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Andrew Athens named Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi

Andrew Athens, Honorary SAE President and President of Hellenicare, was announced as honorary citizen of Tbilisi. This honor is one of the many distinctions the distinguished 88 year old Greek – American has received, in recognition of his inspiring humanitarian – medical world, which has been implemented over the last 13 years in Caucasus and not only.

For his ongoing contribution, Mr. Athens was honored by the City Hall of Tbilisi, with the key to the city and an honorary scroll, which was received on his behalf by the Medical Director of Hellenicare, Greek Cardiologist from Chicago, Mr. Kyriakos Kanakis.
This humanitarian – medical program in Georgia was launched in a difficult period. Mr. Athens’ first visit in Georgia in 1997, brought him face to face with the harsh living condition of Greeks in Georgia, but also Georgians in general. It was a time when even aspirin was hard to obtain. In Tbilisi, there was already an Association of Greek Doctors, aiming to contribute in any way towards the restructuring of healthcare in the country. Mr. Athens was moved by their initiative and thus the Greek Medical Institution “Hippocrates” was born in Tbilisi, offering medical services to the citizens of Georgia and people from neighboring countries.

Similar Hellenicare programs were also launched in Ukraine, Armenia and Albania, which today operates seven Medical Centers in total, three of which are located in Georgia.
At the same time, three mobile medical units serve more than 45 Greek villages in Georgia. In five cities around Tbilisi, Hellenicare operates work stations for the provision of first aid, but also for the coordination of mobile medical unit visits.

It is worth mentioning that the Hellenicare Medical Team performed its first open heart operation in Georgia, while through the program, local doctors were trained in Chicago and Thessaloniki hospitals, so as to be able to perform similar operations, which are currently being done at the University Medical Center of Tbilisi. Last March Greek Medical Institution “Hippocrates” of Hellenicare in Tbilisi, launched breast cancer screenings in many regions of Georgia.

- Andrew Athens

Andrew A. Athens is a man who cares deeply about people facing life’s hardships. He has not only achieved financial success in the global marketplace, but he has also distinguished himself through his lifelong commitment and dedication to charitable causes and the alleviation of human suffering. In 1950, Mr. Athens co-founded with his late brother Tom, Metron Steel Corporation, a major steel service center in the Midwest. He served as President and CEO from 1950 through 1991. Throughout this time, Andrew Athens devoted himself to the advancement and perpetuation of Hellenism and Orthodoxy.

For more than five decades, Andrew A. Athens has devoted his life to ensuring that the human needs and religious rights are addressed, respected and upheld. His humanitarian service began after World War II. As Captain in the U.S. Army and a decorated war hero he stayed in Europe to assist with reconstruction efforts. In charge of excess military equipment and supplies, he over saw the distribution process. For his efforts, he received distinguished recognition from the Governments of Belgium and Hungary. So extensive were his efforts in Hungary that the Hungarian Government gave him its highest honor for helping the Ministry of Transportation restore war-destroyed transportation facilities. His service with the Belgium Government led to the establishment of the Belgium Chamber in Chicago.

A main thrust of Mr. Athens’ volunteer service is the creation of strong, friendly ties between the United States, Greece and Cyprus. As a result of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, he founded the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC) in 1974 and has been its National Chairman from the beginning. He is also co-founder of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH) based in Washington, D. C. The Hellenic Republic presented the Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix, the nation’s highest honor, in recognition of his multi-faceted contributions nationally and politically Greece. In addition, Mr. Athens received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Cyprus.

His efforts were instrumental in establishing the 7 to 10 ratio between Greece and Turkey regarding U.S. foreign assistance. As National Chairman of UHAC Andrew A. Athens widened his scope of support for ethno-religious affairs, forging relationship with many national and international ethnic leaders. His skillful not only established the Hellenic community’s political foundation in the United States, but has also led to the creation of many programs showcasing Hellenic heritage and the Greek Orthodox faith.

Greek Orthodox Faith is also an integral part of Andrew Athens’ life. He has served as President of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Church in America from 1974-1995 and is Life Member of the Archdiocesan Council. He is a Co-Founder, Chairman Emeritus and past Chairman (1986-1996) of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund whose mission is the perpetuation of Orthodoxy in the Americas. He was also one of the first Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In 1992, Mr. Athens became the co-founder of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the Orthodox humanitarian organization in the United States. He also served as President of the IOCC. Mr. Athens is a Trustee of the Cyprus Relief Fund of America, the Cyprus Children’s Fund, the Archbishop Makarios Scholarship Fund, and the Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology.

Andrew Athens continues to be a strong advocate of upholding the human and religious rights. Through his efforts, the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew were able to visit the United States. Throughout his life he has received the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a layman from Ecumenical Patriarchs and Archbishops of Orthodoxy from around the world. Two of the many honors include the Athenagoras Human Rights Award by the Order of St. Andrew and the Bronze Medal Order of St. Innocent, Apostle of America by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in Americas.

In 1995, Andrew Athens” efforts on behalf of Hellenism and Orthodoxy would take a dramatic turn, setting the stage for an expanded international leadership role. Mr. Athens was elected the founding President of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE). SAE is an historic, international movement that unites Hellenes around the globe under one non-profit, non-governmental organization. SAE’s constituency consists of seven million Hellenes across the globe in unity with 10 million Hellenes in Hellenic Republic.

Andrew Athens was re-elected World President by an international assembly of delegates three times. He completed his 11 years as World President in 2006. Under his skillful leadership, SAE fulfilled its mission of representing, advocating and sponsoring programs in public affairs, education, culture and social awareness. One of his most important programs in addition to establishing hellenicare was the development of the “SAE Peace Initiative” promoting ‘peace’ as the most important factor in shaping geopolitical policy. Mr. Athens was also instrumental in the establishment of the World Inter-Parliamentary Union of Hellenes, strengthening relationships with world Hellenic members of government to develop a global strategy regarding ethno-religious affairs.

His efforts were not limited to the Hellenic Community. Andrew Athens’ involvement with the Jewish community began 40 years ago in Chicago. To foster greater understanding and recognition between the two heritages, he created the Mordochai Frizis award. This award is given annually to outstanding Jewish leaders.

Andrew Athens has worked along side members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), championing human rights, supporting the sovereignty of Israel and caring for members of the Jewish communities in Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. In 1993, Andrew Athens, as National Chairman of UHAC, organized a delegation with the AJC to Greece, Israel and Cyprus, which fostered greater understanding of the civic and human rights issues facing Hellenes, Jews and Hellenic Cypriots.

He has been honored by the AJC’s Chicago Chapter in 1994 and was the first recipient of the AJC’s Intergroup Relations Award in May 2004. During his presidency of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE), Mr. Athens was honored by the Jewish Community of Thessalonica, Greece for his efforts to promote understanding and cooperation between the Greek and Jewish communities. Working with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, he had the privilege to participate in the ceremonies that transferred the remains of Colonel Frizis from a grave in Southern Albania, where he died fighting, to the Jewish cemetery in Thessalonica, Greece.

In cooperation with the Greek Government, Mr. Athens helped to shape the political will for the creation of the Holocaust Memorial and the official state commemoration of the Holocaust anniversary. Andrew A. Athens was honored in December 2006 by the Jewish Community in Greece for his outstanding leadership his numerous contributions in forging relationships and keeping lines of communication open between Greeks living abroad and Jewish organizations in the U.S. and in Greece as well as his commitment to human rights and religious freedom.

In 2000, former President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze honored Andrew Athens bestowing upon him the country’s highest Medal of Honor for foreign service, commemorating the founding of hellenicare in the Republic of Georgia. President Shevardnadze expressed his appreciation to Mr. Athens by saying “Thank you for taking care of my people.” In September 2008, Andrew Athens was honored by the Republic of Ukraine for his dedication to restoring health care services to vulnerable populations in recognition of hellenicare’s Tenth Anniversary of providing medical care and humanitarian assistance.

Sources: ANAMPA, Hellenicare

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