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.