Philoptochos Role Models Are Shining Stars

January 2017
Lekita Essa, Raleigh, North Carolina

My first experiences at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC still warm my heart. The outpouring of love and friendship made me want to become a part of the community and get involved.

My nouna, Pota Vallas, one of the founding members of our Philoptochos chapter, brought me to my first Philoptochos meeting. I did not fully understand the meaning of philanthropia or the value of this connection for me. I was moved by its mission statement: to aid the poor, to promote charitable works, to preserve and perpetuate our faith traditions and promote community participation. I found myself wanting to participate and dedicate myself to the work of our Philoptochos chapter.   

Each Philoptochos sister I have come to know has influenced my life and helped form my thoughts and actions. On any given subject, we have as many passionate thoughts and opinions as we have members, but by the end of each meeting, there is consensus.   

In particular, there are four Philoptochos women who have been mentors and role models to me.   

Pota Vallas, my nouna, now 108 years young, inspires me through her life as an immigrant, a business woman and a community leader. She has shown that being a “friend to the poor” is of utmost importance. She has taught me that not everyone has the talent or ability to work an event, but if we can’t be working, we need to be a major consumer or supporter! The key is to be involved and give back.    

Artie Sarayotis and Mitsa Capetanos, two of our “50 plus years” members continue to teach me the true meaning of service.  Mitsa arrived from Greece in 1959. Four days later, she attended her first Philoptochos meeting at Holy Trinity!   Artie moved to Raleigh from New York almost 40 years ago and brought many new ideas. Artie and Mitsa make a great team, having served as chapter officers and event chairpersons, always inspiring others with their leadership and positive approach.   

Each leads by example, selflessly giving their time and talent, teaching that everyone should utilize their unique gifts to help others. Artie, walking spry with a walker and Mitsa, active with her cane, are the first to show up for meetings. Observing their lives and all they give, nudges me to inventory my own life and how I might serve.   

Like many of you, I have the pleasure of having friendships with Philoptochos women from other cities. The enthusiasm of Evan Scurtis for Philoptochos is contagious. Evan lives in Miami and is a long-time Philoptochos member of the St. Sophia parish. A natural leader, she deftly reaches out and serves Philoptochos on the chapter, Metropolis and National levels. She generously shares her knowledge and time with others and inspires those around her to give more of themselves.    

Through the example of her own life, Evan has given me a deeper understanding of the true mission of Philoptochos. Her simple, yet powerful, description of our mission is engraved in my mind and heart, “The core mission of Philoptochos is social service – Philanthropy”. She practices this every day. She seeks to have a positive impact on every life she touches and her dedication to Philoptochos continues to inspire me to do the same.

Philoptochos sisters have taught me that we are responsible to give and volunteer with an open heart. We are here to serve, to inspire to work side by side, to be respectful, to teach and be taught.  As we continue our journey of philanthropia, may we always enjoy each other every step of the way!