St. Peter’s Church celebrates Greek Heritage Month


It was a night filled with awards, musical performances, and pride last week at St. Peter the Apostle Greek Orthodox Church.

The event, hosted by Borough President Vanessa Gibson, was a celebration of Greek Heritage Month and saw four honorees celebrated for their leadership and accomplishments in the community. Two youths were also recognized for their academic success.

“We are here today celebrating who we are, celebrating our great diversity, recognizing the Bronx is a beacon of diversity, of hope, of opportunity for a better tomorrow,” Gibson said. “We cannot do this work without collective partnerships. We are truly better when we align together, when we work together and when we share common priorities.”

While the event was celebrated in April, March is officially Greek Heritage Month because it was on March 25 that Greece formally declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

The Kingsbridge church is one of two Greek Orthodox churches in the Bronx, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nektarios on Bailey Avenue is the other.

Honorees included Nikolaos Papageorgiou, vice-president of the Kassian Brotherhood and member of the Ecclesiastical Council of Agios Nektarios, and Jerry Stefanitis, former owner of Pelham Bay Diner on East Gun Hill Road. Demetrios Hamilos, a member of the parish council, and Evangelos Zervoudis, a former auxiliary police officer and sergeant at the 50th Precinct, were also honored.

Hamilos came to the U.S. for school in 1964, arrived at Ellis Island by boat at the age of 18 and attended the City College of New York. He later became a professor of electrical engineering at SUNY Farmingdale. The father of three has served the St. Peter the Apostle in several capacities, including as a member of the Parish’s council.

Councilman Eric Dinowitz, who attended the event, said he felt a connection with the honorees.

“When I hear stories about the values of the Greek people who came over here and worked hard to make a better life for themselves, for their family, and for the next generation. I can’t help but feel a kinship to the story of the Jewish people,” Dinowitz said.

Youth awards were given to two Manhattan College students for academic successes both in the Greek school as well as in high school and college. The recipients, both Riverdale residents, were Emmanouel Sofillas, a freshman studying electrical engineering, and Irene Papakanakis, a freshman studying adolescent education.

Sofillas said it felt great to be honored and was proud of how far his family has come.

“Something everyone’s born with is their heritage,” Sofillas said. “And to be Greek, it’s made me very proud. My grandparents came to this country in the ‘60s after World War II and I’m very proud of that.”

Papakanakis said being selected as the next generation of people to represent Greek heritage was important to her.

“It’s really welcoming for everybody,” she said of her heritage. “You know, we’re a family.”

The St. Peter the Apostle event was sponsored by Ponce Bank and Bronx Terminal Market. Damaris Vergas-Misarzi, the community affairs manager for Ponce, said the bank believes in giving back to the community.

“Our executive leadership team and many staff and employees at Ponce Bank come from a Greek ethnic origin,” Vergas-Misarzi said. “And so we couldn’t be happier to represent our staff and our employees, as well as the community and the individuals we serve.”

Greek Heritage Month St. Peter the Apostle Greek Orthodox Church Vanessa Gibson Bronx community Greek culture Awards ceremony Community leadership Academic success Bronx Greek community Ponce Bank sponsorship