American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) is a service organization founded on July 26, 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia. Its mission is to support Greek-American charities, causes, and communities. It works closely with the Greek Orthodox Church. Its affiliate women's organization, the Daughters of Penelope, was founded in 1929. It supports two youth groups, the Sons of Pericles (established in 1926) and the Maids of Athena (1930).
The AHEPA was founded as a fraternity in Atlanta, Georgia in July 1922. Its initial mission was to promote the image of Greeks in America, assist them with citizenship and assimilation into American culture, and combat prejudice. With the full assimilation of Greek Americans, its mission evolved toward philanthropy, education, and promoting and preserving the Hellenic identity of the Greek Americans and the ethnic Greeks of other countries where AHEPA is present, such as Australia, Canada, the Bahamas as well as Greece and Cyprus.
Originally AHEPA was organized on a lodge system like that of the Masons or Oddfellows. Local units were called "Subordinate Lodges" and state or territory structures were called "Superior Lodges". Now local groups are called "Chapters" and regional organizations are called "Districts". The national structure is still called the "Supreme Lodge", however, and all of its officers have "Supreme" in their title such as Supreme President, Supreme Treasurer etc.
While membership was originally restricted to Greeks, it was decided to allow non-Greeks into the order at the orders third meeting. In 1979 AHEPA had over 25,000 members in 400 chapters. By 1989, the number climbed to 60,000, despite an overall decline in memberships of fraternal groups during the same period.
AHEPA has taken a stand on the Cyprus issue since 1955 when it formed the "Justice for Cyprus" committee to support Cyprus' independence. Through the decades, the organization has continued advocate on issues relating to Greece and Cyprus in Washington, while also educating the public about these topics.
Philanthropic efforts include $600 million in senior housing projects, extensive local and national scholarship programs, fighting Thalassemia through the AHEPA Cooley's Anemia Foundation and a Greek descent bone marrow registry.
The AHEPA has sponsored disaster relief efforts in the US, Greece and Turkey, for instance contributing 10,000 for relief after Superstorm Sandy. During World War Two the organization sold $500 million in war bonds. In the 1980s AHEPA contributed some $100,000 to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.
The AHEPA Family consists of four masonic organizations, the AHEPA (men), Daughters of Penelope (women), Sons of Pericles (young men) and Maids of Athena (young women). AHEPA publishes The AHEPAN, which is the second largest Greek American publication in circulation. The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association also maintains ties with the similar Australasian Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.
- Alan Axelrod, International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders, New York: Facts on File, 1997, pp.4-5
- AHEPA Districts and chapters[dead link]
- Schmidt, Alvin J. Fraternal Organizations Westport, CT; Greenwood Press pp.23,25
- "AHEPA". AHEPA. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- Schmidt p.25
- Axelrod p.5
- "AHEPA Donates $10,000 to Superstorm Sandy Victims" (Press release). Ahepa.org. Retrieved 2013-12-03.