Phoenix, AZ.- Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
The National Philoptochos Convention that took place last week in Phoenix, Arizona, celebrated the organization’s 80 years of philanthropy. The general assembly opened on Sunday.. Archbishop Demetrios offered the invocation and introduced Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, who offered his greetings to the Philoptochos and read a message in Greek from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was followed by a video message from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offering his gratitude for the work done by the women of Philoptochos in the last 80 years.
In her opening remarks, National Philoptochos President Aphrodite Skeadas thanked the “resilient women of action” for their hard work and dedication. This year the number of Philoptochos registrants was the second highest in Philoptochos history, and also the highest number in the last 14 years, Mrs. Skeadas said.
She reported that Philoptochos is in an excellent state, operating with a surplus and is exceeding goals and surpassing benchmarks, while still planning for the future. She said Philoptochos has given more in the last two years since the 2010 convention than any other two-year period. In addition, some $2 million has been raised for the planned Center of Philanthropy.
Philoptochos recently donated $160,000 to the relief efforts in Greece. The funds were disbursed to nongovernmental organizations in Greece targeting major cities to alleviate hunger and homelessness and to strengthen family and children services. These funds are in addition to the $25,000 sent in February.
In an effort to be more eco-friendly this year rather than receiving a binder of information, delegates received a jump drive that they may take home to access Philoptochos materials.
Mrs. Skeadas also reported some sad news, the passing of former National President Mimi Skandalakis, who served from 1994-98. The Trisagion will be held today and the funeral service will take place Tuesday at Annunciation Cathedral in Atlanta. Complete information will appear in the July-August issue of the Observer. The National Philoptochos Convention will continue meeting through Wednesday.
The charm that has radiated from the fivebook children’s series about the good-natured Loukoumi the lamb was present during Monday’s Philoptochos general assembly session as author Nick Katsoris took the podium and spoke of his inspiration and goals.
An attorney in New York, Katsoris told the 392 delegates that his late Thea Kay, who once lived in Phoenix, offered him encouragement as a youth to strive to reach his goals and live his dreams, which included writing. That led him to eventually write the five Loukoumi books, which have been well received and beloved by young readers and their parents. Some of the proceeds have been donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis — and now will also include Philoptochos.
Katsoris then pledged to donate $4 from the sale of each “Loukoumi” book to Philoptochos and donate one book for every one sold to the group for distribution to schools and charitable organizations around the world as part of Philoptochos’ literacy campaign.
As he made the announcement, the delegates cheered, and real loukoumi candy was passed around for a sweet expression. A life-size Loukoumi mascot walked into the assembly room to the cheers of the delegates and the day’s meeting took on a celebratory tone. Loukoumi books he brought to the Clergy-Laity to sell with his signature promptly sold out.
Katsoris said he has made it a priority in his life to work toward helping others, and that is a major theme in the Loukoumi books. He has also written a column for the Hellenic Times and helped raise more than $2 million for scholarships through the Hellenic Scholarship Fund. Many of the recipients now return to help him help others, he said.
In other news from Monday’s sessions, a series of strong testimonials were given by young women who had received support from Philoptochos programs and missions over the years.
Stavroula Katsifas spoke emotionally of her “family” at Saint Basil Academy where she was raised after the death of her father before she was of grade school age. She is now a youth counselor and has dedicated her life to helping young people because of the emotional support she received at the Academy in Garrison, NY that is supported by Philoptochos.
Other speakers included Rada Tierney, who spoke of the IOCC and its international mission to help others including newly baptized Orthodox Christians in developing countries, Arianna Ranahosseini, who spoke of her affiliation with the OCF, and Antonia Adams, who as a young missionary funded in part by Philoptochos, has helped to spread the Gospel around the world.
Christine Karavites and Barbara Pasalis also presented updates on a new venture for helping Philoptochos spread its wings: The advent of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and texting to get the latest news of the group’s mission out in real time.
Maria Skiadas reported that the 2011 Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon was a huge success with more than 600 in attendance.