Theodore Roosevelt Island: A Hidden Washington D.C. Gem

Set near the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, across the channel from Georgetown and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is 88.5 acres of pure nature. A favorite of area resident Alex Perdikis, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a tribute to the avid conservationist and 26th president of the United States. The only way to reach the island is across the footbridge from Arlington, Virginia. Cars and bicycles are prohibited. Miles of hiking trails take visitors through swampy bottomlands and wooded uplands away from the noise of the city.

From Native Americans to Dynamite

The Nacotchtank Indians made a temporary home of the island in 1668. They called it Anacostine. After the Nacotchtank left, the island was acquired and inhabited by several families, including the Masons. John Mason built a mansion and the family planted gardens. The Masons were forced to leave when the only water became stagnate. It has been uninhabited since then, except for a short time during the Civil War when Union troops were stationed on it. Fire destroyed the mansion, and its foundation is all that remains today.

In 1898, without the knowledge of or permission from local authorities, Columbian University, now known as George Washington University, chemist, Charles Edward Munroe, tested explosives on the island. District of Columbia police were notified by frightened citizens when the dynamite and other explosives were discovered. Washington Gas Light Company purchased the island in 1913 and allowed the vegetation to take over. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cleared the island in 1935. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association bought the island from Washington Gas in 1931 and set to work on creating the monument.

From 1960 On

Funds to build a memorial were slow in coming. The memorial was not funded, in fact, until 1960. The memorial was dedicated in 1967 and includes a 17-foot statue of Roosevelt, four stone monoliths and two fountains. Theodore Roosevelt Island has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966.

The Potomac River surrounds the island and the vegetation and geological features are diverse. Spring wildflowers are abundant and a wide variety of birds call the island home at various times throughout the year.

The Fountains No Longer Flow

Sadly, Alex Perdikis’s last visit to the island was a disappointing one. The fountains no longer flow. The canal water is stagnant. The Roosevelt quotes on the monoliths are unreadable. Years of neglect have taken a toll. The National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for maintaining the park but because the island is only accessible by foot, it is not easy to maintain. Another problem is that the island is less well-known and not visited as much as other monuments in the area. In other words, it’s easy to forget.

According to an August 2015 statement from the NPS, there is a plan in place to address the issues at Theodore Roosevelt Island. Work on the moats is set to begin shortly and long-term goals include addressing the island’s condition and access.

Charitable Giving this Holiday Season: A Business Professional’s Guide

The holiday season is here and many business professionals turn their thoughts to charitable giving. Alex Perdikis, general manager and partner at Koons Automotive, knows all too well the benefits and rewards of giving back. Famous tech company founders, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, have spent millions on various causes around the world. It may sound strange, but the benefits businesses enjoy by donating time and money to improve the lives of others goes beyond monetary gain.

The Rewards of Charitable Giving

If the tax breaks are the first things that come to mind when you think about the business benefits of charitable giving, think again. It’s true that there are tax breaks for some contributions if all of the rules, regulations and stipulations are followed to the letter. Ask Alex Perdikis, however, and you’ll discover that tax benefits are way down on the list of positives. Here are the top reasons that charitable giving is great for business:

  • Employee Pride: Keeping your staff motivated and engaged goes beyond job duties. Giving employees a sense of pride in the organization for which they work creates feelings of loyalty and well-being. When employees feel good about their organization, they are dedicated to its success. Turnover and absentee rates fall and work production increases.
  • Employee Morale: When employees see that their company moves beyond its corporate world into a role that feeds the hungry or houses the homeless, morale rises. People feel good about their work and show it with increased productivity, less sick time and a commitment to the company’s success.
  • Team Building: There is nothing quite as inspiring as a group working together toward a common goal. When company founders and top-level executives work alongside the rest of the staff, a feeling of camaraderie develops that’s not possible within the structures of the workday. The feel-good atmosphere spills over into the corporate culture to build stronger teams that work well together.

How to Give

As the holiday season approaches, there are many opportunities to give back to the community. Collecting food donations for the local food bank, participating in a Secret Santa program and collecting coats for the homeless are all great ways for companies to help those in need. But to truly build a culture of giving, charitable giving has to happen year-round.

Supporting a charitable organization or initiative throughout the year keeps the momentum going. Choosing the right cause is important. Is there a cause to support relevant to your organization? Has someone inside the company fought breast cancer? Working with a cancer research organization might be the answer. Does your company make pet-related products? Consider an employee volunteer Saturday once a month to clean kennels at the local animal shelter. Is there an educational need that is not being addressed in your company’s field? Tech company giant Intel supports nonprofit organizations that focus on teaching and supporting the software developers of tomorrow. The opportunities as well as the benefits are limitless.

Beyond the Smithsonian: Little-Known Attractions in Washington D.C.

Everyone including Alex Perdikis, knows that Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital. Tourists from around the world come to see the White House, Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Washington D.C. has some lesser-known attractions that few people know about. Next time you’re near the capital, check out some of these attractions.

President Lincoln’s Cottage

After visiting the Lincoln Memorial, check out President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home for a more personal glimpse into the life of the 16th President of the United States . President Lincoln first stayed at the gothic revival cottage three days after his inauguration. Lincoln and his family lived in the Cottage off-and-on for 13 months during the Civil War and Lincoln commuted to the White House. It was here that Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation and made important decisions about military strategy as well as domestic policy. It was also here that he and Mary Todd Lincoln mourned the loss of their son, Willie, due to typhoid. President Lincoln’s Cottage offers rotating exhibits as well as photographs, books, period furnishings, architectural fragments, archeological artifacts and prints that reflect life during the time period.

The cottage underwent a seven-year restoration project and opened to the public in February 2008. Tours are available and reservations recommended. The entrance  is at Eagle Gate, located at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road and Upshur Street  NW, Washington D.C.

The Washington National Cathedral

If a trip to a cathedral seems a little tame, you haven’t been to the Washington National Cathedral. Moon rocks and Darth Vader gargoyles set the stage for what is far from the typical sanctuary. A place of deep historical significance, the gothic cathedral is where presidents attend services after inaugurations and Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final Sunday sermon. The cathedral is open to all faiths and is run by the Episcopal diocese. Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller are buried in the crypt and chapels honor Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Tours are available.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

If getting out of the city and stepping into nature sounds good, then Theodore Roosevelt Island is the place to go. The wilderness preserve is named after the 26th president who was a conservationist and created the national park system. The island is only accessible over a foot bridge. Bicycles and motorized vehicles are prohibited. The preserve is home to a host of small animals and birds.

The United States Botanical Garden

Yes, it’s full of beautiful roses, exotic orchids and lovely ferns, but the garden’s real claim to fame is not nearly as sweet. Nestled within the National Mall, the United States Botanical Garden is also home to what is known as the corpse flower. Why the name? Because the corpse flower smells like rotting flesh. The corpse flower only blooms every three to five years, so most of the time you have to make do with the butterfly, rose and water gardens.

 

Alex Perdikis Admires These Five Traits of Great Leadership

Since Alex Perdikis took over as general manager at Koons of Silver Spring, the dealership has become one of the fastest growing in the Greater Washington D.C. area. You don’t spark growth like that without great leadership skills. The most effective leaders, whether in business or the world stage, share some of the same traits and qualities that make them successful. What is it that makes for a great leader? Here are five traits all great leaders share.

Honesty

At the top of the list, honesty is the single most important leadership characteristic. An organization takes its cue from the top. If team members have the utmost faith in the leader’s honesty and integrity, the organization’s foundation becomes strong. The most effective leaders have a list of core values that are openly available, taught and expected from everyone in the organization.

Focus

The best leaders know how to focus. They think outside the box to come up with solutions that target success. A focused leader thinks through each scenario, contemplates the possible impact and forms strategic plans with one goal in mind – to succeed. Because no plan is completely secure, contingency plans are not left to chance. A focused leader is a prepared leader.

Communication

Efficient leaders are masters at the art of communication. From simple requests to full-blown strategies, communication with team members is vital. Every member must understand the goals leadership espouses, but if the goals are not communicated clearly and understandably, goals mean nothing. From training new team members to developing an open work environment, superb communication skills are key.

Effective leaders not only communicate what they want, but they solicit suggestions, opinions and information from team members. They realize that communication is a two-way street. Team members who work the trenches often understand what’s going on more fully than leaders. The best leaders listen.

Confidence

Confidence is one of the most difficult attributes to maintain. It’s easy to be confident when everything goes right, but setbacks happen. It’s the leader’s job to keep setbacks in perspective and motivate the team. The best leaders know how to make sure everyone stays focused on the larger goal and not become discouraged because of a  temporary stumbling block. If an organization’s leader exudes positive energy, the rest of the team will as well.

Accountability

The greatest leaders take responsibility for the organization’s performance. They take charge when there are problems, monitor performance, step in immediately and take decisive action to avert complications. If something goes wrong, strong leaders take responsibility, avoid spin, refuse to blame others or outside influences and constructively examine the situation.  

Alex Perdikis worked his way up through management and attributes much of his management style success to the years of working in every level of the automotive business. Alex developed a team at Koons of Silver Spring Automotive that is a cohesive unit, each individual working toward the same goal. Clearly, it’s a recipe for success.

Beyond the Tax Break : The Benefits of Charitable Giving

There’s no question that some people give to charitable organizations because of the tax break they receive. Alex Perdikis, general manager at Silver Springs Koons Automotive, knows there’s so much more about giving to others than money, however. Alex not only donates money, but his time, to several charitable organizations, including the Down Syndrome Network, Leukemia Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society. Alex believes that giving to others is not something that’s nice to do, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s a value he works hard to instill in his children.

The Brain’s Reward

According to researchers at the University of Oregon, individuals who make charitable donations feel a “warm glow.” The brain responds to such giving in a way that is not unlike some types of stimulant drugs. The brain releases endorphins and dopamine that make the giver feel a sense of rewarding satisfaction. In fact, the physiological reward is much greater for charitable giving than it is for the purchase of material items. It seems that humans are hard-wired to help those in need.

A Happier Life

A University of  Missouri, Columbia and University of California, Riverside study found that people who gave to others scored much higher on feelings of contentment and joy than those who did not. Those who give, whether it’s time, money or both, also experience an overall greater satisfaction of life. Clearly, the act of helping others increases happiness.

Improve Your Health by Volunteering

Volunteering has the added benefit of improving physical and mental health. Older adults in particular show improved cognitive function, increased walking speeds and watch fewer hours of television. In addition, volunteers have lower rates of depression and stress. Studies indicate that older adult volunteer programs benefit participants more than social programs geared toward their age group, such as senior exercise activities. Volunteering also broadens social circles.

It’s a Family Thing

Volunteering as a family is a great way to give back to the community, instill values and spend quality time together. When children learn the importance of thinking outside themselves and experience the rewards that volunteering brings, they grow up with a spirit of giving.

Find Your Cause

Alex Perdikis is heavily involved in charities near and dear to his heart. Giving money is easy, but if you are thinking of volunteering time, consider opportunities that best match your interests and talents. For example, if you are a retired teacher, consider volunteering for tutoring or reading programs at your local school. Food banks, soup kitchens and hunger relief programs always need volunteers with a variety of skill sets. If you have a family member with a disability or disease, you can volunteer to work with charities dedicated to those areas. Perhaps you or a family member is a military veteran. Volunteering to help veterans get to doctor appointments is a great way to give back to those who gave so much.

Raising Community Spirit: Spotlight on Alex Perdikis

Working in the auto dealership industry since 1997, Alex Perdikis has a great deal of experience in regard to interacting and building positive business relationships with consumers. Alex’s dedication to offering quality customer service and his willingness to aid community members in need are highly valuable traits in both the business world and in humanitarian efforts. Currently serving as the General Manager of Koons of Silver Springs Automotive, Perdikis demonstrates his strong sense of community spirit within the Greater Washington D.C. area in various ways.

Raising Funds for Charity

One significant example of Alex’s interest in human welfare is his fundraising efforts for the National Capital Area’s chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Inspired and assisted by his wife Dresden, who battled cancer herself, Perdikis and his fundraising team utilized a grassroots campaign to raise $146,000 for the LLS charity in the first half of 2014. Recognized for his community-oriented nature, LLS nominated Alex as one of their Man of the Year candidates. The money that his team raised for charity goes toward financing leukemia and lymphoma therapies and treatments.

Offering Free Services to Furloughed Employees

Living and working near Washington D.C. gave Perdikis the opportunity to extend generosity toward the federal government employees in his community who were furloughed from their jobs in October of 2013. His Koons of Silver Springs dealership withstood a loss of revenue so that these government workers could receive free car inspections, oil changes and tire rotations. This act of community goodwill on the part of Perdikis and other Koons employees was offered to furloughed workers owning vehicles of all makes and models. The dealership also assisted interested parties with financial incentives on new-car purchases.

Contributing to Safety Awareness

His work in the auto industry and interactions with car buyers in the Greater Washington D.C. area help to motivate his stance on the importance of safe driving. In an effort to educate his community on the risks of driving while preoccupied, Perdikis lent his support to the cause of establishing Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April of 2014. Via Gazette.Net, an online publication focused on Maryland news, he announced his commitment to practicing safe driving habits at all times and urged his fellow community members to refrain from activities such as texting or taking photographs while behind the wheel of a car.

Improving the Auto Industry

During the summer of 2009, when the U.S. auto industry was in extreme financial crisis, Alex was serving as Executive Vice President of Jim Koons Automotive Company. The Koons dealerships in Alex’s geographical area sought to stimulate growth in the auto industry by implementing the Cash For Clunkers program at their locations. Through this government program, customers received vouchers that allowed for the trading in of their old vehicles in exchange for new, energy-efficient cars. Alex was not only pleased by the success of this program in regard to the auto industry itself, but was also able to assist community members in receiving great deals on newer vehicles.

Alex Perdikis Makes “40 Under 40” List

Alex Perdikis Koons of Silver Spring automotive dealership owner has been included in Automotive News “40 Under 40” list. An annual recognition program, the magazine’s list features 40 owners of new car dealerships. These owners are all under the age of 40, yet have achieved extraordinary levels of success.

Automotive News reviewed nominations from dealerships across both Canada and the United States before making a final decision. The leading auto publication profiled the nominees in its July 14th issue, prior to announcing the winners in this highly competitive industry sector on July 24th. Perdikis issued a statement in response to the honor, crediting his team of staff for the success of his Koons of Silver Spring location.

Perdikis, whose dealership in Silver Spring, Maryland opened in 2010, services and sells new Fords, Mazdas and Lincoln models in addition to his large pre-owned vehicle operation. His Koons of Silver Spring dealership has more than 100 employees and was also recently named one of Washington Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” for the fourth year in a row. The journal evaluates employers based on a slate of criteria that includes employee morale and support.

A 1997 graduate of the University of Richmond’s E.Claiborne Robins School of Business, Perdikis worked in multiple dealership aspects immediately after leaving school. He became part of Koons Lincoln/Mercury Volvo’s accounting team in the same year as graduating after interning as a service assistant, porter and detailer during his school years. In December of 1997, he joined the sales team at Koons of Tysons Corner and became the top salesperson within just three months and quickly became Sales Manager.

During his sixteen years with Koons of Tysons Corner, Perdikis would become Executive Vice-President, leading that Koons location to the highest volume Chrysler and Chevrolet dealer in the mid-Atlantic region. During his tenure, the organization earned the “Jack Smith Leadership Award” and “General Motors Mark of Excellence Award” for its achievements in sales, leadership and customer service and “Dealer of the Year” from GMAC annually.

After spending time with Koons Tysons Toyota and serving as the Jim Koons Automotive Company’s Executive Vice President, Perdikis decided it was time to move onto the next challenge: owning his own dealership. During his time with Koons Tysons Toyota, he was responsible for a variety of areas, including sales and customer service. Perdikis was an integral part in many of the organization’s acquisitions, which included Dodge, Buick, Mazda, Kia and Jeep franchises.

In May of 2011, he took on the responsibilities of the General Manager and became a partner of the new Koons of Silver Spring dealership. The location has thrived under his leadership, and Perdikis currently also serves on the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association board in addition to being a supportive husband and father of three daughters. When he’s not working, his hobbies include working out and family time.

Alex Perdikis Shines as LLS “Man of the Year” Candidate

Giving back to the community is something that Alex Perdikis understands intrinsically. This year, he was nominated as a candidate in the “Man and Woman of the Year” fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s National Capital Area chapter. This was an extreme honor, and one that Alex took very seriously.

Each year the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) chooses 20 candidates for the campaign. The candidates are tasked with increasing awareness of leukemia and lymphoma and raising funds to contribute to research and fight these diseases. The campaign lasts approximately 10 weeks, which is not a lot of time to get a large grassroots campaign up and running.

Last year’s group of candidates in the D.C. area managed to raise over $1.2 million dollars to fight leukemia and lymphoma. The National Capital Area chapter of the LLS was astonished to find that they were the chapter with the largest total, but they hoped that their 2014 candidates could surpass that total this year.

That hope was not misplaced, as the candidates for the 2014 campaign broke their previous record and raised an astonishing $1.6 million. As the saying goes, “no man is an island,” and that is true with this sort of massive fundraising event. Alex Perdikis and his team were proud to have contributed over $146,000 to the chapter’s total amount raised.

Competition helps to drive all sorts of efforts, of course, and the “Man and Woman of the Year” campaign is no different. For his efforts, Alex was grateful to finish the competition as the first runner up for 2014. He acknowledges that he couldn’t have done it alone, and his team captains Dresden Koons and Debra Latiolais were a huge part of the reason that he did so well.

The LLS uses funds raised each year to fund treatments, research and therapies that help those suffering from leukemia and lymphoma. Because of the research they have spearheaded, the blood cancer survival rate continues to grow. Donations and volunteers help to ensure that success stories continue to occur every day.

Donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society still count, even though the fundraising competition is over. Since all donations are completely tax deductible, this is a great opportunity to give to your local chapter and help fund research and treatments that mean the world to those suffering from leukemia and lymphoma.

Alex is looking forward to the next fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not still donating to various charities in multiple ways. By donating time and money to the needs around us, we can help to make our communities a better place in which to live.

Helping Furloughed Federal Workers

Losing a job is difficult. Having a job but not being able to work is frustrating. In October of 2013, 800,000 individuals were furloughed from their positions with the federal government. Individuals and families found themselves missing the regular paychecks they depended on to do everything from buy groceries to maintain their vehicles. For many, the temporary loss of work was a real financial hardship.

One local businessman saw the furlough as an opportunity to help his fellow citizens. The general manager of Koons of Silver Springs car dealership, Alex Perdikis made an offer that many just couldn’t refuse. Starting October first, federal employees on furlough were eligible to bring their vehicles in for complimentary maintenance. This including things like oil changes, inspections and even tire rotations.

It took some time to get the ball rolling. In fact, the first set of emails sent out to .gov addresses went largely unreturned. Federal employees were not even allowed to check their email during their furlough time. Eventually, Perdikis kept working at it and word started to spread. Individuals from all over the area came in to take advantage of the deal.

Ironically enough, this worked out well for everyone involved. Most people struggle to rearrange their schedule in order to bring their vehicle into the shop for an oil change. With a little extra time on their hands, these federal employees were able to take care of their vehicles with a cost that fit into their current financial situation: free.

This business move ended up costing the company tens of thousands of dollars but, according to Perdikis, this wasn’t just a promotion for the already successful dealership. “I just look at is as being a good business leader,” said Perdikis, when interviewed by Gabe Nelson of Automotive News.

Perdikis’ desire to just do the right thing doesn’t just extend to the automotive business. He was recently nominated as one of the “Man of the Year” candidates and given the task of raising awareness and funding for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). This honor, courtesy of the National Capital Area chapter, is only given to 20 people each year.

Just like free maintenance for furloughed federal employees, Perdikis, now a managing partner of Koons of Silver Springs, saw this as an opportunity to do the right thing and make a difference. When all was said and done, he raised over $146,000 through a variety of different sources. The group in the D.C. area together raised $1.6 million for therapies and treatments for leukemia and lymphoma. In addition to the LLS, Perdikis participates in several other charities.

There is no doubt that Alex Perdikis is looking to make a difference in the world around him. From helping furloughed federal workers with their car maintenance to raising money and awareness for the LLS, the steps of just one individual are enough to create a real change.

Dealerships That Do It All

When selecting a car dealership, it’s usually best to pick one that can furnish all needed services. Why go to another garage for service when the dealer offers top-flight repairs? They’re usually well versed in the intricacies of their own vehicles and, should a recall occur, they’re in the best position to take care of it. Also, why wait for a dealer to send your local garage a hard-to-get part when the dealer has it up front? Of course, people should do the applicable homework and get consumer ratings on any dealership they do business with.