Did you know that the AHEPA Palm Beach Chapter was established in 1923 as the 18th Chapter in the United States? What a difference four score plus years of history makes! AHEPA, nationally and locally, was organized as a “civil rights” organization to help immigrant Greek families find there way within the social, economic, political and civic life of their new county. It helped them realize the value of citizenship and the power of the vote.
AHEPA became the voice of the Greek American Community and articulated the interests of this dynamic community as it struggled to succeed within the American Way. To this day one of the most unique spring events hosted by AHEPA – NATIONAL is the evening that honors the Congress of the United States in Washington D.C. In the 1950-60’s AHEPA had a membership of over 24,000 members. Today these membership numbers are in transition. The challenge is to attract a newer generation. Appreciating the history of the organization is a way for generations to relate and hopefully for a new generation to get involved.
Early History of Palm Beach AHEPA Chapter 18
From the beginning, the wives and children of the AHEPAN’s assisted them in presenting cultural and educational programs locally. Nine years after the founding of AHEPA the Daughters of Penelope Leda Chapter 59 was established and AHEPA was there to help the Daughters in its formal institutionalization. The two groups functioned like a family, sometimes more harmoniously than other times, just like our own real life families.
As the extended family of the Greek-American Community in Palm Beach County they participated in community life. They marched up Clematis Street in ethnic costumes on Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. On Columbus Day AHEPANS celebrated together with a picnic. Through these activities they projected and preserved the values of the Greek-American Community in Palm Beach County.
AHEPA programs and activities in the 20’s and 30’s included bringing together the pioneer business community and representing their interests to the local government and business leaders. Membersnetworked together and socialized, sharing stories about business and family life. It encouraged the Greek-American community to participate in civic affairs and to vote. Archie Zapatis got the vote out to elect Mr. Beecham to the senate. Phil O’Connell Sr., a local political leader and state attorney was a member of AHEPA. Joseph Farish, a prominent attorney is a life time member.