2016-07-06 / Features

Local Express

Evangeline Douris

Philanthropia is a Greek word meaning “love for mankind,” and Evangeline P. Douris epitomizes this love. Born on the Greek island of Lemnos, Mrs. Douris migrated to the United States with her family at the age of 11 and settled in New York City. There she met and married George T. Douris, a well-respected journalist and successful public relations executive.

After raising two children, Douris joined her husband’s public relations firm, George Douris Associates, as Vice President from 1978-1995, but it was public service that moved both George and Evangeline to embark on their greatest adventure.

With an initial grant from the Mayor John Lindsay administration, George and Evangeline founded the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, or HANAC, in 1972.

Douris is Chair of HANAC’s Board of Directors. HANAC has now grown into one of New York City’s leading social service agencies, serving all of the City’s diverse communities. Their programs now operate in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, and serve more than 30,000 individuals each year. They range from senior services – senior centers, transportation, and senior housing – to youth services, education and training programs, to substance abuse prevention and crime victims services, to child and family counseling and legal services for immigrants.

In the years since her husband’s passing in 1995, Mrs. Douris has expanded her civic commitment. In 2003, Mayor Bloomberg appointed her to a two-year term on the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and she has also served on the New York City Department for the Aging’s Advisory Board. Currently she serves on the Advisory Board of the Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens.

For her commitment to community service she has been awarded commendations from state Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, City Comptrollers William Thompson and John Liu, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., and City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone Sr.

QG: Your late husband, George Douris, was well known in Queens and throughout the neighborhood. What are your favorite memories with him, and what are some of his accomplishments that you are proud of?

ED: My memories involve his unconditional generosity and loving heart; his love for the children and me; his most upbeat personality – always happy; he was a visionary – creative, fearless; and he exuded tremendous excitement wherever he went. Among his accomplishments I am proud of...first, the founding of HANAC; second, receiving the highest honor, the Athenagoras Human Rights Award of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church; third, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; fourth, President of the Reporters Association, now the New York Press Club; fifth, President of the Inner Circle; sixth, he was honored by Mayor Lindsay with a plaque as, “A Devoted Champion of the People’s Right to Know;” seventh, covering city affairs for the Long Island Press at City Hall and being Dean of the Press Room for many years until the paper folded; eighth, being honored by many prominent organizations in the Greek community; and finally, ninth, he created a fact-finding committee and was the first to enter Cyprus immediately after the invasion by the Turks.

QG: Did your husband George ever consider running for office?

ED: No! He enjoyed being a strategist behind the scenes. He was very good at it, and was sought after by candidates running for office.

QG: HANAC is involved in major senior centers. How did this come about?

ED: George was very sensitive to the needs of the elderly. Having an elderly mother he knew firsthand the loneliness they faced. The very first program we opened was a senior citizens’ center. There are now five in Queens, providing a myriad of services. Two more are being built: the Corona and Flushing senior residences.

QG: HANAC has evolved significantly since its inception. Can you describe the journey since its beginning until now?

ED: As Co-Founder of HANAC and Chair of its Board for many years, I have seen HANAC’s extraordinary growth, from a very small grassroots organization into the largest citywide multi-faceted agency, serving the broad needs of immigrants, the poor, the elderly and youth in New York City. HANAC today sponsors 40 programs with sites and offices throughout the city.

QG: What are your favorite restaurants and places to go in Queens?

ED: There are many wonderful restaurants in Queens. When I am nostalgic for Mama’s home-style cooking I go to Astoria, where there are several Greek restaurants that have the best traditional Greek dishes. Walking through their doors, on display are all my favorites that Mama and Yiayia, my grandmother, made. I always take a few favorites to go.

I love to stroll through the neighborhoods where my senior residences are and observe the people of different nationalities, some dressed in beautiful, colorful outfits and speaking different languages.

I absolutely adore visiting the Greek supermarkets. The oregano on the vine is divine, and so aromatic. I purchase all my favorites and then give them to friends, because I have no room in my pantry to store them.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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