The Greek America Foundation is proud to announce a $10,000 gift in memory of Elena Yakumithis, the late daughter of Kelly and Emmanuel Yakumithis of Toledo, Ohio. The gift is earmarked for our Scholarship Endowment Fund, which supports various educational initiatives for North American youth to travel and study in Greece. Along with the generous donation, we received the following essay, written by Mr. Emmanuel Yakumithis.
Why We Engage and a Tribute to Elena Yakumithis
Have you ever felt so compelled to act, that it changed your life? Truth be told, until a few years ago, I had never experienced that feeling.
In June of 2010, on a sunny afternoon, tragedy stuck our family. Our beloved daughter Elena was stuck by a car and by the end of the evening, she was only a memory.
It was unfathomable that she could be gone. Somehow I had to lead my wife and four remaining children through this nightmare. As a family we kept breathing and merely existed. I was a parish council member for many years at my Church, but stepped back. I continued going to church more from habit than anything else.
So that was our life for a few years: wake up, go through the motions, go to sleep and repeat.
Fast forward to September 2015 when three year old refugee Alan Kurdi washed up on the shore trying to get to the Greek island of Kos with his family.
My wife, Kelly had seen the photo that circulated throughout global media and it woke something inside her that had been gone for over five years. She told me that we had to do something to help the refugees in Greece, but what?
She spoke with several Philoptochos members and they organized a drive to gather clothes, toiletries, money, toys and whatever else they thought that these people might need, considering they left with the clothes on their backs.
I was still not “there yet”, but I did my part for my wife’s sake. I worked with the shipping company and was calling the receiving shippers in Samos to coordinate the shipment. When everything was delivered, I put the whole thing out of my head.
Enter Greg Pappas.
Greg, through The Pappas Post, wrote an article about the clothing drive and brought additional light to the subject of the impact on Greece, the people of Greece and the plight of the refugees.
Shortly after that, Kelly was asked to speak at a Philanthropy Roundtable that was organized during the weekend of the Greek America Foundation’s Gabby Awards in 2017.
I was hooked. I saw not only what the Greek America Foundation was about, but saw action too. I left that weekend feeling more energized that I had since we lost Elena.
I thought to myself, “How can I help this organization and honor Elena too?”
My following birthday, I posted a request for donations to the Greek America Foundation for my birthday and we were off to the races. We raised about $1,700 that first time.
I then requested funds in honor of Elena’s birthday which raised more money for the Foundation’s Children of Greece campaign that was helping others in need.
But moreover it made me feel like Elena wasn’t forgotten.
I was hesitant to get involved. I felt that you had to be wealthy, affluent or any other adjective for rich, to be a part of an organization like this. I can assure you that I am not, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I saw my small contributions make a huge impact to the Children of Greece when $10,000 was sent to help the needy. I continue to be amazed at the impact both here and abroad that the Greek America Foundation makes and will continue to help however/wherever I can.
To paraphrase Governor Michael Dukakis, being involved with this cause makes me feel ennobled and empowered. I know that through the Greek America Foundation, Elena will live on forever and my hope is that someone reading this will be motivated to engage and help change someone’s life for the better.
I’m honored, on behalf of my family, to donate $10,000 to the Greek America Foundation’s Scholarship Endowment Fund, which will be used to provide a unique educational experience to a young person from our community, in memory of Elena Yakumithis.
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