President's Report Following 2008 Clergy-Laity Congress
The 2008 National Philoptochos Biennial Convention was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. from July 12-17, 2008. Representing the Metropolis of Boston Philoptochos Board was President Diane Miminos. Also attending from the Metropolis of Boston were 16 delegates comprised of National Board Members, Chapter Presidents and Chapter Members.
The Convention was called to order by National Philoptochos President, Georgia Skeadas, on Sunday, July 12, 2008. Presiding Officer was Maria Logos, Esq., First Vice President.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, reflecting upon the Clergy/Laity Convention theme of "Gather My People to My Home", called upon the Convention delegates to reach out to those in our communities who are unchurched or "spirtually homeless." These individuals may be Orthodox who are unconnected to the Church, in interfaith marriages, and our youth. His Eminence reported that a committee will be formulated to study this subject.
The Convention delegates also had the opportunity to participate in discussion groups with Clergy/Laity Delegates led by the Metropolitans to expand on the Convention theme of "Gather My People to My Home". The delegates were assigned to sessions led by a Metropolitan from a Metropolis other than their own.
National President Georgia Skeadas presented her report, highlighting the many accomplishments of our Society over the last two years. She reported that over $8 million was donated to the various National Commitments and special projects during her six year tenure.
National Treasurer Aphrodite Skeadas presented the Treasurer's report and reviewed donations to our National Commitments program and special projects. The 2009-2010 budget was also presented and adopted.
Website: an overview of the new Philoptochos website, www.Philoptochos.org, was presented.
Membership: Mark Levin, Executive Vice President of the Chain Link Fence Manufacturers Institute, outlined ten steps to reach out and engage new members, stressing:
- membership empathy is a key component
- need to be flexible
- communicate what the organization is doing
- make use of website as younger women are using the internet
- gift of leadership – you learn and use ideas from your experiences
OCMC: Fr. Martin Ritsi, Executive Director, reported and thanked Philoptochos for the $600,000 donated to the various mission projects over the years.
Social Services: National Philoptochos Social Worker, Diamond Prassakos Delagrammatikas, and Committee Chair Efthalia Katos reported the following:
- 115 elderly received grants from the Older Adult Grant program
- Directory of Services for Older Adults as introduced and reviewed (each Metropolis President has one)
- Social Servcies website was reviewed
Saint Basil Academy: Fr. Costa Sitaras reported that 24 children are currently in residence and that there is a Downs Syndrome Camp at the Academy.
HC/HC: Fr. Nicholas Triantifilou and staff members thanked Philoptochos for the $1,000,000 donated over the last eight years and for the newly created female scholarship. It was also noted that the Crossroad Program has been very successful and now has two sessions.
Patriarchate: Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew, encouraged the delegates to contact their Congressmen to pass legislation to compel Turkey to restore rights of the Patriarchate and gave an update on the current status of the Patriarchate.
CMF: It was reported that the extremely successful Children's Medical Fund Luncheon held in Newport Beach, CA netted over $400,000.
RCA: Matters relating to retired clergy have now been taken over by the Department of Philanthropy. His Grace Bishop Andonios reported that there are retired clergy with an annual income of only $14,000-$21,000.
OCF: Chapters were encouraged to purchase OCF Kits as graduation gifts for students.
National Center on Homelessness and Poverty: Maria Foscarinis, Founder and Executive Director, highlighted the following:
- 3 million experience homelessness every year
- causes are inadequate funding and housing
- reasons are domestic violence, illness, disabilities, childhood homelessness
- life expectancy is 42-52 years of age
- hunger – 40% have gone without food for the last 30 days
IOCC: A video highlighting the Woliso Clinic and Zimbabwe Wheelchair Project was shown. Over $486,000 has been donated to IOCC since its inception. A $50,000 donation was given to Executive Director Constantine Triantifilou.
AIDSWalk: Details of the AiIDSWalk to be implemented b the chapters in May 2009 were introduced. Proceeds from the Walk will be divided between the National AIDS Fund in the USA and IOCC for Ethiopia. A video on the AIDS crisis in Ethiopia was shown.
Autism: Sheila M. Sullivan from Autism Speaks explained the signs of autism and the following:
- autism is a complex neurological disorder
- 1 in 150 children are diagnosed, usually between ages 2 and 3
- impairment in social skills, communication, behavior
- emotional and financial burden on families
- community support is essential
A $25,000 donation was presented to Autism Speaks.
Financial Planning: Elena Chambous, Certified Financial Planner, gave an overview on strategies for financial success and mistakes women make with money. She stressed that it was important to prepare a budget, prepare for emergencies, reduce debt, invest for the long term, contribute the maximum to retirement plans and seek expert advice.
"Compassionate Giving: Meaningful Stewardship": Michael Meyerstein of the Aleph Group stated that:
- our goals need to be realistic and reachable
- people want to know that their gift is making a difference
- are we changing to meet the needs of changing times
Resolutions: The following were adopted:
- To establish a National Philoptochos Autism Assistance Fund as a National Commitment, with a yearly contribution by chapters in an amount to be determined by the chapters
- To adopt the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) as a National Commitment, with a yearly contribution by chapters in an amount to be determined by the chapters
- The Children's Cardiac Fund shall be discontinued as other funding sources are now available
The resolution proposed by the Metropolis of Boston Philoptochos Board to reduce the duration of the National Convention was referred to the National Board for further discussion.
Convention Disbursements: Among the many donations presented at the Convention was $15,000 to the Hellenic Cardiac Fund for Children at Children's Hospital in Boston. For a complete listing visit the website, www.philoptochos.org.
Chapter Challenge: Three chapters were chosen to present their reports, including the Evangelismos chapter from Springfield, MA. Chapter President Angie Gouzounis presented an outstanding description of their chapter's literacy project.
Facilitated Discussion Groups: The delegates were divided into groups to discuss the Philanthropic Challenge and Membership, led by professional facilitators. Some of the results were:
Reasons to join Philoptochos:
- "my mother made me"
- Also: a way to serve our faith and serve others
- Fulfill heritage and traditions
Challenges to recruit new members:
- Time an issue – will it be used wisely
- Family, work, other commitments get in the way
- Perception of Philoptochos – cooking, baking
What Can National Do:
- Website – more information
- Leadership training
Social events included the Philoptochos Banquet, Cultural Evening and Grand Banquet that gave the delegates and opportunity to enjoy fellowship and hear from several speakers. During the Philoptochos Banquet, an exceptional Philoptochos volunteer from each Metropolis was honored. Ellen Mahaleras from the Peabody, MA chapter was selected as the recipient from the Metropolis of Boston.
It was an honor to once again represent the Metropolis of Boston at the Convention and have the opportunity to meet and learn from our Philoptochos sisters from across the country.
Metropolis President and 2008 Convention Delegate