Achievements & History of the Community

It is not recorded exactly when the first Greek arrived in Ottawa, however it may have been Gregorios Kanellakos from Sparta, around 1895.

On February 25, 1929 a group of leading Hellenes, residing in Ottawa founded the Hellenic Community of Ottawa. A committee was elected for the management of its affairs with Peter Karson as its first President. At the same time the Reverend Daniel Gamvrilis accepted an interim assignment to Ottawa and became the first priest to serve the newly founded Community.

In the early Thirties in order to maintain and improve contacts with Greek immigrants elsewhere in North America, the "Sir Edward Codrington" chapter of AHEPA was established on 4 February 1931. The first permanent priest of the Community, Reverend Theodoros Skartsiaris, arrived in 1936 and the religious services were held at the St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox church at 341 Lyon Street N. In 1936, the Community ladies founded Ottawa's Philoptochos Society with Mrs. Karson as its first president. John Klademenos became president of the Community the same year and was instrumental in the hiring of Reverend Vasilios Demeroutis who arrived in Ottawa in 1939. Both these men devoted much energy to providing assistance to Greece through the Canadian War relief programme during the Second World War.
The 1940's found the Community much more organized. A Greek language school and a Sunday school were established under the leadership of Father Demeroutis and on the 18 June 1943 the Community was incorporated in the Province of Ontario under the name of "THE HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF OTTAWA". George Stamos was elected president in 1943 and during his term of office the Community rented, in 1947, the Apostolic Catholic church at 360 Albert Street to become the Greek Orthodox church of the "Koimisis tis Theotokou" that served the congregation for over twenty years. Also in 1945 the Greek Legation in Ottawa was raised to the status of Embassy with Mr. Konstantinos Sakellaropoulos being the first Greek Ambassador to Canada.
The Fifties had a tragic beginning with the untimely death of Father Demeroutis. The president of the Community was now George Andrews who was instrumental in appointing the Reverend Philip Ramphos as the fourth priest of the Community. George Andrews lead a team of prominent Greeks from Ottawa to negotiate the purchase of the rented church at Albert street. This he accomplished on 22 January 1954 and an immediate refurbishment started with a new "iconostatio" in place before the end of the decade. By the mid fifties James Karrys assumed the presidency of the Community and in 1956 John Bouris was elected President. His greatest contribution to our community was in convincing the membership to purchase the land on which the Hellenic Community Centre stands today. In 1955 another major milestone took place with the establishment of the local GOYA and the church became the focal point for both the young and old. Before the decade was out, in 1959, the first local organization was founded the "St. George's" society Dafnioton. The fifties ended with John Karakasis as President of the Community and with the Hellenic Community of Ottawa issuing its first Year Book in commemoration of the celebration of the 25th of March both as a religious day and an ethnic anniversary of Greek Independence
The sixties started with a new President, Paul Mefsut. The major event of the sixties was the purchase of land on Prince of Wales Drive and the planning and building of the original Centre of our community under the direction of Tasso Varaklis, who became the President of the Community in 1964. The Centre was inaugurated on 26 January 1968 and as it was to double as an interim Church place during the transition from the Albert Street Church to the new Church on Prince of Wales Drive, the first liturgy was celebrated on Palm Sunday of the same year. The sixties saw a big influx of new families in the Ottawa area and as a result the cultural activities of the Community were increased. The Greek school was better organized, GOYA increased their activities and the first local organized Greek soccer team was established. George Havaris was elected President in 1966 and was succeeded by John Fragiskos, as an interim President before the election of Nick Pezoulas as President in 1968. Under his presidency, the Council authorized Bingo Evenings at the Community Centre as a revenue-raising method to provide the much needed funds for our Community.
The Seventies found the Community committed to building a new church and a Building Fund Committee was established chaired by Nick Pezoulas. Paul Mefsut was re-elected President of the Community, and on September 25, 1972, the old Church on Albert Street was sold. After a successful fund raising dinner night in the spring of 1974 and in the presence of the newly elected Bishop of Canada, Sotirios of Konstantia, a sod turning ceremony took place on April 7, 1974. Father Ramphos was given a silver shovel and he turned the first spadeful of earth. The main Church building was completed in early 1975. The first Divine Liturgy took place on Palm Sunday, April 27, 1975, with the presence the regular and junior choir members. Christos Georgaras was now President of the Community. Under his presidency, the Greek Cinema, the August Festival “Paniyiri”, and the completion of three Sunday School classes in the Church basement occurred. In 1976, Gus Pezoulas was elected President. In 1977, the Community unveiled a plaque honouring the 30 Canadian soldiers, nurses and aircrew members who got killed in World War II and were buried in Greece. Also, the first Hellenic School "School Board" was established. During the mid-1970s, the members were confronted with another challenge and a major human drama. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus resulted in the plight of 200,000 displaced Greek Cypriots and the disappearance of 1,614 persons captured by the Turkish army. The Community was mobilized and, in a short time, funds, clothing and medicine were collected and were soon on their way to Cyprus. At the end of 1978, Terry Pantieras was elected President of the Community. The year 1979 started with a major mishap for the Community. On January 1st, the Church’s roof suffered structural damage due to adverse winter weather. Water caused flooding to the Church and the basement resulting in major damage to the paintings and icons. Necessary repairs were done, and the roof was replaced. The second half of the 1970's saw the establishment of various Hellenic Associations and Societies including:Parnassos Cultural Society (1974); Panevoikon Association of Ottawa, “Paliria” (1975); Cretans Association of Ottawa and District (1976); Samian Society of Ottawa “Polykratis” (1976); Society of Reiheoton of Canada (1976); and the establishment of two dancing groups, the Parnassos Hellenic Dancing Group (1977) and the Hellenic Community Dancing Group (1979).
The Eighties found the Community at a crossroads facing new challenges and needs. The most urgent issues were: the recruitment of a new priest, the Consecration of the Church, the drafting of local By-Laws and the expansion of the facilities to meet the needs of the members. In 1980 Terry Pantieras was re-elected as President making this his third term. The hiring of a new priest became even more urgent in the summer of 1982 when Father Ramphos became critically ill. In the fall of 1982, the Reverend Antonios Athanassiadis was appointed the interim Priest of the Community. He introduced certain innovations to the long established religious practices in our Parish. For example, he officiate a bilingual Liturgy that is now standard practice. During his tenure, the third Clergy-Laity Conference took place in Ottawa. In the fall of 1982, Leander Tryphonas was elected President. At that time there were increased contacts between Canada and Greece which resulted in visits to Canada first by the President of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis, in October 1982, and subsequently by the Prime Minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou in 1983. The membership and the Associations of the Community were given the opportunity to meet with both Greek dignitaries. A By-Laws Committee was established with George Trigylidas and Photios Kizas as co-Chairs. In February 1984, a newly arrived deacon, Nikolaos Alexandris, was ordained a priest and on March 6, 1984 he was appointed the sixth Priest of our Parish. A new music band, Poseidon, was formed in the early eighties. In 1983, the Macedonian Association of Ottawa, “Alexander the Great”, was formed. This was followed in 1985 by the founding of the Canadian Arcadian Society of Ottawa and District, “Theodoros Kolokotronis”. At the end of 1984, Steve Ramphos was elected President of the Community. He lead the Consecration committee and the challenge of dedicating the Church building as a House of God was successfully met on September 29, 1985 with Bishop Sotirios officiating. It was fortunate that the health of Father Ramphos had improved and he was able to participate and see his dream completed. To commemorate this event, a book, "The Hellenes of Ottawa", written and edited by Leander Tryphonas, Dean Karakasis and Alice Sophianopoulos was published by the Community in the late Eighties outlining the history of the first years of the Hellenic Community of Ottawa. In 1985 another “first” was instituted: the “Gold Plate Dinner”. In 1986, Constantinos Zigoumis was elected President. By this time, one of the priorities of the Community was to provide appropriate facilities for the youth and the elderly. A Building Expansion Committee (BEC) was established and given the mandate to optimize the development of the Prince of Wales property. The BCE produced a master plan that provided for a new Community Hall with a lobby and other facilities, including the provision of new offices for the administration of the Parish and the Community and space for the future development of a Day Care facility. Steve Karaiskos became the Community’s President in 1988. In the fall of 1989 the expansion and renovations of the Community Centre started. In that same year the Laconian Association was established. Also in 1989 the Theatrical Group of the Community was established by teachers of the Hellenic School of Ottawa, and in the same year had its first performance.
The Nineties began with the official opening of the newly expanded Community Centre/Banquet Hall. Terry Pantieras was elected President in the fall of 1990, making it the third time to hold this position. On May 16, 1992 Reverend Alexander Michalopulos was appointed the seventh Priest of the Community Parish, and several new programs were introduced such as: The Hellenic Playgroup (H.O.P.E.), the Junior Orthodox Youth (J.O.Y.), Junior G.O.Y.A., and the Weekly Bible Study. In 1992, James Sioris was elected as the Community President. He immediately placed an emphasis on the finances of the Community, and his Council hired an accounting officer. Also, for the first time in Canada, a position of Lay Assistant was created to help with the Parish work and the coordination of the youth activities. His Council, also expanded the annual Greek Festival to cover more events over a longer period. Elias Makris was elected President of the Community in the fall of 1994. The Community embarked on an expansion of the Church building, on either side of the main entrance. This expansion saw the addition of space to provide an office for the Priest and Church Secretary, a second conference room and most importantly, an elevator to ensure that people with special needs could access the main level of the Church. At the same time, the air-conditioning was installed in the Church. The Community continued to actively participate in the bi-annual Clergy-Laity Assemblies taking a principal role in shaping the financial relationships between the Metropolis (then Diocese) and the Communities. In 1994 the Senior Citizens Association of Ottawa “Socratis” was established. In November 1996, Peter Tzovas was elected President of the Community. On May 25, 1998, His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I visited Canada for the first time. This was a landmark point in the history of the Hellenic Community of Ottawa. His All Holiness, officiated the Vespers in our Church, The Dormition of the Virgin Mary followed by a dinner reception in His honour hosted by the Community at the Hellenic Banquet Hall. In attendance at the dinner were His Emminece, Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto (Canada), His Excellency the Ambassador of Greece to Canada, Mr. John Thomoglou, a great number of clergy from across Canada, and the United States, leaders of other Christian and other Religious Faiths, Political Dignitaries from Canada and Greece and hundreds of people. His All Holiness the Patriarch touched the hearts and souls of young and old with his simplicity and his fatherly tenderness. The Ecclesiastical structure of the Greek Orthodox Church in Canada was also changed in this period. The Diocese of Toronto Canada became a Metropolis under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Bishop Sotirios was appointed “Metropolitan of Toronto and all Canada”. In 1998, the Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Leander Tryphonas, was established with the mandate to consult with members of the Community and to determine the priorities of the Community in the new millennium. Special consideration was to be given to the growing number of younger people and new families that will constitute the majority of the Hellenic Community of Ottawa in the next 10 years. In January 1999, George Mamalis was elected President of the Community. Shortly after he took Office he resigned, for personal reasons, and James Kalogerakos, the First Vice-President of the Community at that time, became the new President. In 1999, the Community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Greek Festival “Paniyiri” which was the most successful Paniyiri to date, including increased attendance and record profits. At the Clergy-Laity Assembly in May 1999, the Community, once again, took a leading role by presenting several options to deal with the finances and rights of the Metropolis of Toronto and the Hellenic Communities in Canada. In the summer of 1999, the Community web site www.helleniccommunity.com was designed by the Webmasters Kosta & Angela Kokkinos who continue to update the site voluntarily. At the same time, electronic e-mail access to the Community office@helleniccommunity.com, Church church@helleniccommunity.com, and Banquet Hall offices manager@helleniccommunity.com were also established. Most recently, a web site for the Banquet Hall, www.hellenicbanquet.com, has been set up. Travel Net Communications of John Georgantopoulos provides its free services for the operation of the Web Site. In order for all the Hellenes of Ottawa and District to meet the new millenium (2000) together, a New Year’s Eve Gala Dance was held at the Ottawa Crowne Plaza Hotel. This event was supported by all the Hellenic Associations and Societies in Ottawa and was a great success.
The new millennium and new decade found the Community facing, once again, new challenges. New families moved to Ottawa from other Canadian cities, and the second generation of the Greek Canadians started their own families. As a result the membership raised significantly as the Services of the Church and Community to the members. On May 10, 2000, the Hellenic Community of Ottawa held a Testimonial Dinner to honour Mr. Nick Michelis for his 50 years of Service to the Church and the Community as a Chanter and Choir Master. On May 27, 2000, the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Konstantinos Stephanopoulos visited Canada as an official guest of Her Excellency, the Governor General of Canada, Mrs. Andrienne Clarkson. The Hellenic Community of Ottawa along with Greek Representatives from other cities in Canada, welcomed President Stephanopoulos at the military Ottawa airport. The next day, His Excellency attended the Divine Liturgy officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios or Toronto, at the Dormition of Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church. That same evening the President met with leaders of the Hellenic Associations and Societies of Ottawa, and attended a sold-out dinner which was hosted in His honour, by the Community at the Community Banquet Hall. In September of 2000, the Community began constructions, in the lower level of the Community Banquet Hall, in order to create a recreational centre for its seniors members. In the fall of 2000, Steve Ramphos was elected President of the Community. This is the second time he was elected to that position. On December 15, 2000, the Seniors’ Centre “Estia” was inaugurated. On March 25th, 2001, the first Independence Day Parade took place. This was an additional ceremony to the laying of the wreath at the War Memorial, the raising of the Hellenic flag and the reception at the Ottawa City Hall which take place annually in commemoration of the March 25th, 1821. In the fall of 2001, the entire roof of the Community Centre was replaced, the Sunday School classrooms and the Church Boardroom were renovated and refurbished. At the same time, the Community and Church caretaker, Mr. Lionel Duperron, retired after 15 years of services. Following his retirement, the house behind the Church where he had been living, was demolished. This house had been the last of the original structures on the Prince of Wales property. On May 22, 2002, Alexander Sophianopoulos was selected, by the Community members, as “Member of the Year” and was honoured by the Community in a Testimonial Fundraising Dinner. By 2002, the “younger generation” of the Greek Canadian living in the Ottawa area was starting to get more involved with the operation of the Community. Younger families became more active in the various events and activities of the Community and Church. The Ottawa Greek Summer Festival had quite a “ face-lift”, and was named one of the Best Festivals in Canada. At the end of 2002, Steve Ramphos was re-elected President (third term). In order to fulfill the expansion of the Community for future construction of a Day Care, a Seniors’ Home and a Hellenic School, in January 2003 the Community purchased one of the houses behind the Church, at 869 Maryland Avenue. At the same year the Membership Committee was established with Nicholas Florakas as Chairman, and the “Orthodollars” were introduced. At the same year a Committee was formed with Chris Georgaras as Chairman in charge of the “Member of the Year” event. On March 25th, 2003 the Canadian Government and Canada Post issued a Commemorative Stamp as a “Tribute to Canadian Hellenism” and to honour the AHEPA for its 75 year history in Canada. The unveiling of the stamp took place in the West Block of the Parliament Buildings. It was attended by the Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, his Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto (Canada), the Ambassador of Greece to Canada Mr. Leonidas Chrissanthopoulos, a number of Members of the Parliament, AHEPA Dignitaries from Canada and the United States, and many other political representatives. In the fall of 2003, the Church roof was replaced and the offices of the Hellenic Community and the Banquet Hall were renovated and refurbished. In June 2003, the 13th Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto took place in Ottawa. The Church and Community organized various events in order to host the representatives of the Hellenic Communities and Clergy from across Canada. In the fall of 2003 , the Church Renovations/Fundraising Committee was established with Jim A. Reklitis as Chairman. On January 4th, 2004, the Church closed and the constructions began. The renovations included construction on the main entrance, a new exit on the South side of the Church, replacement of the interior of the roof, installation of a new lighting and sound system, refurbishing of the pews, installation of granite in the narthex, soleas and holy altar of the Church, and installation of a new carpet. During the renovations the Church Services were taking place at the Community Banquet Hall. The first ever Divine Liturgy in our Church took place on a Palm Sunday, April 27, 1975. The first Divine Liturgy in our Church after the major renovations took place on a Palm Sunday, April 4, 2004.