Michele Genetos - My Journey to the Philoptochos

Our guest blogger this week is National Board member, Michele Genetos, who is serving her first term on the Board. She is an enthusiastic member that exudes positivity. She is no stranger to hard work and has truly given her all to the post. She describes her journey and what is yet to come.

My journey in becoming a National Philoptochos Board member begins with my journey to the Greek Orthodox Church. 

I was born in Staten Island, New York.  My mother’s parents emigrated from Hungary and my father’s from Denmark and Ireland.  Like most immigrant families who came to this country for a better life, they believed in hard work, giving to the church and helping those in need.  I was baptized Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school.  My mother was the President of St. Ann’s, the Ladies Guild.  We were always at church or school helping out, planning fundraisers, working festivals, bazars, etc.      

I moved to Florida for school and that is where I met George.  Small world, he lived in Staten Island.  He was visiting his mother in Tarpon Springs, FL.   George’s father was born in Constantinople and his mother in Piraeus, Greece.  George and I hit it off and were married six months later.  We started our married life in Florida and moved back to New York for George’s job.   We then moved to Arizona where we live today and have lived for the last 20 years.   

We have three adult children, Shanann, Minas and Joseph, three granddaughters, Gabriela, 10, Zoe, three and Layla Georgia, three-months and one grandson, Julian, soon to be four. 

 In 1990, George sustained an injury to his spinal cord.  He had no feeling from the chest down.  Several of the doctors said he would never walk again.   George and I knew it was not up to the doctors or either of us but was in God’s hands.  After many months of hospitals, rehab and physical therapy, George was able to walk with a cane.  We firmly believe it is through the grace of God that George was able to walk.  Unable to return to his line of work, George retired and became Mr. Mom.  I went to work full-time. 

Our Lord always leads us in the right direction.  After moving to Arizona, I worked days and took courses at night, earning a Bachelor’s in Business Management from ASU.  I became a Human Resource Director.

One Sunday we attended Divine Liturgy at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale, AZ. We were welcomed with open arms by Fr. Andrew and the congregation. The rest is history, bible study, inquirer classes, chrismation and a marriage blessing.  My Nouna, Marie invited me to my first Philoptochos meeting and told me I was joining Philoptochos. I helped with rummage sales, baking, events and fundraising, and whatever else my Nouna asked for.  My husband, daughter and sons are all members of Philoptochos and help out anywhere they are needed.  

 In 2002, I was asked to fill a vacant position on the Parish Council as Secretary, and ended up being elected to two, three year terms, as President and then Treasurer.  I was a delegate at the 2004 Biennial Clergy- Laity Congress in NYC.   That is where I became aware of the breadth and reach of the Ladies Philoptochos Society on a National level.  I attended the Philoptochos Grand Banquet.  I was astounded, and amazed by the dynamic and energetic women and all their good works. Why didn’t I know about this?  Why didn’t our Chapter send delegates to the National Philoptochos Biennial Convention?  I needed to convince them to do it.       

While attending a Metropolis Clergy-Laity meeting, I met Valerie Roumeliotis, the Metropolis

of San Francisco Philoptochos President at the time and we spoke briefly about the possibility of opening Camp Agape in Arizona. Valerie recruited Voula Dodd to assist us.  At our first meeting I met Kathy Connell from St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Chandler, Arizona who would become my Co-Chair and dear friend.  We met Jeannie Ranglas, current Metropolis of San Francisco President and Chair of Kids ‘n’ Cancer.  Her dedication and love for this ministry became an inspiration to us all.  With Jeannie’s guidance, we opened our first camp in Northern Arizona in July of 2007. This year, we hosted our sixth Kids ‘n’ Cancer Camp Agape in Arizona.  Jeannie has been at every camp, helping us every step of the way.   

At the end of my second term on the Parish Council, we retired our Church mortgage and I retired, deciding to focus on Philoptochos.  In the spring, I was elected president of our St. Barbara Chapter.  Valerie was a great mentor and through her encouragement, I was appointed to the Metropolis Philoptochos Board by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos.  In 2009, I attended the Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon in Boca Raton, where National President Aphrodite Skeadas honored Valerie for her many achievements.   The CMFL was a shining example of Philoptochos’ love in action.  I was inspired and went home and shared the news of the event with my Chapter.

July of 2010, I attended the Biennial Convention in Atlanta as a Chapter delegate.  By then, I had a better understanding of the relationship between the Chapters, Metropolis and National Philoptochos.  It was a sharing of information and ideas and it was incredible!  I was on fire, energized and ready to go home and share all I had learned.  I wanted to “Invite, embrace and involve.”  It was heartwarming to be in the company of so many women who were likeminded about philanthropy and our role in making good things happen.  These women were trailblazers, dynamic and passionate. 

In September we had a new Metropolis Executive Board, Jeannie Ranglas became President and I was elected 2nd Vice President.  Jeannie is a true leader and a dear friend.  I have learned so much from her.  We would later find out our San Francisco Metropolis would host the 2012 Biennial Clergy Laity Congress & National Philoptochos Convention in Phoenix.

Rocky Sisson and I were awarded the Medal of Saint Paul October of 2011 for service to our beloved Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale. I had Co-Chaired the events that were to take place for the Consecration of the Church with Rocky. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco were presiding. I was in awe, speechless, it was magnificent.  I was tickled when my granddaughter Gabby, told His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios that someday she would be a Philoptochos President like her Yia Yia. 

As a member of the host committee for the National Philoptochos Biennial Convention in 2012, I attended meetings in San Francisco and Phoenix, participated in long conference calls, and received a plethora of emails.  And there were boxes, so many boxes.  I couldn’t begin to name all the wonderful women from the National Board I was in communication with.  Our San Francisco Metropolis Board and our Chapters really came through providing support, hospitality items and volunteers.  It was amazing to see how all the pieces came together.  I have a new appreciation of the work that goes into planning an event of this magnitude. 

In 2012 I received a beautiful letter from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios inviting me to be a National Board Member.  I was humbled, honored, and filled with joy.  Our first meeting was in October in New York City.  I was instantly reunited with all the amazing women I met in Phoenix at the Convention.  His Eminence opened the meeting with a prayer and announced the reappointment of Aphrodite Skeadas, as President.  We all cheered!  I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Board with Aphrodite at the helm.  She is poised and graceful. Her words are positive and uplifting.  Her enthusiasm inspires.   After the meeting, we traveled on a bus to Ground Zero, said prayers by the September 11 Memorial and visited where the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church would be rebuilt.         

At the spring National Board meeting, we were asked to host a fundraiser to aid the people of Greece & Cyprus.  On June 29, Josephine Avaneas and I hosted a Glendi (a celebration) at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Chandler, Arizona.  About 125 people attended and the Assumption Church Greek Dancers entertained.   A total of $5,200 was raised for the Greece & Cyprus Relief Fund. 

I recently joined the PR/Communications Committee.  I am excited because I think I can make my best contributions on this committee.  It feels like I’m just getting started on the National Board even though, by the time we meet at the CMFL in Pittsburg this October, I will be halfway through my two-year term. 

I’m looking forward to the opening of our new home, the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy and seeing Philoptochos move to the next level.   Looking at my journey, I think to myself, could my life in Philoptochos be any more wonderful or rewarding?  Then I think, the best is yet to come! 

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God has prepared in advance  for us to do.  
 - Ephesians 2:10