History of Ionian Village

Church at NightIonian Village began as a Vision of Archbishop Iakovos intending to preserve Orthodoxy and Hellenism for Greek American youth. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos envisioned the creation of a “Golden Bridge” between Greek American youth and their Hellenic heritage and Orthodox faith in the form of a summer camp program in Greece operated by the Archdiocese. Young people would connect with the land of their ancestors, discovering and appreciating the religious, linguistic, political, and cultural treasures of their own heritage.

IV Timeline

1966:

Land is granted for a period of 99 years to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America by Prime Minister, Stephanos Stephanopoulos.

1968:

Construction begins on the land granted along the Ionian Coast region known as Bartholomio.

1970:

With construction nearly complete, Ionian Village holds its inaugural camping session. Over 300 Greek American teens participate, visiting Ancient Olympia, Zakynthos, the Acropolis and many other cultural and religious sites. They learn traditional Greek dances, learned the Greek language and participated in faith-based discussions.

1970’s and 1980’s:

Participation grows steadily, with attendance averaging 350 campers per summer and occasionally exceeding 450 campers. Staff and campers continue to come from all over the United States to be a part of this amazing ministry. During this time, many lasting relationships are formed as campers and staff experience Ionian Village, leading to the creation of the slogan "Faith and friendships that last a lifetime."

1996:

Fr. Costa Sitaras, having led the camp for 25 years, steps down as Director of Ionian Village. Over the course of his time at the helm of this ministry, Fr. Costa worked to expand the reach of Ionian Village and to spread the word about the camp throughout the Archdiocese. In addition to many other responsibilities at the Archdiocese, Fr. Costa led Ionian Village with a strong and steady hand and, for thousands of alumni, was himself a very special aspect of the Ionian Village experience. Following Fr. Costa, Michael Pappas is appointed Director. Over the next five years, Michael leads the camp to a record high number of campers per session, while at the same time building upon the relationship with the local villages and towns that surround Ionian Village.

2002:

Fr. Constantine Lazarakis is appointed Director of Ionian Village. Fr Constantine's legacy at Ionian Village, amongst other things, is the expansion of the travel program. By adding new trips and ensuring that campers were able to experience Greece's beautiful beaches on every island that the camp visited, Fr. Constantine greatly improved the excursions offered by Ionian Village. After having to close camp for the summer of 2002 because of 9/11, Fr. Constantine oversaw the "rebuilding" of the program. Tirelessly traveling across the country to encourage people to travel overseas again, Fr. Constantine was able to build up the number of campers. It was also during this time that the need for a complete renovation of the Ionian Village campus was identified. Fr. Constantine, working with several consultants and contractors, laid the groundwork for what would later become a massive renovation of the entire property. 

2009:

Fr. Jason Roll is appointed Director of Ionian Village. During his tenure at Ionian Village, Fr. Jason continued the work of Fr. Constantine in identifying areas in need of renovation across the campgrounds. During this time, Phase One of the current ongoing renovation project was completed. This included the complete re-plastering and painting of all the cabins, a new electric system for the entire camp, a completely updated and well-equipped camp kitchen for Kyria Sophia, new furniture in the cabins, new windows, screens and shutters for every window across campus, as well as many other details. Fr. Jason also built up many strong relationships in the local villages and towns by encouraging the hiring of local workers for the renovations.  Fr. Jason also successfully reintroduces the Spiritual Odyssey program for young adults in the summer of 2011 after an eight-year hiatus.

2011:

Fr. Evagoras Constantinides is appointed Director of Ionian Village. Fr. Evagoras comes to Ionian Village with a deep sense of respect and love for the camp. As the first Director of Ionian Village that was also both a camper ('96 STC, '97 STC, and '01 BV) and a Staff Member ('05, '06, and '07), Fr. Evagoras looks forwards to expanding the program as much as possible. For the summer of 2012, many new trips were added, including two nights on the island of Kerkyra (Corfu), along with visits to Ancient Mystras and the theatre at Epidavros. One of the core aspects of Ionian Village is the day-to-day schedule, and Fr. Evagoras is overseeing a complete re-vamping of the daily schedule in order to make camp life more engaging for today's teenagers. This includes adding a flexible free activity period and highlighting our Orthodox Life program. In addition to these programmatic changes, Fr. Evagoras oversaw Phase Two of renovations of the camp. This phase included the construction of a new bio-waste system, updating of the campus water pipes and plumbing, and the construction of a new Arts and Crafts shelter. Phase Two was completed before the summer of 2012. The third phase of construction is currently under way. This will include the construction of a new "Trap" or cafeteria area, a new pool, as well as many other fun and exciting changes to enhance the everyday experience of the campers and staff. In the summer of 2012, Ionian Village experienced the largest number of campers in one session in over 10 years, with 202 young people registered for the Summer Travel Camp (STC) session.

Through the spiritual guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, as well as the continual support and love of its over 16,000 Alumni, Ionian Village continues to grow and flourish. Please be sure to check back for updates on the Ionian Village program!