Continuing its commitment of retaining and expanding the city's cultural connections overseas, Sister Cities of Tarpon Springs presented checks last week to two area programs that work toward that goal.
City Commissioner Chris Alahouzos, president of the sister city organization, gave St. Petersburg College and the Tarpon Springs Cultural Treasures program $556 each during a June 5th meeting.
"The purpose of the sister cities is to exchange culture, education and economic development," Alahouzos said of the involvement in the international program.
Tarpon Springs has sister city ties to four communities: Kalymnos, Halki, Symi and Larnaca. The first three are Greek isles within the Dodecanese archipelago in the Aegean Sea, and Larnaca is in the Republic of Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus is the Greek Cypriot-led southern portion of the divided Mediterranean island. The northern portion is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Its government, in power since July 1974, is only recognized by Turkey.
Larnaca is the newest of Tarpon Springs' sister cities.
"We have many residents here in Tarpon Springs whose descent is from those three islands and from Cyprus," said Alahouzos, whose family came to Tarpon Springs from Kalymnos and whose father was a sponge diver.
Tarpon Springs' famed sponging industry largely came into prominence because of the influx of Greek immigrants.
The $1,112 raised for the donations came from the sister city organization's annual fundraiser in April at Kalymnian House.
Representatives from SPC Tarpon Campus, including provost Conferlete Carney, attended the meeting to accept the donation.
With efforts that began in 2009, the college's Tarpon Springs campus offers students a Hellenic Studies program established with support from the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture. The program focuses on teaching and preserving Greek language, culture, history and philosophy.
Alahouzos said that while current turbulent economic realities have restricted the amount of direct exchange the sister cities can have with one another, Tarpon Springs continues to support educational opportunities that include student exchange initiatives.
Sister Cities of Tarpon Springs has funds dedicated to exchange programs and an eventual scholarship for a SPC student studying abroad.
"We're hoping that we'll be able to implement that effort, but because of the economy, we know the difficulties they're facing," Alahouzos said.