Replanting Trees in Ancient Olympia
On August 4, 2021, raging fires in Ancient Olympia damaged or destroyed 450,000 olive trees, taking with them, the livelihoods of hundreds of small-scale farming families. On August 11, we received a call from Yanos Gramatidis, an attorney in Athens whom we had only met on the phone the previous year. He asked us if our non-profit, The Arete Fund, would help raise money in the United States to contribute to purchasing 80,000 replacement trees for those destroyed in the fire. At $7 per tree, we needed to raise a minimum of $560,000. Earlier that morning, we received the news that our close friend, archaeologist Stephen Miller died suddenly that same day. For some reason, we felt that there was some synchronicity between the two calls and immediately replied to Yanos that we would help. One of our requirements was that all the funds raised should remain in private channels and not government. Yanos set up a team, legal, accounting, funds transfers processes, etc. All services were provided pro-bono so that we could achieve as close to 0% donation/cost ratio as possible. On our end, we built a website, created an email campaign, set up payment processing, and set up an accounting system.
The results of our efforts exceeded our wildest expectations. Having never done this kind of thing before, we didn’t know if we would raise $5 or $5,000. But the compassion and generosity of our friends and of those donors whom we never met rose to the challenge. In the end, donors contributed enough to purchase 135,000 trees!
This July 12, The Arete Fund along with Yanos Gramatidis were honored and made Honorary Citizens of Ancient Olympia. We accepted this honor on behalf of the generous donors who were responsible for the success.
George Giorgopoulos, The Mayor of Ancient Olympia stressed, “The huge fire that destroyed 130,000 acres of arable and forest land in the Municipality of Ancient Olympia, left deep wounds in our place. More than 2,000 people in our area will have zero or minimal income in the coming years, in a place where more than 400,000 olive roots have been lost and much of the local economy has been destroyed. The initiative of Giannos Grammatidis and The Arete Fund to buy tens of thousands of olive saplings and replace the lost plant capital in the Municipality of Ancient Olympia is a transfusion of life into the black and gray that dominates the area of the Municipality of Ancient Olympia. It is an offer that will bring deep relief to our affected liaisons, but also optimism for the rebirth and rejuvenation of our place. We express our deep gratitude to the Arete Fund and Steve & Dianne de Laet, to Mr. Giannos Grammatidis who is the "soul" of the project, as he mobilized economic and social actors to achieve the goal, as well as to the sponsors of the initiative but also the ordinary citizens who responded to this campaign. Their love and solidarity in this difficult time, move us very much”
For those of you who helped this project by your donation, we send you a heartfelt thank you.
Burned olive trees in Ancient Olympia
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