New York.- His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America received a generous $50,000 donation for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund from Orthodox Christian Charities of Wisconsin (OCCW), presented by Co-founders Arthur and Chrysoula Labros at the Archdiocese on September 15th.
OCCW was founded in the State of Wisconsin in 1998 as a non-profit public charity under the auspices of the Clergy SYNDESMOS. Mr. Labros serves as Chairman of the Board and Mrs. Labros as President and oversees the Board of Directors which is comprised of 15 board members. OCCW works in cooperation with Orthodox Churches and also reaches out to needy individuals and organizations regardless of means or faith. Since its inception, the Charity has made grants and donations to the Orthodox community in excess of $200,000.
Rev. Fr. Milton Gianulis, an Orthodox chaplain assigned to the Iwo Jima, currently deployed as an operations command center in New Orleans, and commanded by Capt. Richard Callas. Fr. Milton reports:
“We completely cleaned out the church today – scrubbed and mopped it thoroughly. I personally cleaned out the altar with the help of Fr. Michael Hendrickson, a Roman Catholic Chaplain and my assistant. All the woodwork except the iconostasion and the pews will have to be replaced. Had we not gotten in there we probably would have lost the iconography. However, I think we saved it. All the icons on the iconostasion, pulpit were cleaned of mold and mildew, but are fine now. The megas ierarchis on the episcopal throne will have to be retouched.
They are ready for liturgy this Sunday, and I am able to celebrate. Our Captain, Richard (Haralambos) Callas will attend along with many of those who worked today.
We got to the church today in 2 5-ton trucks and a Humvee. Please ask His Eminence for his blessings, and let him know this was our pleasure to restore a house of worship. Of the 40 odd sailors, only 3 were Orthodox.
Iwo Jima has joined Joint Task Force Katrina to deliver much-needed supplies, medicine and evacuation capabilities to the Gulf Coast states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. As the operations command center, the Iwo Jima coordinates interactions between different branches of the Army, Navy, Marines, and US Coast Guard, as directed by FEMA headquarters in Baton Rouge. Iwo Jima will serve as the launch pad for amphibious and air operations to deliver supplies and support massive recovery and assistance efforts on the Gulf coast. Evacuees are also being treated on board by a team of about 80 doctors.
His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios stated:
“We give glory and thanksgiving to God for the faithful and devoted efforts of Fr. Milton, Fr. Michael and the sailors of the Iwo Jima, not only for their hard work restoring our beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral so that it could be used once more as a house of worship, but also for their service to all our suffering brothers and sisters in the region. Truly their efforts are a blessing from Above and may God bless them and keep them in His care, as they continue their mission of mercy and restoration.”
Orthodox Christians in Texas have worked tirelessly since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast to deliver emergency supplies, welcome those displaced from neighboring states and partner with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to provide relief to the region.
“The devastating hurricane which has ravaged the Gulf Coast states of our country… is a reminder to all of us that tragedies in the world are dramatically increasing and that one’s life can be taken in the twinkling of an eye,” wrote Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver in a letter to parishes encouraging them to respond through IOCC.
Orthodox parishes in the Metropolis of Denver and throughout the United States have collected funds for the effort and prepared health kits for the hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee the devastated region.
Just days after the hurricane, when people were retreating from New Orleans, Leon Vezos organized a shipment of emergency items and headed to Baton Rouge, La. After loading a truck with water and Gatorade over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Vezos personally drove the supplies which were distributed to rural communities in and around Alexandria, La.
Fr. Gabriel Karambis, Dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where Vezos is a member, has encouraged Orthodox Christians in the community to join in the effort and made available the resources of his parish. Orthodox Christians throughout the city have worked to prepare additional supplies for transfer to Baton Rouge, La. The effort resulted in truckload of urgently-needed diapers, water, Gatorade, clothes and health kits.
Houston, along with Baton Rouge, La. and Mobile, Ala., has become a center for IOCC operations where staff from its Emergency Response Network is coordinating aid to survivors of the disaster.
The IOCC Emergency Response Center in Houston is hosted by St. George Antiochian Church, which is providing office, storage space, and accommodations for the IOCC staff.
IOCC’s emergency response network, comprised of trained Orthodox clergy and their U.S. parish communities, provides emergency services to people struggling to recover from natural or man-made disasters.
Contributions to IOCC’s Hurricane Disaster Response Fund may be sent to IOCC, “Hurricane Relief,” P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225. Donations may also be made online at www.iocc.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-803-IOCC (4622).
Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).