United Hellenic Voters of America (UHVA) embarks on a new era, with its first female national chairman, and new initiatives to engage youth.
Established in 1973, United Hellenic Voters of America (UHVA) has entered a new era. With the election of its first female national chairman, Kiki Stamatiou Whitehead, many new initiatives are on the horizon. Namely she wants to focus on the youth — introducing them to politics, and engaging them on important issues.
Founded by Dr. Dimitrios Kyriazopoulos, known simply as “Doc” or ”Dr. K”, UHVA was established to bring a voice to the Greek community, so people knew their vote mattered. Dr. K. wanted politicians to know our community and what we stand for. Kiki explained.
“Dr. K. wanted the Greek community to be viewed as a power source, an important ethnic community. Above all, he wanted to educate people, and encourage them to be an active part of the political process.”
Led Dr. K. since its inception, the group set out early to develop relationships with politicians and government officials, to give the Greek community a determined and effective voice. Over the years, they have promoted citizenship for Greeks in the US, and established intercultural relations.
Another important part of their mission is to educate and instruct members about the rights and privileges of responsible citizens. They seek to encourage active Greek-American participation in politics and community issues; as informed citizens, they have an important role to play. UHVA is a non-partisan group that also actively endorses and supports candidates for election and in appointed offices based on qualifications and experience, rather than party affiliation.
Meet Kiki Stamatiou Whitehead
Kiki’s parents are from Evia. They wished to come to the U.S., and like many immigrants, an interim stop in Canada was part of their path. Kiki and her two sisters were born in Canada. The family made their move the U.S. in 1973.
Their father wanted to move the family to Kalamzoo, MI since they had family there, but decided it didn’t provide as many opportunities. They moved to Chicago instead. Kiki grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, namely Morton Grove and Addison. Years after her parents split, her mother remarried. Enter Dr. K.
“The UHVA was Dr. K’s baby. So our entire family became involved. I grew up in UHVA. Initially I wasn’t very interested, but as a ‘good Greek daughter’, I helped out. Later, when I had children of my own, I saw the real importance of a group like this. We all must be informed. We need to pay attention, and be active in the political process. Then I got more involved. I’m still learning.”
Kiki studied computer science, and then went on to various roles in tech support, sales support, and more. Shortly after the birth of her first child, the internet began to make an impact. Not surprisingly, she was drawn to the technology. Channeling her background in art, she obtained some instruction in web design.
“I was home with the baby, and began tinkering on my own. Then, in 1994, I started my home-based business, designing websites.”
The business grew as her family grew. Three children, and a divorce later, it helped sustain her family through rough times.
“I learned many valuable lessons. In the business arena, I became much more aware of what was happening in the community. As a single mom and a business owner, I realized that we must be engaged with our government, and why we need to be heard.”
Over the years, Kiki became very involved in many community organizations, and many school-based groups. She’s served on multiple boards, in varying capacities. She’s lent her talents to many organizations, including: The Addison Community Switchboard, a community food and clothing bank in Addison, IL; Stars for Dylan, a Wounded Warriors Project for a young Addison man; Care for Costa, a fundraiser for a young burn victim from Greece; The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrios in Elmhurst, IL; and the Pan Laconian Federation.
“All of these unique experiences have prepared me to take on this new role at UHVA.”
Now remarried, Kiki serves as marketing director for Olympic Signs, a family company. It’s a role that she said allows her to use all of her collective experience in web design, marketing, and strategic management.
UHVA’s first female chairman
Dr. K. recently decided that it was time to pass the torch. He felt that new leadership and new ideas were necessary to invigorate and strengthen this 40+ year old organization. Kiki has called herself a “reluctant leader,” because this role isn’t one she actively sought.
“I didn’t want to see the organization fizzle. Our work is important, it’s relevant. I want to strengthen it, grow it, and keeping it going. I’m doing it for our community, and for Dr. K. He’s done so much for all of us.”
Political groups, including UHVA have typically been male-dominated. Having a female at the helm ushers in a brand new era. Not only is it imbued with new ideas and energy, for a group that was considered for “old men” to be led by a woman, is very refreshing.
“This opens the door for more female involvement, especially for young women. They must be part of the process.”
As the mother of five — ranging in age from a senior in high school to late 20s — and the grandmother of a two year-old, Kiki is well aware that young people want to be involved. Information is abundant, however, truly informed political participation is vital to the community.
“There’s a lot of information at our fingertips, but most don’t know how to decipher it, to get to the heart of the issues. More people need to participate in the process. Young people must get involved early. They have the power to shape the future.”
New goals, new initiatives
As in any organization, she says there is “much work to do,” and the members and board have embraced the challenge. In her new role, she plans to create more relationships with Hellenic organizations, to share resources, and give more power to their collective voice. A renewed and targeted emphasis on the youth will drive the expansion the organization’s scholarship program, and foster opportunities for internships and career networking. With her marketing and graphic design background, she hopes to strengthen the group’s internet presence and reach, and has launched a social media campaign to create awareness.
“This is a very interesting and challenging year politically, and it affects all of us. It’s important for us to educate, develop relationships, and get more people involved in the political process. Together, our voice is stronger, our power is greater, and we can have a greater impact.”
Meet UHVA’s board and members, and learn more, at the 42nd annual Persons of the Year Dinner Dance, October 16, 2016 at the Empress Banquets, in Addison, IL.