We have come to expect that Philoptochos organizations throughout the archdiocese will work hard to raise funds to help the poor and otherwise needy. But it takes special vision for the women of that group to open the door to charitable activity for the youth of their community. Yet, over the past five years, involving youth in their charity efforts is precisely what the Philoptochos women of St. Demetrios Church in Merrick have done.
Children under the age of 16 have been sponsoring coffee hours and holding an annual toy and book drive to help their peers, the children and the work of the Greek Children’s Fund, which five years ago expanded its reach from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan to Schneider’s Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park on Long Island.
While St. Barbara’s has donated approximately $13,000 to the Fund in the last five years, the children’s contributions have gone beyond a monetary value and have brought, through their donations of books and toys, a different kind of gift.
As Philoptochos President Barbara Kolis Miciotta explained, “A toy or a book may seem like a small token, but to an ill child and their family far from home, it sends the message of love and hope; it tells them they are not alone and that there will be laughter and much joy in their future.”
The toy and book drive idea was the result of a wish expressed by Mrs. Aspasia Gounaris, Greek Children’s Fund Social Worker at Schneider’s, to St. Barbara’s Philoptochos’ Board of Directors.
“Mrs. Gounaris said toys and books in both Greek and English were needed for the families who spend so much time in the hospital,” Mrs. Miciotta explained. “And this is how the idea of Agape (the Greek word for “love”) began.
“In addition to supporting the Greek Children’s Fund’s activities, these wonderful young people have sent valentines to the elderly of St. Michael’s Home for the Aged in Yonkers. They are also collecting additional boxes of baby dolls and sports equipment for the needy in the Rockville Centre area for Christmas. We feel this kind of giving is a vital contribution to our community as well as a positive life lesson for our children,” Mrs. Miciotta said.
“It is imperative that our youth understand the gift of giving as a way of life, not, as many see it, as a tool to make themselves feel and look good. I truly believe that all greatness in people comes from an understanding that we are here to react to and share with one and other. This is the heart and soul of Philoptochos to me; it is the spirit by which you give, not the act of giving, that teaches us the humility and grace necessary to carry on so noble a cause as philanthropy.”