Most of us have been around awhile and have seen our share of Greek Independence Parades sponsored by the Federation of Hellenic American Societies and Churches of Philadelphia. In the early years, we’ve marched down Chestnut Street passing the iconic symbol of liberty, Independence Hall, and more recently, we’ve paraded down the majestic Ben Franklin Parkway with the hundreds of national flags lining the Parkway and fluttering in the wind. Whether marching in the parade or viewing it from the stands the parade always brings great pride and joy to each of us and our community.
This year, April 17, the Federation is once again sponsoring the Greek Independence Parade and for the first time in almost twenty years, the elite Greek Army Honor Guards, the Evzones, are back. How wonderful will that be to see the famous Evzones marching down Ben Franklin Parkway and close behind Pappou will be walking hand-in-hand with his grandson, little Yianni, dressed as a miniature Evzone waving Greek and American flags, a broad and proud smile on their faces.
But we strongly suggest you take a picture – it may last longer than our parade will. Unfortunately, we’re here to deliver the truth to you that if we don’t take action this may be the last year for the parade. And whose fault is it? Well, to put it bluntly… you, us, and everyone.
The cost of this year’s year parade, especially the additional cost for the Evzones, is staggering to say the least – over $50,000. In the 90s when the parade was held, which included 35 Evzones, the actual, final cost to the Federation was approximately $3,500, which is what the City of Philadelphia charged for police and City services. Diners, pizzerias, restaurants, societies, hotels, churches, and individuals donated food, lodging, time, and cash to offset the balance of the cost of the parade and the Evzones and in the end the money was raised and the parade went on as usual with Pappou walking down the parade route with little Yianni.
This year, almost half of that $50,000 cost is to pay for police and City services, and the other half for the expense of hosting the Evzones. City charges alone have gone up 614% from the 90s! Unfortunately, unlike the 90s and the years before, only a few have stepped up to the plate. The 90s, sorry to say, are long gone.
Are you finally understanding that without your help, the parade we may have to pull the plug on the parade’s life-support? So what do we need to do to raise the money, not only this year but future years so our children and grandchildren can enjoy the parade?
First, there are those philanthropic families that donate large sums every year. Each year we run to them and request their help and, God Bless them, they never refuse. But is that right? Should we continue to expect them to give and give when the rest of the Greek-American community sits back and enjoys the parade on someone else’s dime? Don’t the rest of us have an obligation?
Yes we do and you can help. If you go on the Federation’s or Cosmos Philly’s website you’ll see a banner across the top announcing the parade and the Evzones. There’s also a “Donate” button. If you click on it, you’ll see a GoFund account. Go to it. Click it on. Even if you give $10 or $50 or $100, do it. Decide that one day you’re not going to buy that Starbuck coffee concoction for $10 and donate it for the parade. Do it for your parents. Do it for your kids. Do it for Pappou and little Yianni.
Second, the members of Federation, which includes the areas’ 35+ Greek-American societies and Greek Orthodox churches, each pay annual dues of $250 to the Federation. The annual dues have been the same for over 25 years. They should be raised to at least $1,000. The parish councils may scream that they have no money but is it that difficult for our churches to raise $1,000? Just one additional tray or basket each Sunday for a month or once a month for a few months would cover it. No big deal! We know that if the parish priests and the parish council presidents explained, with a little enthusiasm, why the additional tray was being passed, people would give. We Greek-Americans are generous people and when told what the money is for and see that it is being used for that purpose… they will give.
Also there are many parishes that contribute their dues and that is it. Why is the burden of this huge cost and manpower on the shoulders of a few churches? The churches and its parishioners must remember, the Greek Orthodox Church was an integral part of the Greek Revolution. Wasn’t it Bishop Germanos of old Patras that blessed the Greek banner at Agia Lavra at the on-set of the revolution? Shouldn’t the Greek Orthodox churches continue to support the ideals of freedom for Greece, Hellenism, and Orthodoxy by supporting symbols of the revolution such as our parade? Why are we so complacent and afraid to part with a few extra dollars that is actually for a good cause?
Most of the societies can also easily afford $1,000. They raise money to send to Greece for various projects. Why can’t they help their own here in America? They raise money to give scholarships, which we agree is extremely important, but isn’t just as important for our children to participate in our traditions? Isn’t just as important for Pappou to march in the parade with little Yianni, both waving to their friends? Our societies have become so fixated with raising money for scholarships, which usually ends up being a couple of hundred dollars to 2 or 3 students per year that they cannot see the olive grove through the olive trees. Some don’t even give out scholarships and the money sits in their treasuries for years and years gathering nominal interest and substantial dust. It’s time they reset their priorities.
We do understand that there are some societies that are just not that active anymore and may not be able to raise the $1,000. Then donate your time and services. If it were not for the Federation’s President, Stathis Karadonis, and his two dedicated board members, George Horiates, Esq and Dimitri Rozanitis, and a few other steadfast and devoted members, the parade would have shut down a few years ago. They have single-handedly kept this parade alive. And for those of you that may criticize the Federation, for whatever reason, know this – they take money out of their own pocket to keep this parade afloat and never ask for it back. They will never admit it, but we know it.
In the end, if you don’t help today, years from now little Johnny will be sitting around the dinner table with his family for Sunday dinner, telling them that in Sunday School he learned it was Greek Independence Day today and that years ago we use to have a parade in Philadelphia. He will ask why don’t we anymore? His Pappou, Yianni, will pause and think for a moment, then say, “Oh, yes, I remember. I use to love walking down Ben Franklin Parkway holding my Pappou’s hand waving to everyone.” For a second it will be quiet, then the family conversations will begin and the Greek Independence Parade will fade away.
Don’t let Pappou and little Yianni fade away. Don’t let our Greek Independence Parade become a memory. Donate today.
This is an editorial of Cosmos Philly, Inc., and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies and Churches.