The Oinoussai Benevolent Fund 70 years Anniversary Dinner

Charity, Events — By on November 28, 2012 at 11:05 PM


The President of the Oinoussian Benevolent Fund, Mr Michael J. Monios

The Oinoussai Benevolent Fund , (Tameion Efpragias Oinousson/TEO), was set up by Oinoussians living in London in 1942 to help those compatriots on the island who were suffering from war time difficulties. Today, the Fund provides vital assistance and support to those in need as well as supporting various projects which preserve Oinoussai’s identity and contemporize its heritage and culture. In the recent economic difficulties the Fund has dealt with issues of poverty, neglect and vulnerability for young and old alike who have suffered from this predicament. This year, the Fund celebrates 70 years of existence.

On  Saturday 17 November, 2012 on a cold and clear late autumnal evening, the lights on the Thames Embankment shimmered brightly, as those invited to attend the Fund’s special  evening walked through the revolving doors at the River Entrance of the Savoy Hotel.

Three hundred and thirty guests from England and Greece slowly filled the reception room as they approached and greeted old and new friends. The mood was jovial and the guests were enthused by the venue.

Having been called by the toastmaster to proceed to the banqueting room   for dinner, the guests walked in to The Lancaster Room designed by Rene Sergeant after an 18th Century Parisian salon. This unique room was opened in 1910 and a year or two later Anna Pavlova memorably danced on its dedicated dancing floor at a costume ball. The tables were decorated by impressive flower arrangements and each guest received a canvas gift bag containing delicacies from Chios as well as a special souvenir programme.

The President of the Fund, Mr Michael J. Monios  spoke movingly in both Greek and English as he welcomed  everyone to this milestone event , emphasizing the continued need for fundraising as the Island battles to maintain its famous Naval Academy  and the continued welfare of the students . He also mentioned the devastating effects of a fire on the island in August and the plans for reforestation and re-planting in the near future. He thanked everyone for their continued support and friendship and called on the younger generation to be prepared to grasp the baton as the Fund enters its eighth decade and beyond.

BBC presenter, Mishal Husain, receiving warm applause after her presentation

As the guests enjoyed their dinner they were intrigued when the toastmaster announced the name of Mishal Husain , the prominent   BBC News presenter, to make her way to the podium.  Once there, she delivered the unique story of the first 70 years of the Fund in her masterful  and enchanting style complimented by  an impressive  slide show of historical pictures depicting the Island’s various landmarks and past Presidents of the Fund.

She captivated the audience for fifteen minutes, especially the three former Presidents who had been invited as honorary guests. They were Mr Panagiotis A. Lemos, Mr Diamantis G. Skinitis and Capt Chrysostomos D. Papapateras. Finally, she ended with a few words in Greek to thunderous applause.

The President of the Greek Orthodox Charity Organisation Mrs Marika Lemos and the Chairman of the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee Mr Harry J Fafalios, were present honouring the event.
The City’s Maritime fraternity was represented by corporate tables from amongst others, Lloyd’s Register, GARD, SKULD, Blohm & Voss Repair, Seascope Insurance Services Ltd, CLASS NK, West of England, Carroll Harvey, TLT LLP, and GFI.

After the coffee had been poured, the room suddenly lost lights and the sound of an air raid siren filled the air. Within seconds, four dancers in war time uniforms appeared on the dance floor and began their surprise show of dance and songs of a bygone era that everyone really enjoyed. This set the mood for more dancing and when a curtain was pulled back and the DJ was revealed sitting behind his mixing desk, everyone took their cue to move towards  the dance floor.

Whilst dancing, three  girls in 1940’s style uniforms similar to the ‘cigarette girls’ seen in U.S. nightclubs of that era, entered the room  carrying on their trays, shot glasses filled with mastic liqueur, which they promptly offered to the thirsty dancing guests. They continued to serve these shots for the next hour much to the appreciation of most in the room. At some point, the music turned Greek and the island sounds of the traditional syrtos  dance echoed around the room as everyone held hands or linked arms and danced together.

The guests enjoying some Greek dancing

Eventually, as everyone took their seats for a well deserved rest, the toastmaster announced the winning numbers of the fifteen raffle prizes on offer,   all of which had been generously donated.

The evening began to draw to its inevitable conclusion at about 1 am . The guests were standing around their tables, surveying the room, almost reluctant to leave.  Finally, the last of the guests walked away, tired but satisfied, gift bags suspended from their shoulders and no doubt  looking forward to the next Oinoussai Benevolent Fund  event in 2013.

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