CHICAGO – An astonishing number of individuals – more than 1,100 – came together under one roof in support of the Metropolis of Chicago’s hospitals and children’s programs at the sold out National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund (CMF) Luncheon at the Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile in Chicago, November 16.
Established in 1989, the CMF has raised over $3.8 million for grants, medical programs, and facilities that offer care, treatment, innovative research, and cures for children in the U.S. and abroad. A biennial event, the CMF was last held in Chicago 18 years ago.
Archbishop Elpidophoros, who was present at the event along with Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago, and Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, designated the Sunday of the Good Samaritan each year as “National Philoptochos Society Sunday.”
The Archbishop addressed guests, praising their achievements in philanthropy. “Nothing you do is small or insignificant. Each fashion show, each festival of tables, each coffee hour that you host, has great value,” he said. “Each member of Philoptochos has great value. This is because you work together, in every parish, in every Metropolis, and across our Archdiocese…you prove that alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
This year, National Philoptochos President, Maria Logus, and Metropolis of Chicago Philoptochos President and Luncheon Chair, Pamela Agyris, disbursed nearly $300,000 to several CMF Grant recipients, an 18% increase of funds compared with the last CMF Luncheon held in New Jersey in 2017.
“The women and the entire community have exceeded all goals and expectations,” said Aphrodite Skeadas, past National Philoptochos president, and a member of Philoptochos for over forty years. “Donating $300,000 today is remarkable, but expected, because the women of Chicago know how to do it, and they get the job done.”
“Philoptochos women have the biggest, most faithful hearts, and the love for children,” said Jeannie Ranglas, president of the Metropolis of San Francisco Philoptochos, and first vice president of the National Ladies Philoptochos Society.
The desire to care for the less fortunate is inspired by the women’s very own mothers and grandmothers, she explained. “It’s been passed down to us through the generations,” said Ranglas, who recounted a story where she compared Philoptochos to baklava, a traditional sweet the ladies bake and offer in exchange for donations at various gatherings.
“Philoptochos is like baklava,” Ranglas said. “You have layers and layers of philanthropic work, and each layer represents a generation…there are some nuts in there, and that gives us an edge to be a little nutty too, but in the end, that baklava stands strong with each generation working together.”
For the ladies of Philoptochos, philanthropy runs deep in their veins, many having joined the cause as very young adults, or even children. “I have been involved in Philoptochos since I was two years old,” said Evangeline Scurtis, past Metropolis president and national officer, who flew in for the event from Miami. “My father was a pastor, and I have been dedicated to Philoptochos my entire life,” she said. In 2018 alone, the National Philoptochos distributed over $1.37 million in philanthropic aid.
Marylin Tzakis, chairman of sponsors, noted the outpouring of support from the almost 500 Philoptochos chapters was overwhelming. “Even the small chapters sending $100…it all adds up,” she said. “The ladies really worked hard. We cannot say enough about our Metropolis chapters in Chicago. They came through in a big way.”
(With over 25,000 members strong nationwide, the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society is the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (Photo by by Bill Melonides)
Their fundraising effort, Co-chair of Sponsors, Kathy Walsrom explained, was the result of a year and a half worth of work, and countless phone calls. “And we can’t forget the little chapters with tiny little churches that sent support,” Walstrom said.
The luncheon also commemorated the life and contributions of Anastasia Michals of blessed memory, dedicated Philoptochos member and chair of the sixteenth CMF Luncheon.
“I have the distinct pleasure of being married to Anne for just short of 42 years,” said husband Jeffrey Michals holding back tears. “During that time, I saw first-hand that no matter what role Anne pursued, be that wife, mother, friend, associate or mentor, she left a lasting impression on those she came in contact with. She was driven by a deep desire to help others…and led by example,” he said.
Established in 1989, the CMF has raised over $3.8 million for grants, medical programs, and facilities that offer care, treatment, innovative research, and cures for children in the U.S. and abroad. (Photo by by Bill Melonides)
Featured at the event were keynote speaker, Reverend Fr. Mark Mun?oz of Holy Anargyroi, Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester, MN, and a video with the theme “Kids Helping Kids,” as well as a musical interlude presented by the Philoptochos Friends in Music.
Serving as Emcee for the afternoon was Andrea Darlas, award-winning news anchor and senior director for constituent engagement at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The national anthems were sung by John Vranas and Maria Koutsis, while Consul General of Greece in Chicago Ekaterina Dimakis spoke about the importance of Philoptochos. “I just want to commend you all for your struggles, for your efforts, for your achievements, and I want to encourage you to continue this great work you are doing.”
The Philoptochos CMF Luncheon is held on a rotating basis within the Direct Archdiocesan District and the eight Metropolises of the Archdiocese every two years.