the few full-time residents that are there. The silver lining in this story is that a small energetic group (mostly first and second generation Americans) led by Kostas Karayiannis is reviving the spirit of “Agia Paraskevi” and have begun a tireless journey to use all available modern and social media resources to come together and work to raise money to fund projects that will benefit the residents of Avgerinos and all those that visit.
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The first project for the Cultural Society of Avgerinos will be to refurbish and improve the center of the village, the Platia. This is where all celebrations are hosted and the people congregate. Funding ongoing maintenance is the long-term goal of this organization. Member Andrea Papadopoulos explains:
You can not find an Avgerinioti that does not speak with great passion about their horio. I have experienced first hand that feeling of ‘coming home’ everytime I visit. It’s a familiarity and bond I can not explain since I was born in Atlantic City. It must be because I grew up listening to my parents and grand parents speak about their village and people as if they just left yesterday. The project is meaningful to many of us because we want our children to visit there, have the same experience we had and to be proud to say, our grandparents are from Avgerinos. We can not reasonably expect they’ll say this if the village is crumbling down around them. There is a big picture aspect to this project as well. It is a project of hope. This is very dark time for most Greeks. It is my personal hope that what we are doing for Avgerinos, inspires other Greek Americans to sponsor similar projects in their little corner of Greece.
To find out more or to help this worthy cause visit:
Contact: Andrea E. Papadopoulos