"Soup Run"


November 21, 2014
We copy below the commentary written by Despina Kartson of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, New Rochelle, NY who organizes the Philoptochos “Soup Run” that ministers to homeless adults who live on the streets of Manhattan.  This project is supported by Philoptochos volunteers who work behind the scenes and on the streets, Fr. Nick Anctil, Proistamenos, and by the entire Holy Trinity family who are instrumental in sustaining this effort.  
On the last Thursday of the month, volunteers from Holy Trinity, New Rochelle, NY go to the streets near Penn Station in Manhattan to minister to those whose ‘home’ is the streets near Penn Station. Volunteers prepare and distribute hot food, seasonally appropriate clothing, underwear and toiletries. Perhaps more importantly, they bring friendship - the Holy Trinity volunteers do not refer to the population they serve as “clients” or just as “homeless adults” – rather, they refer to them as “friends”, especially since they have a ‘following’ – many of whom they see each month.   
After each “Soup Run”, Despina sends out an email to the volunteers – and more – recapping the night’s events.  We post her reflections about last night’s Soup Run with the hope that you will be moved to participate in and/or replicate projects such as this in your own communities.   
Paulette Geanacopoulos 
National Philoptochos Department of Social Work
Dear All –
Thanksgiving came early for 120 of our friends on the street last night when we served warm turkey meals and all the fixings – stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes, cookies and juice.  They were thankful for the delicious meal and the many warm clothes, socks, underwear and toiletries that we distributed.
Imagine some of the ways in which people survive: two sisters said they live on the street but that God provides for them – they serve food at a soup kitchen to other homeless three times a week so at least they know they can eat there. And they were most appreciative of our food. And then there was one man asking for a meal just as we ran out. Another man who was eating our meal offered to share his food with him when seemingly out of the blue, we found one more meal and gave it to him. We were also able to share a hug with a woman who said it would be her first Thanksgiving without her mother who recently passed away – she just wanted a hug, wanted the connection to another.
Thank you to Angie Lambros for sponsoring the soup run, John Krondos for cooking, Cynthia Hertzegovitch, Constance Mavrovitis and Kathleen Haverlack for sorting the clothing and toiletries, Sylvia Chandras for coffee and juice and for the many Holy Trinity parishioners who support this moving and worthwhile homeless outreach project.  We offer special thanks and gratitude at this time of year when we consider all that has been given to us and all that we have to give to others.   Happy Thanksgiving!  Please join us next month on December 18.
Volunteer comments:
Cynthia:  I think it’s all about the people-to-people connection in this day of devices - the woman who just wanted a hug - because in the end, that is what we miss the most when people are gone.  It’s why the picture of my dad in my wallet is not a portrait but of him giving me a hug.
Maria:  Each time we do our "Run" we are reminded of the awesome power and gentility of God's love.   It teaches me humility and the gift God has given us of each other. 
From the Soup Run in August:  As we were giving out food and clothing a gentleman approached and asked how he could help.  He said that he saw we were doing God's work and wanted in some small way to be a part of it.  His name was Khadi and he was from Saudi Arabia.  He took my hand and placed a $50 bill in it and said, "I want to help you buy food."  We thanked each other and as quickly as he came upon us, he was gone. 

Social Services Focus: MENTAL ILLNESS

by Paulette Geanacopoulos, LMSW, National Philoptochos Social Work Director

A panel discussion entitled “Mental Illness:  Our Community’s Journey to Understanding, Compassion and Hope” was presented at the 2014 National Philoptochos Biennial Convention in Philadelphia, PA to more than 450 delegates and guests.

Conceived of and moderated by Paulette Geanacopoulos, LMSW, the organization’s Director of Social Work, the program offered eye-opening statistics and information about the prevalence of mental illness in society and our community, its impact on family members, cultural interpretations of demonic possession and exorcisms, and proposed actions that we, as a faith-based community, can take to ensure that we treat all of our brothers and sisters -– regardless how “different” we may consider them to be -- with love, kindness, and hope. 

DEMETRIA DELIA, Ph.D., LCSW, MA: “Understanding Mental Illness” 

CHRISTINA KALLAS, ESQ.: “The Impact of Mental Illness on the Family”

REV. PROTOPRESBYTER NICHOLAS G. ANCTIL: "Supporting the Journey through Faith & Hope" 

Click here for the Summary of Each Panelist’s Presentation.

Click here for the Responses to the Questions Submitted by Audience Members.

Click here for the Full Biographies of the Speakers.

For more resources on the Social Services Department webpage, click here.

Social Services Focus: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

by Paulette Geanacopoulos, LMSW, National Philoptochos Social Work Director
Intimate partner abuse has been at the forefront of the news this week with the release of hotel security footage that shows Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting and rendering unconscious his fiancĂ©e (now wife), Janay Palmer.  This incident and others like it bring to light some of the misperceptions about violence against women.


·        Nearly 85% of all reported cases of adult domestic violence are women.  

·        Women are victims of intimate partner abuse regardless of race, age, ethnicity, religion, education, income, employment, profession, immigration status, marital status, sexual preference or physical ability.

·        Men abuse because they believe they have the right to do so.   


The victim is not at fault.  The ONLY person at blame is the abuser, and the ONLY way the abuse will stop is if and when the abuser takes responsibility for his actions.

The reasons women stay or return to an abusive relationship are complex:


·        Women stay because they love their partner – they want the abuse to end, not the relationship. 

·        Women stay because they fear becoming homeless.

·        They stay because they fear physical injury and death.  The most dangerous time for the victim is when she tries to leave or shortly after she has left – on average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day. 

What can you do? 


The most effective way to help a victim of intimate partner abuse is to help her develop a safety plan to ensure that both she and her children remain safe.  

More information:

The Social Services Department of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society published a manual entitled, “Domestic Violence: Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence in the Greek Orthodox Community” to raise awareness about this issue and ways that we, as a women’s faith-based organization can respond.  Click here for a copy of the manual which includes the document, “How to Develop a Safety Plan."
Click here for the Social Services Department webpage that has more resources. philoptochos.org/socialservices

Guest Blogger: Ann Burmeister - A Delegate's Journal from the Philoptochos Convention


July 6-9, 2014, Philadelphia, PA

The Orthodox Christian Family:  A Dwelling of Christ and a Witness of His Gospel


Delegate Attendee: Ann Burmeister
What an honor it was to attend the 2014 National Philoptochos Biennial Convention.  I learned so very much and met so many wonderful Philoptochos Sisters from all over the United States.

Sunday- July 6, 2014

Sunday morning began with Orthros and Divine Liturgy at St. George Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA, presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America.  The Cathedral was breathtaking.  All seats and balconies were filled with both Philoptochos and attendees of the 42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress.

That evening the Convention had its Opening Ceremonies and General Assembly.  His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios gave the invocation.  His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey welcomed everyone. There were 440 registered delegates. Later that evening we went over the Bylaws/Resolutions and the Budget Preview.

Monday- July 7, 2014

The Opening Ceremonies of the 42nd Clergy Laity Congress began with a welcome from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and a surprise Skype from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. What an honor and privilege.  Philoptochos ladies departed and began their afternoon session.  His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, an emissary of his All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and spiritual advisor to Philoptochos, lead the opening prayer.
During the proceedings it was suggested that if we raise our stewardship 10%, we than can raise our commitment by 10%.  It was also stated that the family is the nucleus of the church.  We need to remember that God is the center of the universe—not us.  The church is an ideal place to talk about family situations and seek help.

During the conference Rachael Lloyd, founder and CEO of GEMS (Girls Education Mentoring Service) eloquently spoke on human trafficking.  Many were brought to tears.  She pulled herself out of a horrendous situation and now GEMS is helping young women 12-24 free themselves from that life.  Human trafficking is rampant in this country.  Lloyd wrote the book, “Girls Like Us” and can be found on the website: www.gems-girls.org.

2014 Chapter Challenge Presentations:

-St. Andrew Church, Randolph, NJ, choose to do a prison ministry.

-St. Sophia Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA, put together a program called “Operation Lace Up” where they distributed shoes to the homeless.

-St. Haralambos Church, Canton, OH, prepared buckets with cleaning supplies for the formerly homeless who were going to a new apartment.
Jerry Dimitriou, Executive Director of Administration, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, told how St. Nicholas was crushed by the twin towers.  After a very long struggle, a new St. Nicholas Shrine, where all can worship, is being built next to the reflecting pool at Ground Zero.  It will cost $37 million.  If each member makes a gift of $100 the shrine can be completed by 2016.
That evening we were bused to the Water Works Restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious Greek meal and watched some talented young adults dance.

Tuesday- July 8, 2014

The Reverend Dr. John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon Ecumenical Throne spoke on the environment in “On Earth as It Is in Heaven.”  He said that the world is an icon and that we cannot treat people like things.  Our relationship to this world is our relationship to Heaven.  He spoke about ascesis, “the exercise of self-discipline” and the way we treat creations.  We are all responsible for this world and must not abuse it.
Another articulate and dynamic speaker was Alexandra Pink who moved into Saint Basil's Academy last September.  She was abused as a child and moved around with her mother.  She stated that St. Basil’s helped her become the best individual that she could be. She told us the things to pack for a world adventure were patience, mindfulness and forgiveness.  National Philoptochos gave $50,000 to St. Basil Vasilopita and $20,000 for a new van to St. Basil Sisterhood for a total of $70. It was brought to our attention that women can graduate with a Master of Divinity from Hellenic College Holy Cross.

National monies went to numerous worthy causes.  Here are just a few:

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) $45,000 (with an additional $10,000 for flood relief in Serbia)

-Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) $35,000

-Support-a-Mission Priest $36,000 (to send the gospel to furthest corners of the world).

-Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) $20,000 for Summer Leadership Institute

-Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) $5,000

-Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) $7,080

So very much more.
We learned about Loukoumi Books by Nick Katsoris available on Amazon.com.

Elizabeth Metallinos-Katsaras, Ph.D., RD, Department of Nutrition, Simmons College, told us how the traditional Greek diet can keep us healthy.
That evening chapter presidents brainstormed leadership styles and how to improve our chapters.

Wednesday- July 9, 2014

At 7:15 a.m. were all to be seated for a breakfast honoring National President Aphrodite Skeadas and her six years of service. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios praised all her works over the years.
It was my honor to have my picture taken with His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, Mariam Catechis, Metropolis of Denver President, and Olga Plomarity, who is related to our Manitzas family.  It was my pleasure to be seated next to her at breakfast
Later that day, Martha Stefanidakis, 2014 National Philoptochos Biennial Convention Co-Chair presented “The Brave Ones Past and Present” video composed of about 1,000 photographs of family members who had served in the military throughout the years.  Pictures of our own Steve Tefas, and David Garza where among them.  On Tuesday evening, 65 baskets for veterans were put together by convention delegates.  The presentation was made Wednesday, for the distribution of the baskets to the Veterans' Multi-Service Center.  Lt. Colonel Elizabeth Konon Sweet, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Army Operations Officer, told us about the many faces reflecting those serving in the military. Michael Emanuel, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Chief Congressional Correspondent, FOX News, spoke on critical issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and religious freedom.
The evening banquet was extraordinary since our guest speaker that evening was Vice President Joseph R. Biden.  In his remarks, he stated that he was raised and tutored by the Greek community, and that he has many special Greek friends. He told about the special time in his life when he spent time with His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople, and when his All-Holiness was a guest in the Biden home.  He said that His All-Holiness was the most Christ-like man he had ever met.  Vice President Biden said he had been meeting with Greek Prime ministers since 1973.  He hopes the occupation of Cyprus by Turks will end. 

These are just some of the highlights.  We heard some phenomenal speakers throughout the convention.  I would encourage anyone who can, to attend in 2016. 

Ann Burmeister is President, Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church Philoptochos in San Angelo, Texas, Chapter 8038. The chapter is in its second year and has 18 members.  Burmeister is also church treasurer and chairs the annual bake sale.


Philoptochos Women Instill Moral Values in Their Children

In a recent editorial in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times called, “Raising a Moral Child,” the writer, Adam Grant, reported that for most parents, kindness and compassion are more important than success in their children.  In his research in the field of psychology he found that,

                Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say,
but by observing what they do.

By being active in Philoptochos, women across the country are modeling charitable behavior that in and of itself instills moral values in their children.  Actions speak louder than words and when children see their parents participating in philanthropic endeavors, helping others, and raising money for social causes, those actions are internalized as standards for good behavior.

Church attendance sets the stage for demonstrating a moral and philanthropic life.  Participating with family and continuing at home with Gospel readings and discussion exhibits an active faith of love and compassion.

In addition to the events that are tailor made for families such as church festivals and Make a Difference with Loukoumi Day (Oct. 25, 2014), bring your children along to watch or participate when visiting a nursing home, volunteering at a soup kitchen, running for a cause, or planting a vegetable garden to share with a pantry.

In fact, you don’t need to leave your home, if you work on Philoptochos reports, mailings, and writing at your own kitchen table where your children can see what you’re doing.  Ask them to help, even in a small way, and encourage them to come up with their own ideas on how to contribute to the community.

Let your children see and hear what you are doing for Philoptochos.  Your benevolence will expand to instill ethics in the next generation.

Read the article by Adam Grant for details on the psychological experiment: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-moral-child.html

National Philoptochos Honors Cyprus Commissioner Katherine Clerides

In honor of Mrs. Katherine Clerides, Commissioner of Humanitarian Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, the Executive Board of the National Philoptochos Society hosted an afternoon tea on April 3 at the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy.  National President Aphrodite Skeadas, together with Direct Archdiocesan District Philoptochos President Jennifer Constantin and Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos President Anne Michals, warmly welcomed Mrs. Clerides and the Honorable Consul General of Cyprus, Ambassador Vasilios Philippou. Offering greetings as well were National Board First Vice President Arlene Siavelis Kehl, and National Board Legal Advisor Anita Kartalopoulos.

While handmade Lenten tea sandwiches and pastries were enjoyed, the dignitaries and members present discussed critical aid to our brethren in Greece and Cyprus, for which the army of women who make up the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society have in 2012 and 2013 donated $425,000. 

Commissioner Clerides also discussed her leadership in philanthropic organizations for people with learning difficulties and for road safety.  Around the table, a valuable and emotional discussion took place whereby the women of Philoptochos shared moving stories of outreach to victims of natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the recent program assisting those who suffered from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  The frank discussion underscored the magnitude of impact Philoptochos has on those in need, both on the Chapter and Metropolis levels and throughout the National Philoptochos network as we work together serving those in need with love and respect. Metropolis of New Jersey and Direct Archdiocese District Presidents Anne Michals and Jennifer Constantin highlighted the essential role their Boards play as the link between the National Philoptochos and the local Philoptochos Chapters.

Mrs. Clerides has spent more than 35 years as a social activist in Cyprus.  She studied law in the United Kingdom and served for many years as a Member of Parliament in Cyprus.  One year ago she assumed the office of Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, in which she plays a leading role in the issues facing religious minorities, overseas Cypriots, and the efforts for reconciliation and dialogue between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.  She is the daughter of the former President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides.

The Diabetes Technology Clinic - A Better Way Forward

Diabetes is one of the most common long-term childhood diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three American children born today will develop diabetes during their lifetime.

At the National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon in October of 2013, $136,900 was awarded in grants for innovative research programs to pediatric hospitals and to organizations with special programs that care for children with critical and life threatening illnesses.

One of the grant recipients was University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH, receiving $21,000 for their Diabetes Technology Clinic. Our guest blogger this week is Sarah A. MacLeish, DO, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. Sarah gives us an overview of new technology being used today as well as how the Clinic is using this technology to help families monitor their children’s diabetes care.

The Rainbow Pediatric Diabetes Technology Clinic was started in November 2012 to help our patients understand and utilize the many areas of diabetes technology available.

Insulin pumps have been around for over 30 years, but newer pumps with more features are quickly becoming available.  Pumps have calculators that help families give the correct insulin dose.  Insulin doses are different for different times of the day and different meals, making insulin dose calculators very helpful.  Insulin pumps allow for very small, accurate doses of insulin which is especially important for young patients who require small doses. Information from the insulin pumps can be downloaded, giving doctor’s information about patient’s blood sugar, insulin dose, and carbohydrate intake, which can then be used to accurately adjust insulin doses. 

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are a newer diabetes technology. Within the past year, more accurate and smaller glucose sensors have become available in the United States.  CGMs involve a very small wire, about the size of a hair, that stays under the skin to measure glucose levels.  Attached to the wire is a small plastic glucose transmitter that sits on top of the skin and collects all the glucose information.  CGMs measure glucose every five minutes, giving a much better picture of what is happening to a patient’s blood sugar than just four to six blood sugar checks in a day.  CGMs can also set off an alarm to alert a patient about a high or low blood glucose. 

Very recently, the first step toward the artificial pancreas was approved for use in the United States.  This system involves an insulin pump and a CGM that work together.  If the CGM detects the glucose is low, it will alarm.  If no one responds to the alarm (such as if someone is sleeping very soundly or if they are unconscious), the insulin pump will stop delivery of insulin for up to two hours. 

At the Rainbow Diabetes Technology Clinic, we place CGMs on patients to use for one week and then we use the information to more accurately prescribe insulin doses.  Patients are also able to try different types of CGMs to see if having a CGM of their own, to use all the time, ia helpful.  We also help educate and train patients to use their insulin pumps and CGMs to their full ability.

Another area of focus is making sure our underserved patients – those on Medicaid insurance or without insurance – are able to use insulin pumps and CGMs to the same degree as their peers.  Last year we piloted a program involving the use of text messaging to communicate with the diabetes care team and were able to help seven underserved children start using insulin pumps.  The program also involved much more frequent diabetes appointments with education from the diabetes nurse and dietician.

One patient who participated in this program had always wanted an insulin pump.  Our patient and the patient’s  mom came to six different appointments to learn how to use the pump and frequently sent text messages to communicate with the doctor.  The patient’s blood sugar average went from 240 to 170, which is a big drop, and the patient is having a much easier time taking care of their diabetes.

We are so grateful for the grant from Philoptochos.  This grant is helping us to purchase CGMs and supplies, and will also help provide patients without insurance with supplies for their insulin pump.  A new part of the program we are just starting with the support of Philoptochos is to use a special computer program that will allow us to download information from almost all of the different types of blood sugar meters and insulin pumps.  This program requires less manpower from medical assistants, giving medical assistants more time for other important tasks.  In addition, the information will all be web-based, so if a patient calls with an emergency outside of office hours, the information from their pump or meter will be available anywhere.  This will also be available for patients to download from their home, so they can send the diabetes care team at Rainbow their blood sugar results between appointments. The grant will also help further train and educate our diabetes nurses in the fast-changing field of diabetes technology. 

Thank you Philoptochos for all of your help in improving Rainbow’s Diabetes Technology Clinic!

The Easter Gyro Fundraiser - A Fan Favorite

The Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church Philoptochos Chapter in Winchester, Virginia holds an annual Easter gyro sale to the delight of their parishioners and the local community. It is the Chapter’s largest fundraiser and it allows them to assist those in need both locally and nationally.

The Easter gyro booth generates about $3,000, a large amount for a small parish and community. The majority of the proceeds go towards Social Services to help individuals and families who are struggling and need the support of Philoptochos.

The Chapter began the fundraiser a couple of years ago. Chapter President Maria Boyer said, “I wanted a fundraiser that involved food as the profit margin is better than other fundraisers for us.” The Philoptochos Chapter also runs their annual festival gyro stand. A team of ladies is involved in the preparation both before and during the fundraisers, procuring the essential food items and assembling the gyros. As you can imagine, it’s not just the parish that looks forward to these fundraisers but also the larger Winchester community.

Philoptochos is synonymous with baking but what if your Chapter did something a little bit different, like this Chapter in Winchester, VA. How about selling lobster rolls, cheeseburgers, or perhaps apple, cherry, or lemon meringue pie? The possibilities are truly endless but it’s best to cater to your parish and the surrounding community and create a fundraiser that will stick in their mind year after year.

Happy first day of spring everyone!

-Vivian Siempos

Child’s Way - Offering Much Needed Care for Children with Complex Medical Needs

At the National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon in October of 2013, $136,900 was awarded in grants for innovative research programs to pediatric hospitals and to organizations with special programs that care for children with critical and life threatening illnesses.

One of the grant recipients was the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center, receiving $10,000 towards their Child’s Way program. Child’s Way provides a vital alternative or supplemental care for children with acute and chronic medical needs, giving kids the care they need while also offering educational and social activities. Our guest blogger today is Kelsey L. Williams, MPH of The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh and Lemieux Family Center, who gives a comprehensive look into Child’s Way’s history and services.

The work of The Children's Home of Pittsburgh began in 1893 as The Pennsylvania Children's Home Society. The organisation was founded to care for orphaned children and place them in permanent homes. The Adoption Program still thrives today after 120 years of operation. In the 1980s and 1990s, The Children's Home added two distinct, innovative medical programs with the purpose of furthering the continuum of care for children. The Pediatric Specialty Hospital (formerly Transitional Infant Care) opened in 1984 to provide a new model of sub-acute care for infants and their families; in 2007 this model was expanded to include patients up to age 21 with a wide variety of diagnoses. In 1998, Child’s Way was established as yet another model of alternative care for pediatric patients – a Pediatric Extended Care Center; in other words, Child’s Way® is a day care for children with complex medical needs.

The Children's Home established Child's Way as the first Pediatric Extended Care Center (PECC) in Pennsylvania to fill a significant gap in pediatric healthcare services with an innovative program – an alternative and supplement to home care for children with complex medical needs, ages birth to 21. The program provides medically skilled, daytime child care and therapeutic services, allowing families to maintain their employment and health insurance, or continue their education, while their children receive appropriate care. As the only alternative to home care nursing, Child’s Way offers coordinated services in one easy location, which helps ease the sense of isolation many of these families experience and relieves some of the demand created by the nursing shortage. We are the only PECC serving children in Allegheny County.

Staffed by pediatric registered nurses and child care associates, providing comprehensive care, the activities, interaction with other children, and therapies at Child’s Way ensure that each child receives the physical, emotional and intellectual stimulation that he or she needs to live a fuller, happier life and reach developmental milestones. 
  • Child’s Way has served over 350 children and their families 
  • 75 individual children were served in fiscal year 2013 
  • 32 new children were admitted to Child’s Way in 2013 (A program high!) 
  • In 2013, 10 children transitioned to traditional classroom settings which is the ultimate goal of the program, whenever medically and developmentally possible for a child
The programs of The Children’s Home & Lemieux Family Center continue to adapt and change in response to new needs in the community and are able to thrive by the generosity of organizations, foundations and individuals, committed to helping this region’s children and families. The grant provided by the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society allows The Children’s Home to provide scholarships to Child’s Way families, to ease the financial burden of providing the necessary care required by their child, which makes a tremendous impact.

For more information about Child’s Way or The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center, visit our website: www.childrenshomepgh.org. 

The Weirton Christian Center - Providing a Nurturing and Empowering Environment for Children in Need

At the National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon this past October 2013, $136,900 was given out in grants for innovative research programs to pediatric hospitals and to organizations with special programs that care for children with critical and life threatening illnesses.

One of the grant recipients was the Weirton Christian Center of Weirton, West Virginia, who received $5,000 towards their Journey Transportation Project. The Weirton Christian Center serves low-income families in the area, providing clothing, meals, gift cards for groceries for families in need. They also provide an after school program, educational assistance programs, a free preschool and transportation.

Our guest blogger this week is Kim Weaver, Executive Director of Weirton Christian Center. Kim explains the reasons behind the ongoing poverty in the area and why the Center’s services are essential for empowering children and their families.

The Weirton Christian Center began in 1917, the same year that Weirton Steel began.  There were 34 different ethnic groups that came to work in the mill and the Christian Center was the place where they learned English, gained citizenship, and met with friends.  Children received immunizations and programs included a basketball league, dance lessons, bible studies, kindergarten and more. So many of our friends at the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Weirton tell stories of growing up at the Center and all the ways it meant so much to them.

Times have changed in Weirton.  The mill has gone from 13,000 employees to less than 1,000.  There are more unemployed than ever and the big industry of gaming has taken over and many times is the reason for ongoing poverty.  Now, the Center is home to a free pre-school for ages three to five and a free after school program for  K-12th graders. The children arrive by school bus and are given a healthy snack as well as homework help and tutoring each day. Programs include literacy, fitness, music, sign language to praise songs, manners, leadership, and many more. They are provided with dinner three times each week and Blessing Bags of food for long weekends they are not in school with both breakfast and lunch.

Our donation room provides free school supplies at the beginning of the school year and all year long. We have new and used children’s clothing and shoes, and some household items for families. Our God’s Helping Hand Fund provides for emergency utility assistance, and other areas that affect our families.

Project Journey is about empowering people- especially children- through the Journey of Life.  Through these programs we provide training in life skills and transportation. We offer free transportation for pre-school classes and transportation by Center vans home for the children who come to the Center after school.  We have two vans, one   8-passenger and one 15-passenger that take the children home each night. Our 21-passenger van can only be used when we have a driver with a CDL license.  The vans take two trips each and sometimes more to get all the children home, all over town.   We also provide transportation for 12 children to and from the Christian school in Paris, Pennsylvania.  Families ask for rides to work, the grocery store, doctor and dentist appointments, school sporting events and practices. Since we have provided scholarships for Upward Basketball, we also take those children to their practices throughout the week, since most have no other way of getting there.

Thanks to the National Philoptochos Society Children’s Medical Fund, our vehicles will continue to be of service to the underprivileged children and families in our community. 

-Kim Weaver, Executive Director
Weirton Christian Center

Does Philoptochos Promote Heart Health?

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s national call to increase awareness and help prevent heart disease, the number one killer of American women.

The National Philoptochos Society promotes the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to increase awareness.  The American Heart Association has designated Friday, February 7, 2014 as National Wear Red Day. In support of this program, we are designating Sunday, February 9 as Go Red Sunday and are asking our Philoptochos sisters across the country to join the movement and wear red when attending Church services.  Share information with your Philoptochos sisters, your parish community and all the women you know and love in regards to heart health and heart disease prevention.

With this in mind we have invited one of our beloved regular contributors to Philanthropy by Philoptochos to write about heart health. Denise Millstine, MD not only gives us some wonderful tips in this post on how to keep our hearts healthy but also explains how by being members of Philoptochos we are already giving our hearts a healthy boost.

Have you ever found yourself trying to be healthy only to learn what you are doing is “wrong”? Perhaps you were eating eggs in the morning, only to be told they are causing your cholesterol to be high. Maybe you were running regularly then read it may cause strain on your heart?

The health of our cardiovascular system is dependent upon many variables, some of which are modifiable by our actions, lifestyle, and choices. Still, the advice can be complicated and confusing – not to mention inconsistent and always changing.

It is probably simpler than it seems. Four pillars of heart health have been described by world-renowned researcher and health expert Dr. Dean Ornish, and they are, or easily could be, aligned with our Philoptochos activities and mission.

The pillars are:
    1.    Nutrition
    2.    Fitness
    3.    Stress Management
    4.    Love & Support
(ornishspectrum.com, accessed 1/12/14)

1. Nutrition

What should we eat? Food that we recognize as food – and that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would recognize as well! If we are eating from a package, there is a good chance our “food” does not meet this criteria. One of the easiest ways to eat real food is to stay on the perimeter of your supermarket – venturing into those inner aisles only on rare occasions.

As Philoptochos, we can encourage this in our communities and families by creating traditional dishes. Next time you serve roast pork, salad, green beans, and rice or homemade bread, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

2. Fitness 

We all need to move. The standard recommendation is 2 ½ hours per week of moderate exercise. This can be measured by whether or not you can easily hold a conversation during the exertion.

Often, we put the needs of others first and we don’t take the time to prioritize exercise for ourselves. Maybe you cringe at the thought of “hitting the gym” or were injured last time you tried to embrace a fitness program.

If you can, do the exercise with intention and intensity. If you can’t, buy a pedometer to wear as you serve your family, community, and church. You just might find that tracking your steps and setting a goal, probably around 10,000 per day, will encourage more movement incorporated into your daily life.

3. Stress Management

Stress is necessary. A world without stress is not a productive one. Stress can also cause disease. Too much stress contributes to anxiety and insomnia. Did you know it also weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infection, such as colds? Stress, in excess, contributes to chronic diseases as well and must be kept in check.

A Philoptochos woman has a lot to balance – family, career, volunteering, planning, serving, just to name a few. I know each of you has found yourself up late at night baking, putting final details in place for an event or responding to emails. There are many strategies for managing stress, and it is important to choose one that speaks to you. Consider exercise, meditation, music, and prayer. Pausing to acknowledge the present moment and expressing gratitude to God is always a great idea, and it can serve your health as well!

4. Love & Support

We don’t often remember the power of community in maintaining our health or reversing heart disease. Dr. Ornish has found this “connectedness” to be an integral part of treating and reversing heart disease.

You invite. You welcome. You link yourself to other women in Philoptochos and strengthen those bonds with time, trust, and shared experiences. Next time you find yourself preparing a room for an event or sitting around a table in planning, let the love you feel for the women around you fill your heart – and make you healthy at the same time!

Maybe I should start writing this prescription to my patients who are concerned about heart disease: “Join Philoptochos!”
-Denise Millstine, MD

Autism Awareness – An Interview with Steve Mulvoy

Our guest blogger this week is one of our National Board members, Barbara Orlando, from Massachusetts. She is on the National Philoptochos Autism Assistance Fund Committee and wants to make a difference by spreading awareness of autism and by doing so, alerting all of the support available locally and nationally and the support we must all give to individuals and families who face an autism diagnosis. Barbara recently interviewed one of her parishioners with autism, here is his story, told by Barbara:

Paul Bobotas, Steve Mulvoy, Barbara Orlando, and George Stavros
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Steve Mulvoy, a fellow Parishioner at Saint Gregory the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church in Mansfield, MA. We spoke at length about his condition known as Asperger’s syndrome*.

Steve’s mother noticed certain behaviors when Steve was about four years old that caused her enough concern to bring him to a neurologist for testing. The testing confirmed his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.

Steve resides in Medfield, MA with his father, Thomas, and his brothers. Steve was very open about his Asperger’s. He told me to please “Ask him anything.” He reflected on his younger years and said that he had a tendency to isolate himself, especially in grade school. Steve credits his late mother for helping him attend the “Learning Prep” School in Newton, Ma. She advocated for him every step of the way. She would not give up on helping Steve attain the proper educational placement. She met with the local superintendent of schools and insisted that Steve be given the opportunity to attend “Learning Prep.”

Steve said that in middle school he began to have a few friends who shared the same background as himself. Steve mentioned that he was an excellent speller in school and won all the spelling bees. In high school he attained all A’s and B’s. Steve said that he would not have done so well had it not been for the small classroom sizes of no more than ten students.

Steve went on to attend Mount Ida College in Newton and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in May of 2011. He works part-time assisting a neighbor in their office, keeping things organized and tying up loose ends. Steve also is very active in Church, teaching Sunday school, helping out with both third and fourth grade classes and high school.

He is a wonderful young man and was a pleasure to speak to. Steve is a beautiful example of how Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t hold a person back. People with Asperger’s syndrome experience difficulties in the area of social imagination, communication and interaction.

People with Asperger’s syndrome face varying degrees of difficulty, as individuals, they have different strengths and needs. There is great support available through organizations as well as the local community.

Here are a few resources for individuals and families faced with an autism diagnosis who would like more information or support:

  • The May Institute is a school for Autistic children, founded on Cape Cod in 1955. It now has 165 programs located nationwide. http://www.mayinstitute.org/ 

  • The American Autism Association's website contains a variety of information, a blog, recent updates on research and links for all ages from young children to adults.  http://www.myautism.org/

  • The National Autism Association is an excellent resource that also offers a blog, information on wandering and safety, many contacts for information, and a place for parents and loved ones to express their concerns. http://nationalautismassociation.org/

- Barbara Orlando

* The diagnosis of Asperger's was eliminated in the 2013 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)  and replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale.

Ovarian Cancer - Facts All Women Should Know

"This is an important initiative for us, as a women's organization, to undertake. Simply put, awareness about ovarian cancer will save lives - that is our goal."
-National Philoptochos President Aphrodite Skeadas 

In the September/October issue of the Philanthropy Witness we announced a grant that was awarded to National Philoptochos from the HERA Women's Cancer Foundation towards disseminating bilingual information about the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Philoptochos efforts were to focus on reaching out to women and their families who are unwilling or unable to access mainstream services due to language and/or cultural barriers.

Paulette Geanacopoulous, National Philoptochos' Director of Social Work, who wrote the proposal and the Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheets in Greek and English said, "Unlike other gender-based cancers, there is no one reliable early detection test for ovarian cancer. Consequently, we must know and recognize its symptoms so that we can act quickly and appropriately."

Is it an ovarian cyst or ovarian cancer?

Is it an abdominal condition or ovarian cancer?

Is it constipation or ovarian cancer?

OVARIAN CANCER is a deadly disease that kills more women than all other reproductive cancers combined. Because it is hard to detect - there is no one reliable test to identify it - and as some of its symptoms are similar to other conditions, it is important to recognize it signs so that we can act quickly and appropriately. As a women's organization, it is equally important for us to "get the word out" - to our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, to our daughters, neighbors, and friends so that they know what to look for. To help you do so, we have prepared an "Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet" - both in Greek and in English.

We urge you to take one or more of the actions to broadly distribute these Fact Sheets throughout your Chapter, Parish and community-at-large:

  • Ask your priest to include both in your Sunday Bulletin
  • Distribute copies to the organizations in your Church, including the Parish Council, GOYA, Greek and Sunday Schools, parent organizations, senior citizen groups, etc.
  • Post both Fact Sheets in the women's rooms of your Church.
  • Place both Fact Sheets in a public area of your Church. 
  • Ask a local newspaper to publish the Fact Sheets and ask the local "health editor" to write an article on ovarian cancer.
  • Invite a gynecological oncologist from a local hospital or cancer society to one of your general meetings to give a presentation on ovarian cancer.
  • Use your imagination - what else works in your community to get the word out?