Reading, PA.- As soon as the terrible news of the fires in Greece began to be reported all throughout the news media last summer, the Parishioners of Sts. Constantine & Helen Parish, of Reading, PA indicated they wanted to help.
The first thought was to send clothing and other supplies for needy families. But soon the Parishioners were informed that there enough clothes for these families that were affected. However, there was a serious shortage of money for these victims to rebuild their homes and farms, and to replace their lost livestock.
It was about that time that the Pastor of the Parish, Rev. Fr. Thomas Pappalas, was planning a trip to Greece in order to officiate at his cousinʼs wedding, which was actually being held very near to one of the affected areas. It was then that a decision was made to conduct a drive in the Parish and to have Fr. Tom personally deliver the money to the needy families in that area while he was in Greece.
An account was opened in Greece and the money was wired into that account to be ready for used by Fr. Tom. When he was in Greece, Fr. Tom first consulted with Mayors and Priests of the affected areas to determine which families had the greatest need. Fr. Tom was also advised to meet with a Priest in the nearby Monastery who had a reputation as a very devout and sincere individual. So, Fr. Tom traveled to the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Sepetou, and met with Archimandrite Fr. George Zaharopoulos. Fr. Zaharopoulos recounted his experiences during the times of the fires. He told Fr. Tom that we he saw the fires approaching, that he and everyone else evacuated the Monastery and from a distance, they watched as the fires came closer and closer to the Monastery. Fr. George, himself, started making plans in his mind as to how he would rebuild the Monastery as the fires approached the building. But, lo and behold, the fires went almost directly up to the Monastery but, incredibly, did not damage the Monastery other than some scorched walls. This was truly a miracle in the minds of many.
After a long accounting of what transpired, the two priests then toured the distressed area and talked to many of the families. They chose those families that were in most need and gave each of the families 1,000 euros (which is about $1,500.00). A receipt was issued by Fr. George from Fr. Tom for the money received by these families, and the wonderful deeds of the Reading Community were now complete.
Upon his return to his Parish in Reading, Fr. Tom described the great destruction that he witnessed. He recounted that the area, which unfortunately was the area where Fr. Tomʼs mother was born, suffered more damage than what he imagined from the reports that he had seen in the newspapers and on television. He saw many families that lost everything they had – their homes, livestock and their olive trees, and he expressed that, hopefully, the wonderful gesture by those who participated in giving from the Reading Parish would make a difference in so many lives.