The Surge in Poverty
The number of poor people in the United States has always been a problem, as was evident from the long lines at food banks and shelters on Thanksgiving Day. This number is growing, and unfortunately, it has become a problem that society has come to accept as more or less natural, dismissing it as a consequence of the innate weaknesses in the system. I am glad to say that our Community is gradually showing more sensitivity to the issue of helping the poor. But it is important that this act of philanthropy does not end up being used as a means of showing off our supposed superior morals, or as a public relations gimmick. That would be a real shame... After the civil war, poverty in Greece began to decline. For example, things never got so bad that parents were forced to abandon their children at orphanages because there was not enough food at home to feed them. Things never reached a point of such desperation that businessmen would end up committing suicide. You would never see well dressed people searching for food in dumpsters, like you do today. The financial crisis that has hit Greece over the past two years has changed everything. It has plunged a large part of society into the desperation of poverty. Once upon a time, we would ask ourselves what the government was doing to alleviate this problem. Today, we are just praying that these will be the last of the austerity measures it will implement; measures that are sending the weakest members of society into financial ruin. Fortunately, the Church of Greece and a few philanthropic institutions that existed or were set up after the crisis have come to partially make up for the absence of the state in helping the poor. One of "our" benevolent organizations has also joined in this good cause. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has set aside one million euro for a multifaceted pilot program designed to provide some respite to the poor. No matter how strong a foundation is - and SNF certainly is - it should not serve as a substitute for state services, even it could. And so, SNF President Andreas Dracopoulos stresses at every opportunity that the foundation he is heading is not taking the place of the state, it is complementing it. The message here is that there is a role for all of us to play. Together with the other challenges facing the Greek American Community, aiding the poor people in Greece needs to become a priority now. Can we really eat, drink, and be merry in good conscience knowing that some of our brethren our there are hungry?