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Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:16

Travel blogger Joanna Kalafatis inspires others

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The weather is cold here in Chicago and visions of jetting off to someplace warm is only a dream for many. But for Joanna Kalafatis it is a life she has lived since childhood.

Kalafatis is a 25-year-old actress, writer, and frequent traveler. According to her website Go Road Trippin’ she explains she is trying to set up her ideal life, “namely, exploring the world and going on adventures while doing what I love.”

Her blog is a creative and worthy read that she hopes “inspires and helps people to do the same — travel and live their dream!” Log on to her website at and her blog will inspire you to jet off to that next vacation destination you long to visit.

I recently caught up with Kalafatis to find out more about her recent trip to attend the international travel blogging conference (TBEX) in Athens and well—all things travel.

Owings Mills, Maryland—Vasiliki “Vasi” Argeroplos, Garrison Forest School sophomore, matched passion with purpose at an early age. When she was in the 6th grade, she and her older brother Niko founded the Okay to Play Foundation. The inspiration came when she was watching a TV documentary on children who were orphaned or in foster care and was struck by how few toys the children had. She and Niko talked about how they could help, and he suggested helping the environment at the same time.

Their concept is simple: They collect used cell phones and electronics at collection drives at their schools and church, and encourage relatives to collect as well. They sell the electronics to a recycling company and use the proceeds to purchase new toys for children in orphanages and foster homes. To date, Vasi and Niko have saved 1,200 electronics from landfills and raised $30,000.

Their distribution sites initially focused on Maryland, Ohio and New York (where they have family). Today, Okay to Play is helping children worldwide. The foundation has given toys to an all-girl’s orphanage in Lamia, Greece and an orphanage in Afghanistan. In December 2012, Okay to Play gave new Xboxes to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for children to play while in the hospital.

This year, during Thanksgiving week, Vasi delivered games and toys to the Children’s Guild in Baltimore for the Guild’s all-girl’s home. In December, an all-boys’ foster home in Baltimore will receive Xboxes and a game table from Okay to Play.

Creating a bona fide foundation from an idea was not daunting to Vasi. Her parents are entrepreneurs, and she used the financial literacy skills she’s learned at Garrison Forest and its James Center, which brings together the school’s financial literacy, hands-on learning, service outreach and STEM programs. In 7th grade, Vasi was recognized by Junior Achievement of Central Maryland for her social entrepreneurship and featured in their video (view the video at

Vasi is also very interested in other cultures. She takes Mandarin at Garrison Forest; last year, she won an Encouragement Award in the first Confucius Institute Cup International Competition for Chinese-Language Learners for an essay she wrote in Mandarin.

She and Niko have big plans to Okay to Play. They are working on expanding collections and distribution sites throughout the United States and continue to secure corporate sponsors. They hope to raise $100,000 dollars from recycling proceeds to build a playground or a play area for an orphanage or foster home in the Baltimore region. “I am trying to make an impact locally; however, I help whoever is in need,” Vasi explains. “My favorite part of this process is being able to make an impact. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole world of differences in people’s lives. I feel fortunate because I did enjoy my childhood and am still enjoying it and would love to be able to bring joy to others. Running this nonprofit has taught me that I am a compassionate and assertive leader. It’s helped to shape my college plans because it has allowed me to see what career path I would like to pursue, which is a business degree that involves helping others.”


Lowell, MAWhen Arthur Demoulas and his family emigrated from Greece to Ellis Island, their hope was to begin building a better life for generations to come. Arthur Demoulas went on to create a multi-billion dollar corporation that would position his eldest son, John Demoulas, as the direct beneficiary of the family’s fortune. Becoming entangled in a life of gluttony and disgrace, John Demoulas abandoned his mistress and their five children, including George Demoulas. George Demoulas’ new memoir, “Illegit” chronicles the loneliness, abandonment and addiction he faced as his father deserted the family and lived an unattached life with no interest in acknowledging him as a son.

Antwerp, Belgium (UK) —Quietly but steadily men's jewelry is moving into the mainstream. Men’s attitudes to jewelry are on the move. After perhaps 200 years (at least in the West) of confinement to cuff links, tiepins and timepieces, they are experimenting with the kind of adornment previously regarded as exclusively feminine. Nikolaos Theodoridis wants to explore that segment of the jewelry market which is considered a very difficult one.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 21:25

Q & A with Dan Mihalopoulos

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Greek Star:   Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and go to school?

Dan Mihalopoulos: I was born on the North Side of Chicago, went to high school at Maine West in Des Plaines and graduated in 1996 from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Greek Star:  How long have you been a reporter?  

DM:  I’ve been a reporter since I was a child, first as editor of my elementary school and high school newspapers. I also wrote a column called “News from Maine West” for the Des Plaines Times as a high school senior. I began writing for daily newspapers in college, and my first full-time job after graduating was as a Metro section reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I moved back home to become a reporter for the Chicago Tribune in 1999.

Greek Star:  What are some of the more memorable stories you have covered?

DM: Since 2012, I have been an investigative reporter on the Chicago Sun-Times “Watchdogs” team, and last year I began writing a weekly political column for the Sun-Times’ “Early & Often” political portal, which you can access at I also appear frequently as a news commentator on broadcast media, including WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight,” WBEZ-91.5 FM’s “Afternoon Shift” and my koumbaro John Kass’ morning talk show on WLS-890 AM.

I’ll certainly never forget covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.  It was very meaningful as a Greek-American —and a lot of fun —to cover the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. But I’m perhaps most proud of covering local government and politics in my home state for the past 16 years, including the Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel administrations. One of the most memorable stories I covered on the City Hall beat was the federal corruption investigation and 2006 trial of Daley’s patronage chief. More recently, it was interesting to report on how a politically connected Chicago charter-school operator had spent a record state grant of $98 million. 

Greek Star:  Can you tell us a little about your Greek roots? Do you speak the language?  Have you visited the country?

DM:   My parents are both Greek immigrants --  father Vasilios is originally from Tripoli, Arcadia and mother Despina (Tziforos) is from Achladokambos, Argolida. I speak Greek thanks to them as well as my grandparents, uncles, aunts and Greek school teachers. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greece numerous times, to see relatives in Athens, Tripoli and Kranidi, Argolida. I’m very proud of not only my Greek roots but also the ethnic and religious community that I grew up in here in the Chicago area, many of whom have given me strong and greatly appreciated encouragement in my career. 

Having said that, you have to cover everyone— yes, even my fellow Greeks— in the same manner. I hope Hellenes are pleased to see my byline above stories that have value for all Chicagoans and Illinoisans, of every ethnicity, race and creed.

Greek Star:  What do you think about the political system here? 

DM:  The political system in this country is certainly one of the greatest manifestations yet of the democratic ideal that the ancient Greeks invented. There are many aspects of our system that are the envy of much of the world. The freedom of the press and other innovations such as open-records and open-meetings laws are vital to the functioning of our democracy.

Yet here in Chicago we are especially mindful of the system’s deep flaws, revealed in the frequent corruptions cases at our local federal courthouse and by the “watchdog” investigative reporting in the local media. Transparency in government is the greatest deterrent to actions that might benefit special, clouted interests at the public’s expense. Despite the economic challenges facing our industry, the owners of the Sun-Times and our journalists and lawyers have litigated cases under the state’s “Sunshine Law,” aka Freedom of Information Act, to help ensure accountability for every taxpayer dollar and for every decision carried out in the public’s name. I am a party in one such pending case against a major private, charter school operator that’s funded almost entirely by taxpayers.

Greek Star:    What do you think about the media business today? Will the Internet entirely replace newspapers?

DM: There’s no doubt that the media industry is facing profound economic challenges and rapid technological changes. Every day now, I and most news consumers get the latest stories on handheld phones or other electronic devices as soon as we awaken, before we go down to the driveway or lobby to get our newspapers. So there no longer is one, daily deadline, because stories break continuously on the web sites of large media organizations and lone-wolf bloggers. This is a dramatic shift compared to how things were 20, or even 10 years ago.

Regardless of how the news is delivered, there are universal principles of journalism that transcend technology, time, place and language. The most important thing is that fair, aggressive journalists continue to do their jobs— no matter how our reporting gets transmitted.

Greek Star:  Is there anything else you would like to say that we haven’t asked?

DM: I think that about covers it, although I’m happy to try to answer any other, follow-up questions you might have.

CHICAGO—The Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies will host Professor Thanos Veremis, well known historian of Modern Greece and Vice Mayor of Athens Oct. 15-Nov.15. The visit is sponsored by the University Seminars Program of the Onassis Foundation (USA). Professor Thanos Veremis is the best known historian of Modern Greece and so popular that he was recently elected Vice Mayor of Athens.

Below is the schedule of events:

Cultural History of Modern Greece, Class/GKM 285

Every Tuesday, R  11:00- 12:15

Lecture Center  A 105, 

Oct, 15-Nov, 15, 2014

Friday Oct. 17, 4:30: University of Chicago, Classics Building, 

Room 21 

The Years of Ottoman Rule, European Influences and National Ideologies

Oct. 22. 12: 12:50. Department of History, UIC, room 950

The role of populism in post-Andreas Papandreou Greek politics

Oct. 30. 3:00-5:00 pm. Department of Classics and MS, Daley Library, 

 Conversation  between Thanos Veremis (Athens), Stathis Kalyvas (Yale) and Leon Fink (UIC): 

“History  between the Academic and the Public Domain”

Nov. 11. Time TBA. U of I, Urbana/ Champaign . Modern Greek Studies

Greek Economic Crisis and the City of Athens: A Discussion with the Deputy Mayor of Athens, Prof. Thanos Veremis

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 13:55

Margaret Skourlis is 2014 Ms. Supermodel USA-Petite

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     Margaret Skourlis, a Greek-American, won the title of 2014 Ms. Supermodel USA-Petite in Fargo, North Dakota on Saturday, Setp. 6 2014.  This is Margaret Skourlis’ first National title, her prior titles include, Ms. New Jersey United States 2010, Ms. New Jersey United States 2009, Miss Kalamata 2003, Miss Kato Melpia 2002, and Miss Messinia 2001.  Margaret will spend her year as a national queen making appearances, doing signings, photoshoots, and giving speeches to help various charities and inspire the youth.  She has a master's degree in business administration and a second master’s in political science.  She is very passionate and active throughout her life in helping the Greek community both inside and outside of Greece.  Many of her relatives are still residing in Greece.

     Margaret attributes her success to her parents for instilling in her to never give up and always go after her goals.  Margaret is not only a beauty queen but a company owner, model, published poet, published writer, and actress.  In her free time she is very diverse in her hobbies which include scrapbooking, traveling, scuba diving, skiing, swimming, playing piano, and Greek dancing.    

     Her passion for the Greek community can be seen in all the organizations, Greek student programs she has taken, and positions she has held to help the Greek community.  She is Vice President of the Intercollegiate Hellenic Society.  Formerly she was President of the Maids of Athena Flushing Chapter #126.  She was one of the selected students that participated and finished the AHIF Foreign Policy Program to Greece and Cyprus in 2011.  She completed twice the D.I.A.S. International Academic Studies program in Crete.  During her former beauty queen titles she made appearances and helped various Greek charities and organizations.


The City Mayors foundation included Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris on the shortlist of 26 candidates for 2014 World Mayor Prize.

Monday, 15 September 2014 10:33

Persians By Aeschylus At The Getty Villa

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Performances of the play Persians by the Greek master tragedian Aeschylus began its theatrical run at the Getty Villa on September 4th as its ninth outdoor production. The play has tremendous historical significance as it is the only play surviving that is based on an actual historical event, the Battle of Salamina in 480 B.C. won by the Greeks against the Persian naval force, who were far superior in numbers, marking the beginning of the Persian Empire’s downfall. The play was produced just ten years later and won  first place at the Athenian festival of Dionysos.

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 09:24


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HONORED. . . HARRY NICHOLS, Honorary board Member, long time Parish Council member and steward of the Sts. Constantine and Helen Church, was honored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce and commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Normandy Beach of which Mr. Nichols was a part.  He received an honorary medal for his service in Normandy at this event.

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The Greek Star newspaper is the longest continually published weekly Greek-American newspaper in the United States.

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