The New Building

The Greek Orthodox Community of Saint Demetrios aspires to expand its edifice in order to meet the growing needs of the Parish. Mr. Steve Papadatos, a renowned architect, who has completed many projects like the proposed Cultural Center of Saint Demetrios, has been commissioned with the task to provide detailed schematics and architectural renderings. Mr. John Smitts has taken this project up now for two objectives: first, to minimize its size while still offering a great array of programs and secondly to make it integrate well into the existing neighborhood. The greatest part of the designing process is nearing completion and this website will be a venue for all visitors to receive updates on the progress of the project. Mr. Demetris Fillas, chairman of the Cultural Center Committee, Mr. Nick Stathopoulos, chairman of the Fundraising Committee, Mr. Tom Pragias, Legal Advisor of the Community and the members of the Committee, the Parish Council and the General Assembly, in conjuction with Fr. Nikiforos Fakinos and with the blessing of His Eminence Archibishop Demetrios are coordinating their efforts to provide the architect with all the necessary data in order that the project meets with all the pastoral needs of the Parish.

 

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The proposed structure will include a Gymnasium, an educational wing replete with classrooms, audiovisual room, conference rooms and library, an administrative center with offices, auxiliary rooms, storage areas, an outside garden, a terrace and a professional kitchen. The building will incorporate "green" features that give it an environmentally friendly character, ample natural light and a captivating stance next to the already magnificent structure of the Church.

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A PROLOGUE

Half a century ago, there was a dream envisioned by the pioneers of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church: to create a Parish and a School in the South Shore of Long Island. These pioneers were not merely dreamers, they were progressive visionaries. These goals were initiated in their minds; now, they cannot get out of the minds of many more people, since the Community of Saint Demetrios grew and prospered dramatically over the last century. It is our collective goal and aspiration to follow the footsteps of those pioneers and invest our God-given gifts for the growth of the Community.

Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community of Merrick is graced with rich history and a very promising future. The Community was founded in 1961 by a few families of immigrants. They used a converted synagogue in Freeport to assemble, hold services and to perpetuate their customs and cultural inheritance. The patron Saint of the Community is Saint Demetrios the Martyr; he was a young Roman official, who labored to cultivate God’s love in the hearts of people. His courage and charisma were unparalleled. He is the perfect inspirational example for all the people in the area who live their lives by higher principles and strive to serve them with dedication and perseverance. Thanks to their committed endeavors, the Community grew and it became recognized by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America as the first Christian Orthodox Parish in the South Shore of Long Island.

The congregation of the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community took a decision to purchase land in Merrick and built a new Church that would cover the spiritual needs of future generations. In the early 80’s, their decision came into fruition. The new Church incorporated the traditional design elements of Byzantine architecture. The Church forms the shape of a cross, which is adorned by a dome in the center. The design also includes a roomy Sanctuary (or altar area), a Narthex (or reception area / candle room), a choir loft with commanding view of the main Nave, an office, a hall and a kitchen.

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The Church of Saint Demetrios is an architectural gem in New York and one of the most recognizable structures in the South Shore of Long Island. In 2003, an iconography project was initiated with the painting of traditional Byzantine style icons. The project is currently nearing its completion. Also, in 2004 the Church received much needed Bells and a state of the art sound system. The installation of several ecclesiastical windows depicting images from the Bible and the Orthodox tradition followed. The first windows were installed in April of 2008 thanks to contributions of the ladies of the Philoptochos (Friends of the Poor) society, a charitable organization that donates for philanthropic benevolent causes. On Sunday, October 25th, 2009, His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Christian Orthodox Church, visited the Parish and blessed our faithful people.

The beautification program of the Church covers the landscaped grounds, the renovated areas in and around the Church and the offices and School of the Parish. In addition, the pride of the Parishioners is the amazing Chapel of Saint Eleftherios. The Chapel was completed with iconography, ecclesiastical windows, Church fixtures and an entire renovation. The Chapel is used for services, sacraments and counseling; it is a place of healing for the soul and a perfect compliment to the already spectacular Church of Saint Demetrios.

PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

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Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community of Merrick is blessed with a vast array of programs and ministries that serve persons of different ages and backgrounds. There are services, Bible studies, retreats, publications, seminars, a website (www.saint-demetrios.com) and pastoral programs that enrich one’s own quest for salvation and spiritual fulfillment. The services of the Church are broadcasted via the radio waves of Hellas FM in the tri-state area and via the radio station’s website (www.hellasfm.us) worldwide. Also, the pastor of Saint Demetrios is broadcasting a weekly Bible Study, answering questions and presenting topics of religious, cultural and spiritual significance.

The spiritual cultivation of the Parishioners is of paramount significance in the life of the Community. Many publications, including the Church Newsletter The Champion, the weekly Bulletin and several books of sacred services and religious education serve this purpose. The printing room of the Church office creates many other publications as well, such as the Calendar and the Journal; consistent with their goal of communicating effectively with the stewards of the Parish, the Church office has a vast mailing list with correspondence, which promotes updates and news releases regarding the on-going and future programs, projects and activities in Saint Demetrios Church.

The programs of Saint Demetrios cover all ages and social groups. There is a pioneering “Mommy and Me” program called Little Angels. The program develops socialization skills for children; it teaches them the fundamentals in faith, arts, Greek culture, singing, playing, crafts, communication etc. It is also a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to form Christian fellowship, organize events and excursions, discuss the challenges and exchange ideas regarding parenting, initiate their younger ones in faith and Greek culture and familiarize themselves and their families with the Church and its activities.

Children between the ages of 5-8 and 9-12 are involved in the HOPE and JOY programs respectively. These programs include faith, athletics, culture, trips, retreats, social activities and charity. Children of the aforementioned ages can also participate in the Sunday School and in the Greek School. The School programs of Saint Demetrios aim at cultivating faith, spirituality, philanthropy, moral principles, as well as the teaching of the language, history, customs and traditions of the Greek civilization. There are many activities related with the School system and the youth programs of the Church. From the dance group, all the way to visiting hospitals, from the classroom, all the way to a trip, a seminar or a retreat, the youth involved with the Parish life receives the necessary ingredients to become effective members of society and achieve personal growth and spiritual maturity.

Teenagers enjoy the privilege of being members of the GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth of America) group, which is distinguished for its faith based activities, athletic events, social gatherings, dances, charity, volunteering, participation in seminars, trips and other opportunities. Members of the youth are also involved in other areas of the Parish life, which include the altar servers, the junior choir, the Agape group (part of the Philoptochos, which aims at assisting the poor and the suffering) and the Pins for Pauly Foundation, which is a distinct effort in providing spiritual, financial and medical help to children who suffer from Leukemia.

The Philoptochos is a dynamic group of ladies who volunteer their time and talents to serve others, especially the needy, the older generation, the sick in the hospitals, the lonely in care centers and senior citizen facilities and others who seek a helping hand and a caring soul. They have contributed for years to the Adopt-a-Family initiative, to Schneider’s Children’s Hospital, to Saint Michaels Home for the elderly, to Hellenic College / Holy Cross seminary, to Saint Basil Academy etc. They have been honored and distinguished by the NY Mets, the National Philoptochos Sisterhood, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Church of Saint Demetrios, the LIJ Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House among other organizations and institutions.

The Pins for Pauly Foundation has also assisted numerous families stricken by the dreadful disease of Leukemia and continues to hold fundraising events to heal the younger ones who suffer and assist their families in their struggle to support their loved ones in such critical times. The Foundation has been featured in FOX News, Antenna Satelite TV, ET1, Hellas FM, National Herald and Greek News and it has been recognized by people in the Community as a pioneering effort to help children all over the world. Pins for Pauly is one of the few non-for-profit organizations that has $0 operating costs and 100% of the contributions go to the families who need the assistance (all costs related to the organizing of the fund raising events are covered by Saint Demetrios Church and the volunteers who comprise the board of the Foundation).

The YAL is a group comprised of College students and young adults; they meet weekly for Bible Study discussion and they also organize other activities for fellowship, trips, charity and volunteering. They are a program that grows very fast every year, just like all other youth organizations of the Church. They also desperately need the addition of a new edifice that will further enhance and enrich their already existing activities.

Golden Years is a senior citizen group that organizes activities for fellowship, discussions, excursions and spiritual enrichment. It is a program that is absolutely necessary in order to offer more activities to persons who have free time and they need to meet with their friends and enjoy their life with more quality, more companionship and more fun. The erection of a Cultural Center will provide our seniors with more frequent activities and events to fill the schedule of life after retirement. Our seniors built a wonderful Church for us and the least we can do is offer them a place where they can assemble and share common interests and friendships that withstand the test of time. Actually, most of the seniors are active members of the Community and they contribute in a vast array of functions and events with their talents and experience.

It would be impossible to cover all other activities and programs of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community. The goal of these programs is multifold. They are centered on Christian principles and faith. They embrace the Greek culture, history and civilization. They cover the social contribution of charitable giving and philanthropy. They include events of fellowship, education, physical exercise, entertainment value, artistic flavor and spiritual discipline. These programs need only the addition of the appropriate infrastructure to be enriched and to grow. They need the addition of a state of the art Cultural Center which will allow them to expand so as to cover all the growing needs of the Community.

It is the purpose of this pamphlet to discuss and present the attributes, the benefits and the contribution of a proposed Cultural Center for Greek Orthodox Community of Saint Demetrios in Merrick, New York. It will feature the distinct characteristics and assets of the proposed design, the future potential for the programs of the Community and pragmatic ways to efficiently operate and maintain the edifice.

THE CULTURAL CENTER

The Church of Saint Demetrios was built in the early 80’s. Since then, there was provision for an expansion of the existing construction, which would include the Gymnasium, the School System and the Administrative center of the Community. Houses were purchased in the perimeter of the Church property with the intention to use those properties as the ground of the future Community Center. The continuous growth of the Parish and its expanding ministries, however, have dictated the need to create a more promising and more inclusive Cultural Center that will serve more purposes than just the ones mentioned above. Only in the last 6 years, more than 200 children were baptized in the Church of Saint Demetrios. To fully serve the needs of a growing Parish, there is a provision for the construction of a Cultural Center adjunct to the Church.

The congregation of the Community discussed and voted on the direction that would be followed in order to undertake such a promising project. First, it would be necessary to request the services of a distinguished architect. The architect needed to be experienced in designing such edifices; he needed to understand the cultural links with Greek civilization and the religious inspiration of the Christian Orthodox Church. The architect should be acknowledged as a proficient individual in dealing with the vast needs of so many organizations and activities from the standpoints of personal experience and professional expertise. After an exhausting multi-month process of interviewing, analyzing and comparing architectural firms, that distinguished professional was found in the person of Mr. Steve Papadatos of Papadatos Spa. A winner of many architectural accolades and distinctions, he is knowledgeable of the needs of a Greek Orthodox congregation, having designed numerous such facilities in the United States of America alone. He is also a pleasant and very gifted communicator, who surveys thoroughly the needs of a Community before delivering a design or a proposition.

The Parishioners of Saint Demetrios were invited to participate in the creative force of the architectural project. All ages were incorporated in the interviews that preceded the design. The younger children, the teenagers, the young adults, the parents, the senior citizens, together with the spiritual leadership of the Pastor, the guidance of the Community Center committee and the supervision of the Parish Council collaborated for months to come up with ideas and proposals with regards to what was needed in the new edifice. All these ideas were placed in a hierarchy of priorities and they were submitted to the architect. The architectural firm kept working on how to implement all the proposals in a pragmatic scheme and a realizable plan. After extensive meetings and repeated reviews of the proposed designs, three plans were offered for comparison. One of them was ultimately selected and was further developed to become the architectural model for the Cultural Center.

The model was created on paper and in a three-dimensional scale model to allow for better evaluation of its proportions. A micrograph of the Church was already made to allow for scale comparison and to determine the co-relation of the two structures as they will compliment each other in the future. The results were stunning. A Center that looks classic and modern, yet it does not clash with the traditional ecclesiastical architecture nor the neighboring community. It is a structure that features a unique and geometric stance. It is functional without sacrificing form and architectural integrity. It is environmentally conscious, a first Green Building of its type, which inspires good citizenship before even you walk in it and participate in its functions. And the better attributes of this structure will be described in analysis within the following paragraphs of this pamphlet.

The Cultural Center will be a magnet for people of all ages, attracting them to escape the solitude of the armchairs and the social hypothermia of our contemporary society. It will invite many to become volunteers, to find new friends, to expand their academic horizons, to open their eyes to a new world, a world filled with purpose and driven by principles. The Center will be at the center of the lives of younger and older persons who are tired of being the fill-ins in the movie of their own lives. Those who want to be the protagonists and the heroes deserve the opportunity and the activities that will augment their existence meaningfully and dynamically. How will that happen between walls, over a floor and under a roof? Read on!

 

A GREEN BUILDING, LITERALLY

The Cultural Center of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community in Merrick features a design devoid of the environmental insensitivity that is inherent in structures of its type and size. It implements natural light in all the levels of the edifice. Furthermore, classrooms and offices are adorned with large windows, which ensure that electricity is not used extensively. The building is designed with maximum space efficiency, to preserve the surrounding landscaped land. Trees will actually be added to the property after its completion. Roof gardens and balconies with plants will further beautify a building that is inspiring us to respect the environment.

The Center will feature a refrigerated trash area to maintain the health standards mandated by Greek Philoxenia (love for our guests and our neighbors). A recycling room (indoors) will motivate the students of the School to re-use paper, plastic and other materials. The Architects and the Committee responsible for the project are studying the feasibility of photovoltaic elements and other forms of re-usable energy to increase the efficiency of the building and reduce its environmental footprint. Furthermore, due to the effective scheduling of events and activities, the edifice will not need to be heated or cooled in its entirety, but in sections. The Administrative wing will be used only during office hours. The Educational wing will be used weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings. The Athletic wing will be used three times a week from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and for selected times on weekends. Special events (Cultural, Artistic, Social et. al.) will be scheduled on different occasions throughout the year. Each Church organization will be responsible to fund their activities and organize their events; the volunteers will have ownership of the Cultural Center and the youth is at the forefront of most planned events. It is instrumental to engage our children, young adults and all families in the aforementioned projects to ensure their perpetuation.

 

ENTER THE TIME MACHINE. DESTINATION, THE PAST

The entire structure will be a museum presenting a time-line of events and historical memorabilia that are significant to the Community as well as the heritage of our forefathers. Every hallway, every classroom, every office, every area from the lobby to the library will narrate a story. The guest is invited to come inside the Center, listen to the stories that are told by these exhibits and, dynamically, become part of them.

Items are already donated for the Museum of the Center. From a Bible that is surely one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) in Long Island to the traditional ethnic customs of the immigrants who founded the Community; from the first chalice of the Church of Freeport, to the pictures of the building of the Church; from items that have tremendous historical value for the Greek civilization, to paintings that depict battles, triumphs, monuments and persons who are eternalized in world history, the Center is a story teller that captivates the guest.

The young students will learn lessons that will inspire them to attain personal accolades and advance in the stadium of life. The mature members of the Community will remember events and feel honored that their endeavors are not forgotten, as they are being cherished and commemorated. The Museum is not so much comprised of just exhibits, but it is the process of relating to history on a personal level. Every person makes history, we only have to choose how and when.

The Library of the Center will include books that cannot be found in the internet. Many religious, historical and Greek cultural resources will supplement the guests’ spiritual cultivation. Computers will also be on site for quick access to the internet resources, which are abundant, and for research and study of divergent subjects and topics. Furthermore, the Community of Saint Demetrios offers structured instruction on Byzantine Art and Byzantine Music, as well as classical Art, painting and wood work. Some of these lessons will take place in the Library to illustrate that history is not just the act of learning about the culture of the past, but it is also the art of building the culture of the future.

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ENTER THE TIME MACHING. DESTINATION, THE FUTURE

The Architectural renderings of the Cultural Center display a vast array of areas that will augment the programs and activities of the Community. The Fellowship Hall will be a meeting place. For some it will be a gymnasium, for some a place to make friends and for some all of the above. Christian fellowship is an integral ingredient of the Church life. The first Christians used to convene in meals called agapes (αγάπες), the meals of love. This is the focal point of the Christian way, this is the center of gravity of all the activities of the Church: love.

The Gymnasium will attract children, young adults and those of us who refuse to separate from the child we once were. In the place where a grandparent proudly watches on a three-pointer, a serve or a goal, the goal is to make future heroes. The teaching of teamwork, respect and togetherness go hand-by hand with the ancient saying: a healthy mind in a healthy body. In the Gymnasium and its surrounding athletic facilities (work-out area and fitness center) everyone is invited to attain health and balance.

Health and balance are the major ingredients of our highly decorated and internationally renowned Greek cuisine. The state-of-the-art Kitchen facilities are of paramount importance for the Annual Greek Festival preparations and for the preparations necessary for all the pastry sales, and fundraisers of the Community. Cooking classes can be offered for those interested to unlock the secrets of the Greek culinary arts. Some of these secrets are centuries old, but they are always fresh!

Going upstairs to the second level of the structure, an elevator brings us to an area where our mind and soul are elevated to supreme heights. It is the area dedicated to the School of the Community (as is part of the first floor). This is the School where children learn faith, values, history, Greek language, music, dance and culture. Our Church School and Greek School are recognized for a higher level of educational merit. After all, this is a young Community with many children who need nourishment and constant intellectual enrichment.

The teachers of the Greek School are all qualified (even over-qualified) educators with diplomas in Greek language and other areas of knowledge. This is a unique afternoon School where history is taught; the students have visited museums, attended lectures and viewed multimedia that also enrich their knowledge of our historical past. The future edifice incorporates an Audio Visual Room, replete with a projector, computers with internet access and other media of modern instruction.

The Church School offers instruction by educated volunteers, who attend Bible Studies and seminars in order to inspire the principles of the faith to the younger generation. Whether the goal is to solidify the foundation of a child’s faith, or to answer the dilemmas and agonies of a teenager, the Church School has a program that makes its activities relevant and attracts youth to attend Church and become conscious Christians.

A Mommy and Me program already exists in the Parish of Saint Demetrios. Young families need a place to convene and teach their faith as they embark to the great adventure of parenthood.

The Center will also feature an administrative wing with offices for spiritual support, counseling, faith-based education, couples’ ministry and other programs that hold tremendous value and merit. It is observed that the current Bible Study discussions are followed often times by confessions or time to open up our hearts to God. Many times, we need time to think, to talk or to find peace. Other times, we need to ask questions, to seek our inner identity or to find creative fellowship. And there are also situations when a soul needs healing, comforting and love.

The office of the priest and the Bible Study room are also completed by a printing room, which will prepare the publications and books that will be produced by the Community. The Church Newsletter is already our pride, since it combines an informal warmth as well as serious messages that touch the soul. There will be a Board Room used for the meetings of the Council and the committees that are responsible for all the functions of the Center. There, the volunteers, will have a more proficient and effective environment to collect ideas and to prepare activities for the Cultural Center.

The Bookstore will not just sell books, but it will also promote icons, CDs, DVDs and other material that can enhance our understanding of the faith and the culture. The items will be displayed clearly and the persons responsible for it can even send them by mail or present them in the Church Website.

The Youth and Young Adult Center will be a meeting place, a play-room and an entertaining fellowship hall that combines the fun with function. The guests are invited to play, to listen to music, to watch a movie, have coffee or to have an espresso of high volume discussion on any subject that interests them. When the Center is completed, the Youth can assemble free of charge in a place that is worth a tremendous spiritual treasure.

The senior citizens should not be overlooked. They are the ones who gave us this Community. They gave us life and they brought us to life. As a tribute to their achievements, the Center will feature a senior citizen area, a place where companionship and fun are the building components, faith and culture are the pillars. And, as they have proven often times, our seniors should not be discounted or underestimated. They can still hold their own in backgammon, chess, or a cooking contest. In this Community, life should not loose interest when work stops. Actually, this is the best time for some serious “senior trips.”

The Center has provision for Philanthropy and Volunteering Stations. These areas are of the most significant value, because we are all blessed by God in many ways, and we should learn to return some of these blessings to those we love. And our faith teaches us to love all. Charity work is integral in the life of Saint Demetrios. In the Programs and Activities section of this pamphlet, we presented the outstanding work offered by Philoptochos, the Agape Group, Pins for Pauly and other groups and organizations who extend a loving hand to many directions. It is certain that a better facility will enhance the fundraisers and also promote the programs and the events that will involve more volunteers and assist more people. Actually, the sentiment of all volunteers is that they are the ones who receive the greatest blessings from such ventures. A life without giving is not meaningful, it is devoid of value; it is vain. Heroes and people who are commemorated in history are not the self centered individualists, but those who escaped the prison of their ego to embrace and serve the people around them. Such are the volunteers of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Community in Merrick, New York.

The Community is  our extended family. Our children, the parents, the friends and the relatives can find a place where they share fellowship and their common interests. Since no house is as large as the Cultural Center it can fit all of us, together with our dreams and visions.

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ENTER THE TIME MACHINE. DESTINATION, THE PRESENT

It is called the present, because it is a gift. It is a gift and a blessing to be alive and to live our lives to the fullest of their potential. It is a gift to be gifted and to be a contributing member of society. Some people choose to be parasites, to take, without offering. Some other people choose to bear fruits, to enjoy life and to offer their gifts to the world. Enter the time machine. Destination, the present. And the present need is to offer our present in order to ensure the future and to enhance our life. See it as a great investment. You give a little to get a lot more. The Cultural Center requires us to offer our gift of love and generosity so as to create a better future. We need to work now, so that we may harvest the fruits of our labor later.

How can we help? All can be positive contributors for the completion of the Cultural Center. We can raise awareness, by learning about it and talking about it. By contributing our own gift and by encouraging others to do the same. No donation is too small if it comes from the heart. People who love the faith, their culture and their fellow human being will find in their heart enough treasure to overflow outwardly. The Community needs volunteers. It needs your time, talent and treasure. The Community needs your love and support.

There are many ways to also maintain the Center in the long run. The Community of Saint Demetrios in Merrick is one of the most actively dynamic religious institutions in the area. The stewards of the Parish are distinguished for their generosity and commitment. They work in the festivals, they participate in fund raising events and they contribute their own gifts in many ways. They built a stunning Church when there was only a few dozens of them. Now, there are many more people who fill the Church and the School during services, lessons, activities, festivals etc. Their benevolence brought about a successful iconography and Church beautification project. They support the operating budget, as well as other philanthropic and special projects.

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The Cultural Center will also enlarge the involvement of the Parish. The financial growth of the Saint Demetrios budget follows a geometric improvement. There is a sponsoring program so that all the rooms and the areas of a Center are donated and they do not bear a financial burden on future generations. It is called the ______________________ Cultural Center; it is in need of a sponsor who will complete the name. Same goes for the __________________ Library or for the _____________________ Gymnasium, etc. Just like a godparent chooses a name for the godchild, there is a program which will be followed so that the Center and all the offices, halls and classrooms are named by their sponsor. Also, children are invited to give their own donation (no matter how small) because it is necessary to encourage them with ownership of this project. In the end, a brick wall donated by the students will eternalize their contribution with each brick bearing their name. If they can make one wall, we can surely complete the rest.

This is not just a structure, it is the glue that binds and connects a community. Community and unity are intertwined to convey that we are all invited to work together and contribute for this worthy cause. One can donate a brick, another one a window, another one a classroom, another one an auditorium. We need the auditorium; we will not throw away the brick. We are fueled from the enthusiasm; but we need the action. It is a blessing to look back one day and narrate to the next generations how it all started. First it was a dream. But we were compelled to prove that we are not just dreamers: we are visionaries.

Protopresbyter Nikiforos Fakinos