Yianni Bourbakis and Shawn Mihellis wanted to do something special for their community— in a way, to thank people for being year-round patrons of their restaurant, Theo Yianni’s in Weirton, West Virginia.
Weirton is a former steel mill town about 45 minutes west of Pittsburgh in the northern tip of West Virginia and across the river from another former industrial town, Steubenville, Ohio.
The whole region has had a tough time recovering from decades of reliance on industry which has long since left. Unemployment is high and many families have a difficult time making ends meet.
Yianni and Shawn wanted to help the area families struggling to buy Christmas presents for their elementary school kids this year and decided to do something about it.
The duo took a break from making gyros sandwiches and dishing out plates of pastitsio at their restaurant and took more than a hundred elementary school kids from the Weirton and Steubenville area shopping at the mall.
It was an early Christmas for these kids— some of whom won’t get any other gifts this year.
Much of Yianni’s initiative comes from a heritage of giving that runs deep in his family’s history and heritage.
Following in his family’s footsteps
His great-great uncle Konstantinos Bourbakis emigrated to the United States from Crete in 1912 with pennies in his pocket and ended up buying the entire village of Langeloth, Pennsylvania. The 1948 newspaper story below describes how a butcher from Crete ended up owning an entire village in America.
Uncle Gus Barbush, as he was known in the area, was a legend in Western Pennsylvania, donating large sums of money to help local families, as well as to numerous charities and the local Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Every year he created a Christmas light spectacle of his giant home on the hilltop in Langeloth, PA and thousands would come and view it, while leaving a donation for Children’s Hospital.
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