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The Daughters of Penelope

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For over 90 years one organisation has cared for the well-being of all members of the diaspora, especially women, finds PAUL LAMBIS

For over 90 years, an organisation in the United States of America has promoted Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, family, and individual excellence.

Throughout its history, this organisation has welcomed over 25,000 members and over 300 chapters have been created worldwide. With chapters in the USA, Canada, Australia, Greece, England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria, the organisation’s mission and membership continues to expand, to the point that The Daughters of Penelope will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2029.

“The Daughters of Penelope has been a significant vehicle for the progressive development of many American citizens of Greek origin into many aspects of society, including government, business, education, and the arts,” executive director, Elena Skardis Saviolakis said. “This fulfilment illustrates the promise of the American Dream and represents the hard work of our immigrant forefathers who persevered to achieve that ideal while holding Hellenism close to their hearts.”

diaspora2 daughters of penelope grand president marianthi treppiedi
Daughters of Penelope grand president Marianthi Treppiedi

Alexandra Apostolides founded The Daughters of Penelope in San Francisco, California in 1929 with the goal of establishing a Hellenic women’s organisation to support the advancement of women, encourage them to participate in philanthropic initiatives, promote education, and provide opportunities for socialisation. “The name Penelope was selected for the organisation since it symbolised both womanhood and friendship, and is significant of the very foundation of life, home and country,” Saviolakis said.

“Through its members, The Daughters of Penelope communicates to elected representatives at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as diplomatic leaders worldwide, the positions of importance to the Greek American community,” Saviolakis told the Cyprus Mail. “These positions are based upon the ideals of our American heritage while strengthening our patriotic commitment to the United States.

The Daughters of Penelope educates its members about these issues through seminars and conferences, providing expert panellists including representatives from the administration, subject experts, as well as those from well-respected Washington think tanks,” she explained. “Our organisation can mobilise over 250 chapters (chartered in every metropolitan city). which truly makes it unique.”

The organisation has also endeavoured to improve the learning environment for children by offering overseas scholarships to a diverse range of students. “Recipients are high school seniors, college and post-graduate students all looking to become tomorrow’s leaders,” she added.

Over its many years of existence, both philanthropic initiatives and volunteerism have been critical pillars in its function of improving the lives of women while contributing to the general well-being of society. According to Saviolakis, the organisation has supported efforts ranging from natural disaster relief to raising funds for the prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases, “yet this only scratches the surface of the works carried out by the association.

The Daughters of Penelope, along with the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) brotherhood, have embraced our civic responsibility to provide senior citizens with affordable housing. The AHEPA Housing Corporation has received over $400 million in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and has built 91 senior housing complexes with 4,753 completed units and more in development,” she said.

The Daughters of Penelope continues to contribute to effective efforts that strengthen federal investment in victims’ services programmes authorised by the Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act, “as Grand Presidents submit written testimony to House and Senate appropriators.

“Our organisation has also lent its voice to support life-saving programmes for survivors of domestic violence and their families,” Saviolakis said.

“We also partnered with other Hellenic organisations to back congressional support for meaningful federal investment in the US-Greece relationship and have always looked for ways to convey support for food nutrition programmes for older adults that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger.”

The Daughters of Penelope is undoubtedly an organisation dedicated to making a difference while supporting the interests of all Hellenic diaspora members. Despite changing leadership over the years, the organisation has remained a powerful and influential force in the lives of all Hellenes – worthy of their namesake Penelope, who was driven by principle, vision, philanthropy, magnificent beauty, and nobility.

 To learn more about The Daughters of Penelope and to support their mission and programmes, visit www.daughtersofpenelope.org

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