07 Dec


December 7, 2023

Greek American Press is pleased to announce the release of Working to Preserve Our Heritage: The Incredible Legacy of Greek American Community Services. Authored by John P. Psiharis, this book features an insider’s account of this Chicago based trailblazing organization that helped lead a cultural renaissance in the community during the last two decades of the 20th century. 

This title, the first in the "Hellenism in the Heartland Series" series, meticulously details the incredible legacy of GACS, which in its day, celebrated, promoted, and preserved Greek American cultural heritage through far-ranging public programs in the arts and humanities, touched the lives of thousands through its social services, introduced adult day care as a viable care option for the community, helped build better interethnic understanding and cooperation, and gave birth to the committee that established Chicago’s Greek-American Nursing Home. The early years of the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly (CLESE), an organization GACS played a key role in launching, are also described. 

According to Psiharis, the project first took shape seven years ago after he discovered a small box of photos that were in the back of a closet. “As I looked at these pictures and remembered the people in them and the story behind each photo, I realized that someone looking at these pictures 25 or even 50 years later, would have no idea who these people were or what their efforts resulted in.” Many in the photos have passed on and as time went by, he feared that these memories and history would be lost.

Psiharis continued, “I also realized that it was up to me to tell this story.” He was a founder of Greek-American Community Services and served as both a past president and as executive director of the organization throughout most of its existence. 

Psiharis recalls that he soon mentioned this undertaking to Dr. Elaine Thomopoulos who was co-founder of GACS and at various times served as vice president, administrator, and Cultural and Arts Program director. Psiharis and Thomopoulos were also co-founders of the Greek-American Nursing Home and served as board members from day one though the opening and a few years beyond. She too, had an extensive collection of documents, ephemera, publicity, and pictures related to GACS and the GANHC. 

Together, they scoured their collective collections and meticulously detailed the legacy of GACS and the GANHC from inception through 2006 when Psiharis’ term on the GANHC concluded and he chose to step-down. 

Psiharis recounts that once everything came together, it became apparent that the content was too much for one book.  He realized, “To tell the stories of both GACS and the GANHC, along with the early years of the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly, and an overview of Chicago’s Greek community during this era along with detailed timelines and brief biographies would have made the book extremely large, cumbersome, and costly.” 

This dilemma resulted in the creation of the “Hellenes in the Heartland Series,” which documents the illustrious history of both organizations and the landscape of Chicago’s Greek community during this time. The second book in the series, Breaking Ground: Inside Chicago’s Nursing Home Movement, also authored by Psiharis, is scheduled for release in April, 2024. 

From that first meeting, through construction and opening, Breaking Ground details the struggles and successes in achieving this monumental goal. The early years, rallying the community behind this effort, site selection, obtaining zoning and approvals, raising funds, obtaining financing, groundbreaking, construction, and opening festivities are all covered. There were setbacks as well, ranging from Chicago politicians who offered an environmentally contaminated property in place of a promised location, to internal disagreements, opening pains, and crushing debt that needed to be urgently fixed. This diligent group persevered and navigated these severe challenges to accomplish the dream. 

Of the nursing home, a newspaper of the day proclaimed: “The creation of this center united the Chicagoland Greek Americans as no other project or cause has in these times.” Today, the nursing home is consistently rated as one of the best in the state of Illinois.

Hellenes in the Windy City: The Greeks in Chicago, 1970-2000, the third in this series is planned for a late 2024 release. Unlike the first two, this book is co-authored by Psiharis and Thomopoulos. Two other books are envisioned for this series, with book four slated for a summer 2025 release.

 Working to Preserve Our Heritage is available in hardcover through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and in eBook on Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Baker & Taylor, Barnes and Noble, Gardners, Hoopla, Kobo, Smashwords, Vivlio, and other online stores. The hardcover includes a detailed index for easy reference. 

Greek American Press, an imprint of Psihco, LLC, a Chicago based enterprise, will publish this series. Further information on this series can be found at www.GreekAmericanPress.com.

For further information, email GreekAmericanPress@gmail.com

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