Volunteers Make a Difference at St. Michael’s Home

May 2016
Aspasia Melis, Tenafly, New Jersey
As Philoptochos members, we share the desire to be of service and to give, in some way, our time, talents or compassion to those in need.  One tie that bonds us together was often instilled in our own homes, from our mothers and yiayias, who taught the importance of caregiving and nurturing.  As Greek Orthodox faithful, we place great value on the importance of family.  Our parents and grandparents-- many who journeyed to America for opportunity-- always stressed the importance of the Church and tradition.
During my term as President of the Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos, I quickly realized the value and beauty of St. Michael’s Home for the Aged, located in Yonkers, New York.  St. Michael’s Home is an adult care facility for the elderly members of our community.   From my first visit to St. Michael’s Home, where I met with the Director, His Grace Bishop Andonios and the beloved residents, I realized that the Philoptochos needed to help this sacred mission of our Church.
It was important for me to inform all the Philoptochos chapters in our Metropolis, about
the benefits of St. Michael's Home for the Aged and to ask that they share information about this institution with others in their  communities.  The chapters enthusiastically adopted St. Michael's Home as one of our Metropolis projects. They wanted to work with, and help serve these elderly residents, who were once able to give so much to us.
Chapters were encouraged to provide interested members with the opportunity to join an organized group of St. Michael’s Home volunteers. Thirty years later, this group still exists. This is where our caregiving and nurturing is able to shine! We visit the Home to help bring enjoyment and comfort to those whose lives can be sad and lonely. Together we host monthly birthday parties with gifts, cake and singing. We celebrate special holidays such as Greek Independence Day, the Fourth of July and October 28th.
In addition, the committee organizes various theme parties for Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Other enjoyable activities include bowling games, exercise classes, dancing, singing, jokes and storytelling. The residents are treated to activities away from St. Michael’s Home. Various Philoptochos chapters host luncheons in their honor and there are dinners at local Greek tavernas. Many groups are invited to perform. These include carolers during the Christmas season, Goyans performing plays during “Sights and Sounds” and bouzouki players who come and fill the air with the favorite music of the residents.
Over the years, the volunteers have found their niches and their own ways to help. Some arrange and prepare these events, some decorate, others coordinate songs and dances. There are those who tell jokes that never fail to bring tons of laughter! The rewards for our volunteer work have been so wonderful. To see the residents of St. Michael’s Home enjoying themselves, to hear their laughter, to form special bonds with these individuals, never fails to encourage us to do more for this very special place.
Their happiness is our happiness.

Membership Growth Takes a Personal Touch

April 2016
Alexis Limberakis, Ambler, PA
Philoptochos is Philanthropy-Fellowship-Faith in Action!
Membership growth and retention is a key component to the success of any organization and Philoptochos is no exception.

Although the annual Membership Drive begins in January, membership growth should be on the agenda of every Philoptochos chapter all year. As members ourselves, we should always realize that this entails the responsibility to let all women in our parish know about the extraordinary work that each Philoptochos chapter does.

Members are the face of Philoptochos and its best recruiting tool! In my experience I have learned that the best way to reach women is the “one on one” approach. I have surprisingly learned that many women had not joined because no one had ever asked them to do so!

I have also been surprised to learn that many women do not know the purpose  of Philoptochos.  This revelation has led me to realize that many of us automatically assume that everyone knows about our philanthropic mission. Or maybe chapters are waiting to  be approached by potential members. Either one of these scenarios will not help increase the membership level of any chapter!
What simple issues to resolve! There are many opportunities to introduce others to our dynamic organization. So often there are new members in a parish or long time parishioners who have never joined. Take a few moments to explain and enlighten these individuals about the scope of our philanthropy!  A friendly smile and an invitation to come to a Philoptochos meeting can go a long way!

Sometimes we are faced with the challenge of changing certain perceptions about Philoptochos. Perceptions that we are simply “the ladies that bake”. While baking is still part of most chapters, it truly is a small part. As members, we need to present the bigger picture of Philoptochos philanthropy, which is certainly not funded only by bake sales.
In the February/March 2016 issue of the Orthodox Observer, it was reported that National Philoptochos disbursed $1.74 million for philanthropy. This impressive figure does not include what the different Metropolis boards disburse nor does it include what the more than 400 local chapters disburse. What a stellar example of philanthropy we have in our parishes! Use this information as a way to educate others on the ability of Philoptochos to help those in need.

I believe that many people, including  younger women and millennials, want to do hands-on outreach and just need an outlet to do so. Philoptochos  offers that avenue. It cannot be overemphasized that the more members we have, the greater effect we will have in changing lives for the better.
It is my hope that all members make that extra effort to bring all Greek Orthodox women into our Sisterhood. Use the personal approach and also be approachable! Women do join because someone reached out to acknowledge and welcome them to experience philanthropy, faith and fellowship in action!