NEW YORK – With St. Michael’s Home for the Elderly on the verge of a new era – the closing on the purchase of its future home in Uniondale Long Island will take place on November 11 – its annual name day gala had extra significance this year.
The proceeds from the gala will be devoted to the $20 million project that will turn the existing 90,000 square foot building into a state of the art continuum care facility with independent living apartments, assisted and adult living studio units, and dementia and nursing home wings.
This year’s recipient of the Archangel Michael Award, Stephen Cherpelis, and his wife Areti were also Distinguished Grand Benefactors of the November 9 dinner dance at the Metropolitan Club.
Haeda Mihaltses, President of St. Michael’s Board of Trustees, greeted the guests and introduced the honoree by saying “I could talk about his achievements, but I want to talk about the Stephen Cherpelis I know…when we were both members of the Parish Council of St. Nicholas of Flushing…and where I first came to appreciate his can-do spirit.”
After Bishop Andonios, who has served as St. Michael’s director since 1996, offered greetings, thanks and congratulations, Archbishop Demetrios in his closing remarks praised Cherpelis for his generosity, and as a person “who always says yes” when called upon, and conveyed the blessings of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
He then delighted the honoree and the guests by playing on the first names of the Cherpelises and declaring the honoree to be “O Stefanos tis Aretis – crowned with virtue.”
The Archbishop took a moment to speak about his emotional recent visit to the enclaved villages in occupied Cyprus – if they were to leave they could not go back – where he was deeply impressed with the courage, dignity, graciousness and philanthropic zeal of people who have suffered for 40 years.
The distinguished restaurateur can sympathize with the Cypriots. He survived occupation and violence during WWII and the Greek Civil War in his village of Agalianos before immigrating to the United States, where he and his wife have been blessed with four daughters and five grandchildren.
After expressing his appreciation for the award, which he said he did not deserve given what he called “the pantheon” of people who preceded him, he spoke with humor and warmth about his service in behalf of Hellenism and the Orthodox Faith.
It was clear that his generosity flows from his feeling that he has led a blessed life and has experienced the miraculous on more than one occasion.
He told the story about the time when the Dean of the Cathedral told him he would have to chant the Epistle in Greek – he was not then a chanter. After the unusually persuasive Cherpelis could not change the priests’ mind, he trembled as he turned the pages to practice that the day’s reading.
To his amazement, he saw that it was the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, a passage that he had occasion not only to read but to memorize in his youth.
Apropos of his service to the church up to that time and which would follow, it was an inspiring passage on stewardship.
Efthalia Katos served as chairperson and was the MC of the affair. After welcoming the guests who packed the ballroom she invited Archbishop Demetrios to offer the invocation, assisted by Fr. Nick Anctil.
Among the dignitaries Katos acknowledged were the Greek and Cypriot diplomatic corps and Dean Skelos, the majority leader of the New York State Senate. She also thanked, as did numerous speakers, the hard work and dedication of the volunteers, staff and Board of St. Michaels.
Skelos told TNH “I’m delighted to be here” and he is very excited about the new facility which is in his district. “It will have about 172 beds and serve so many of our senior citizens.” He said he appreciated the hard work and vision of the people involved, “and many generous people,” he said, who filled the room.
A large contingent from St. Nicholas in Flushing attended. Fr. Paul Palesty called Cherpelis a great benefactor. “He is a man who has committed to giving a portion of his wealth to support the work of the church. There are many who can do the same, but they do not do what Stephen does, and that’s why he is a special man and we are proud of him.”
Athena Krommydas, the principal of the William Spiropoulos Day School of St. Nicholas, told TNH “I am very proud to be here today for a man who is worthy of every honor – we are honored to have such people in the community…he is a force for unity… and I say ‘axios’ and congratulations.”
When Andrew Yiannakos met Cherpelis four years ago as a Trustee of Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the latter is Vice President, he was impressed with his vigor and unpretentiousness – “I later learned that he owned the renowned Bull Run restaurant on Wall Street,” where Cherpelis knew all the movers and shakers. “He used to take new members of the Board to lunch and did all he could integrate the newcomers and help us work as a team.”
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