2018- 2020 Executive Board: (Pictured left to right) Elaine Zetes, Pam Agyris, Georgia Vlitas, Theone Dickos, Evangeline Mekras-Scurtis, Barbara Vittas, Maria Logus, Crystal Thomas, Joanne Stavrakas, Jennifer Constantin, Martha Stefanidakis, Barbara Pasalis, Irene Steffas, and Irene Politis.
By Eleni Stamboulidis and Georgia Lagadinos
In 2012, under the inspirational leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios, members of the Boston Metropolis Philoptochos Board visited the largest homeless veterans’ program in the Veterans Administration (VA) New England Healthcare System, based at the VA Bedford Medical Center in Bedford, MA. The visit included a comprehensive tour of the veterans’ living space and a discussion with veterans and Program Officials. It revealed a huge and glaring need for philanthropic support.
The VA New England Healthcare System is one of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Services are provided through primary care support by eight Joint Commission accredited medical centers located throughout the six New England states - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The New England VISN has over 35 community-based Outpatient Clinics, six nursing homes, and two domiciliary facilities located in Bedford, and Brockton, MA. The population serviced includes acute care; long term care; traumatic brain injury; spinal cord injury; homeless veterans; and mental health.
The site visit to Bedford identified needs ranging from personal items (clothing and hygiene items), socialization, community interaction, as well as furnishings and other items that support transition to independent living. A further in-depth assessment indicated that these are common needs throughout the New England VA community, and this led to the development of a “Wish List” of items needed by both male and female veterans to transition to independent living.
Consequently, we established “Operation Housewarming” to assist homeless veterans in their transition to independent living. We especially emphasize the program on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and at the Christmas Holidays. The ministry is thriving and continues to grow throughout the Metropolis due to the overwhelming support and generosity of our Philoptochos chapters and parish communities. The tremendous response has enabled us to assemble and distribute to-date more than 800 large housewarming baskets to VA Medical Centers throughout our Metropolis/VA New England Healthcare System. The baskets contain all necessary items on the “Wish List”, and recently, we expanded our project to include the needs of the children of homeless veterans. In appreciation of the amazing success of our ministry, the VA presented the “Friends of Social Services” Award to the Metropolis of Boston Philoptochos in May 2018.
Click on the following photos to be directed to the Operation Housewarming page and to obtain a copy of the "Wish List."