BAY RIDGE, NY – Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge held its fourth annual benefit for the Holy Cross Brooklyn Outreach Center (HCBOC) at the Casa Calamari Restaurant on February 25. HCBOC is a nonprofit organization for the poor, the homeless, and the elderly.
Its purpose is to provide help and hope to individuals to improve their physical and mental health and to improve their economic and social situation.
Present at the event were the founding members of the organization, Father Gerasimos Makris, Maria Vasaka-Monioudis, and Zoe Koutsoupakis.
“In its years of operation, the Holy Cross Brooklyn Outreach Center has developed into a dynamic organization. We have embraced our youth. We help with clothes and food, all those who need it. Families in need can contact our organization. It is important to remember that there are many serious and tragic reasons that can lead people to homelessness. And of course I would not like to forget that we need volunteers, as our organization grows,” Koutsoupakis told The National Herald.
The organization started its work in 2008 on the initiative of Fr. Makris. Every third Friday of the month, volunteers make packages with sandwiches, water, and cookies which they distribute at night to the homeless.
“Our first mission was 60 sandwiches, and today we are distributing 450 sandwiches a month,” said Maria Vasaka-Monioudis. “It is important to remember that appearances can be deceiving. One can see Manhattan’s wealthy rich neighborhoods and cannot imagine that the same neighborhoods when night falls are unrecognizable and filled with homeless people sleeping in boxes to protect themselves from the cold,” she said.
In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit the city, the neighborhood of Bay Ridge was not hard hit, but other neighboring areas were, and the HCBOC responded to the challenge.
“Every weekend we went with clothes and food, and cleaning supplies to help. We spoke at other churches that helped our efforts. The communities of Sts. Constantine and Helen, Kimisis tis Theotokou, St. Nicholas-Holy Trinity in Staten Island, the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan, and many more never hesitated to offer their help,” Vasaka-Monioudis told TNH.
The event raised funds to support the organization’s programs and also to set up a center to house the HCBOC. The creation of such a space is particularly important in order to facilitate and increase the effectiveness of the Holy Cross community’s charitable efforts.
The evening began with prayer and a few words of praise from Fr. George Livaditis. “Today we are gathered here to ensure the daily bread for the needy. It is important to remember that we should not work to gather wealth here but in the Kingdom of God,” he said.
During the event, the organization presented plaques to the honorees including William Stoddard, Katerina Madimenos, Deacon Fahrid Farkouh, John Colbert, the owner of the supermarket Foodtown Bay Ridge, in recognition of their contributions.
Also present at the event were Ioannis Pavlakos, Peter Kontopirakis, Matina Monioudis, Stamatina Nasopoulos, Chrysafo Madimenos, Angela Athineos, and the owner of Casa Calamari Leonidas Lykourezos.
After hearing about the HCBOC, Disney World donated four trips for four to Walt Disney World which were won by four lucky families in the raffle drawing at the end of the night.
Ioannis Pavlakos, second vice president of the organization, said in his speech “We are a pan-Orthodox organization. And that is the feature that distinguishes us and is really part of our mission. There are many philanthropic organizations that do a great job and they deserve support. But what makes us different is that we do it because Jesus Christ has called us to love one another. No one is involved for money or recognition, but for Christian love for our fellow man.”
More information about the Holy Cross Brooklyn Outreach Center, volunteering or making a donation, is available online: hcboc.org or by phone: 917-854-1844.