Sunday, August 8, 2004

Ohioan among Olympic volunteers

The Associated Press

SHEFFIELD, Ohio- Thirty years after immigrating to the United States, Gus Peskiris is returning to his native Greece to help out with a distinctly American pastime - baseball.

With help from his Ford co-workers and donations from the autoworkers union, Peskiris is spending the next several weeks volunteering at the baseball field at the Summer Olympics in Athens.

"I feel very lucky," Peskiris said before leaving for Greece on Friday.

Peskiris was selected from the 170,000 people worldwide who applied to volunteer at the Athens games, he said. About one in three applicants was chosen, he said. His wife and daughter also applied but were turned down.

The process started about two years ago, when Peskiris was visiting family in Greece. His wife called from Ohio to tell him that Olympic organizers were looking for volunteers for the 2004 games.

"So I called the Olympic committee and said I'd like to get involved," he said. Peskiris was told in June that he'd been picked to work at the baseball venue.

He won't know exactly what he's doing until he gets there, but Peskiris - who remains fluent in Greek - said he'll probably take tickets or usher people to their seats.

Peskiris has been back to Athens several times since he moved to Lorain in 1974 to join his two brothers, who have since returned to Greece.

On this trip, he'll stay with relatives. Peskiris also credits his employers and co-workers at the Avon Lake Ford plant with helping him get to the Olympics. He's worked there for 30 years.

Plant workers took up a collection and raised $1,000 for his trip, and the Avon Lake-based United Auto Workers Local 2000 gave him $500.

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