The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, or AHEPA, was founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia to help Greek immigrants assimilate to their new life in the United States, as well as protect them from discrimination. In 1969, Chapter 438 was chartered as the “Arlington Virginia Chapter” but the name was soon changed to the “Peter N. Derzis Chapter 438” in honor of Past Supreme President Peter N. Derzis, who was a chapter member and instrumental in its organization.
The Order of AHEPA’s mission worldwide is to promote the ancient Hellenic ideals of education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, family and individual excellence through community service and volunteerism. There are over 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Chapter 438 is one of the largest and most distinguished in the U.S., producing many national and district leaders throughout their 52-year history.
Although the influx of immigrants isn’t what it used to be, the organization has continued with its charitable endeavors supporting and raising funds for: scholarships, career fairs, daycare centers, affordable housing, churches, cemetery restorations, archdiocese orphanages & schools, disaster relief, educational programs, “Support the Troops” campaigns providing comfort items to our soldiers in combat zones, and the list goes on! It’s no secret that a huge component of the organization is education. Several years back, one of AHEPA’s youngest chapter members championed a unique program known as AHEPA Academy – designed to mentor exceptional high school students as they progress in high school and college. With this special program, students are given an opportunity not only to network and benefit from various mentorships that AHEPA provides, but to also get them engaged in the whole concept of giving back to the community.
Meet Past President of the Chapter, Jim Stoucker
To learn a bit about AHEPA, I had the pleasure of speaking with an active member of the AHEPA community and Past President of the Chapter, Jim Stoucker. From birth, Jim was fully immersed in Greek culture because both of his parents were Greeks living here in the United States. He is a retired military officer and corporate executive who became a member of AHEPA to find an avenue that would allow him to give back to the community. He has found much joy in promoting his heritage, Greek principles and ideals, while helping those in need.
Being a member of AHEPA may traditionally run in the family, but you don’t have to be Greek to join this amazing community; Membership is open to anyone who believes in the same ideals!
Forging A Partnership with Beacon Design
When asked what attracted him and his organization to Beacon Design, Jim says: “Well that’s probably the simplest answer I’m going to give you all day… Your reputation and the quality of the product!” He goes on to say, “…Most of us were aware of the White House Christmas ornaments before we ever knew about ChemArt, or what eventually became Beacon Design, but when the idea of the ornaments came up, that was a logical place to go, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Back in 2008 as part of their chapter’s 40th anniversary celebration, Jim decided to create an annual ornament that would feature a topic of interest to the community. This ornament would primarily be a fundraiser that would enable the organization’s good works and other charitable activities, and that’s how it started. 100% of the proceeds from this ornament’s sales went to Chapter 438’s long list of diverse charities.
Jim says “This is the fourteenth year that we’ve done our ornaments and it really pleases me to tell you that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.” Over the years, 438’s donors have seen a range of ornaments from traditional to whimsical, and now more recently, commemorative. Jim goes on to say, “They’ve become true collectibles in every sense of the word. Every year about the time the ornaments come out, people get excited and can’t wait to see the new ornament.” Jim believes that with any endeavor it’s always good to forge positive relationships and communicate as effectively as possible, and he’s been able to do that with Beacon Design. Over the last 14 years Jim has had 3 different account reps and he says, “they’ve all been great! I’ve always been able to rely on them and I’m constantly amazed at the design capabilities. They essentially take our vision and translate it into an inspiring ornament. It’s just been a remarkable thing to see.”
Building Lifelong Collectors
Jim and the rest of the executive committee have noticed that there are many people coming back every year to purchase their annual ornament. Jim says they’re always pleasantly surprised when people that don’t even necessarily belong to the community stop by their ornament booth to check it out. These customers have gotten in habit of collecting their annual ornaments year and year and that’s been very rewarding over the last 14 years. 438’s annual ornament sales have been a big success and everyone involved is very grateful.
To celebrate 200 years of Greek independence this year, Chapter 438’s annual ornament is a little bit different from previous years because they decided to go the commemorative route rather than the traditional Christmas route. Inspired by the bicentennial celebration for Greek independence being celebrated this year, the chapter chose to design a commemorative ornament honoring 200 years of Greek independence, and let’s just say it really paid off because it’s been wildly popular.
They’re also in the process of getting ready to celebrate AHEPA’s 100th anniversary in 2022. Jim says, “When you think about all that’s happened in our organization over the course of the last century, I think it’s easy to understand that ours is a significant legacy of accomplishment.” Now, their focus among other things has been philanthropy, and because of its diverse nature they really have an opportunity to help any number of people across all segments of society. Jim proudly states, “The Order AHEPA has raised and donated well over a billion dollars to charities over the course of its first 100 years.” Everyone involved in the organization is extremely proud of this philanthropic legacy and it’s tremendously rewarding for them to be in a position to continue to give back to the community.
Jim’s Final Note
Jim ended our conversation with a sort of ‘fun fact’ and says that when they first started their annual ornament program, they sold them at church festivals, bazaars, and events of that nature. They would set up a booth to accommodate walk-up traffic to sell their ornaments, which worked out well in the beginning. In the last couple of years however, they developed an online storefront and Jim exclaims, “It’s been a world of difference!” Now that they have a storefront on their website, their marketing opportunities have greatly broadened and increased and sales immeasurably. Jim goes on to say “We used to basically sell to our local area, or to people who happened to be visiting. The first year that we developed and on-line capability, we had orders from California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, you name it! We never had access to those markets before and it’s been a tremendous boost for us. Frankly, we should have done this years ago, but better late than never!”
To learn more about creating your own custom keepsake program for fundraising, click here.