Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Orlando, Florida was founded in 1968. During the V. Rev. Fr. John Hamatie's thirty-seven year tenure the parish purchased and remodeled their church building, and also bought the office building and parking lot behind the Church. The parish has been a presence downtown since 1974, when the community established the annual tradition of Diving for the Cross in Lake Eola Park. Then in 1976 the parish celebrated their first liturgy in the church downtown, on the Fourth of July.
In 2009 in conjunction with the Ephraim Project, Fr. John began to put St. George's parking lot to good use during the week, when he established a weekly feeding for those he calls "our homeless brothers and sisters." Volunteers arrive earlier in the day to prepare food for between 150 and 200 people every Friday; meals are served in the outdoors in the same place that parishioners park on Sundays. "The Blessings deriving to us for over the last year of feeding 200 homeless men, women and children every Friday behind the Church is perhaps one of our greatest spiritual 'highs.' To be actually fulfilling a command of the Lord to love those closest in proximity is a wonderful thing."
The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) reports:
Over 1000 people attended the Dec. 3rd House of Blues at Downtown Disney charity concert benefiting FOCUS Orange County and two other local charities. FOCUS Orange County was given 15 minutes of stage time to share the work FOCUS Orange County is doing and collected 150 cans of food for the food pantry at El Dorado Motel, which makes the food available to the many working poor families staying at its motel and the neighboring Valencia Motel.
In November, FOCUS Orange County began its weekly meal ministry at the Valencia, where 100+ meals are served each Sunday night by FOCUS volunteers. Working poor families may also receive clothing items that have been donated.
Stocking the El Dorado’s food pantry is just one more way FOCUS Orange County is working with area Orthodox churches to make sure that working poor families will not have to choose between food or shelter this Christmas.
Katherine Wilcoxson, daughter of Fr. Aidan Wilcoxson of St. John the Forerunner Church in Cedar Park, Texas, has always wanted to find ways to serve. "In Tanzania," says OCMC's website, "Katherine is dedicating her training and experience as a registered nurse to the Orthodox Church’s Resurrection Hospital. Because Tanzania is one of the many African countries plagued with treatable diseases and poverty, this ministry of preventive healthcare and health education is vital."
Now that she's newly settled in her mission assignment, Katie took a moment to tell her story.
From an early age I have loved helping others. During middle school and high school, I was the youngest regular volunteer at the local food bank. The year I graduated from high school, I learned about the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). In 2000, I went on my first OCMC short-term trip to Alaska. In the following two years I also went on short-term trips to Guatemala and Tanzania. I had a real connection with the people of Tanzania, and I knew I would return as a long-term missionary.
December 8, 2010
Baltimore, Md. (IOCC) — The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded $26.4 million to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) for a program in Lebanon that will improve student achievement, expand after-school programs, provide training for public school teachers and upgrade educational facilities in 600 Lebanese public schools over the next four years. The program is part of a $75 million initiative that will be implemented in 1,400 schools in cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education and five other agencies, including the Education Development Center which is managing the entire initiative for USAID.
"For nearly a decade, children have been an important focus of IOCC's efforts in Lebanon in collaboration with the Orthodox Church and the Lebanese Government," said His Eminence Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Primate of the Antiochian Christian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. "This award validates the efforts we have steadfastly supported and ensures that the essential work of improving conditions for children and others that IOCC has undertaken in the Middle East with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch through its institutions, including the University of Balamand, will continue."
During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Lebanese children were some of the worst affected. Nearly one-third of all civilian deaths and injuries were suffered by children and over half a million children were forced to flee their homes. The conflict also damaged more than 300 schools. IOCC's presence in Lebanon not only led to an immediate humanitarian response for those impacted by the violence, but also led to subsequent IOCC activities in rebuilding damaged schools.
As Orthodox Christians finish up the first week of the Nativity Fast and prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) will be observing IOCC Sunday on November 21. Themed "A Day of Sharing," the event will be spotlighting the ministry of IOCC at parishes all across the United States. Orthodox Christians are being encouraged to:
- Make a generous donation to support the humanitarian work of the IOCC
- Become a volunteer for the organization
- Become a Parish Representative (information available here)
- Participate in a local IOCC Event and
- Pray for all those in need.
For more information, or to download Sunday bulletin inserts, go the IOCC website's special section devoted to IOCC Sunday.
In as much as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. (Matt. 25: 40)
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
As we anticipate celebrating God’s greatest gift to mankind in the Nativity of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we greet you once again, and pray that you continue to receive the gifts of His love and His peace.
Christmas is that time of year when we are especially reminded to share our blessings with others in the form of gifts. It becomes an increased blessing when the privilege of giving is extended to provide partial education scholarships to needy children in Lebanon and Palestine.
Because of your generosity in past years through the “Christmas Appeal” of the Children’s Relief Fund, we have been able to increase the number of sponsored children from 206 in 2003 to 333 in 2009. Currently, CRF is sponsoring 343 children in Lebanon and 40 in Palestine.
The necessity to continue our work is now more challenging as more and more children are in need of ﬁnancial assistance (we have some 90 applications of children waiting to be sponsored).
For those of you who are already sponsoring a child, we offer you our most profound thanks and gratitude, and we ask for your continued support. We encourage all the faithful in the Archdiocese to support our cause.
New sponsors are encouraged to open a window of concern by sponsoring an individual needy child at a minimum of $300 annually or making a donation to the general fund. Please print out the application HERE and mail it.
Josephine Katzbach ("Josie"), a parishioner at St. Matthew Orthodox Church in North Royalton, Ohio, has returned from Haiti, where she successfully delivered 2200 flip flops for those in need.
An experience in Haiti was the source for Josie’s idea. Months ago while she worked there in a clinic building project, several aid workers had to escort an ill woman from a clinic in town back up the mountain. Struck by her lack of material possessions, Josie literally gave the woman the clothes off her back, with the exception of her ﬂip-flops, the only shoes that would fit Josie's swollen feet. So when she and her friend returned to Chicago, inspiration struck and Josie said, “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s do ‘ﬂip-ﬂops for Haiti.’”
Josie is no stranger to helping others. She takes food and water to the homeless in Cleveland twice a month with parishioners from St. Matthew’s or St. George of Cleveland. A “life-changing experience”– that’s how Josie describes her first trip to Haiti. Although the city’s poverty and devastation are great, the poverty is even more extreme in the mountains. “They are the poorest of the poor,” says Katzbach. The earthquake did not have as much of an effect on them; instead, poverty is a way of life.
On October 26, 2010, St. Matthew's held a fund raiser: "Flip Flops For Haiti All You Can Eat Italian Dinner." All proceeds went to benefit shipping and the distribution of flip flops. Josie's husband Mark and her sister Antonette chaired the affair, and the people of St. Matthew came forward and ate and gave, enabling Josephine to return to Haiti with several thousand shoes. Josie was able to distribute several hundred, while a Catholic priest and nun offered to deliver the remaining shoes to those in need.
St. Anthony Orthodox Church in Bergenfeld, New Jersey is hosting its second annual wine-tasting on Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 7:30PM. Stew Leonard's Wines of Paramus will provide a variety of wine and beer perfect for the holiday season. Appetizers and desserts for the holidays will be paired with Stew Leonard's selections. The charity event is open to the public, and will be held in the church's fellowship hall at 385 Ivy Lane in Bergenfield, NJ. Tickets are $25.00 for tasters and $20.00 for designated drivers and Seniors over 65 years old, or $30.00/$25.00 if ordered after November 13 and at the door.
The evening will begin with the celebration of the Blessing of the Five Loaves or Artoclasia, an ancient prayer and sharing of a traditional and delicious sweet bread, olive oil and wine.
Proceeds will benefit the philanthropic work of the parish and the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities).
The IOCC is the humanitarian aid agency of American Orthodox Christians. Established in 1992, it administers aid according to principles of Orthodox compassion and justice. It continues to work in Mississippi and Louisiana, building homes for people affected by Hurricane Katrina with Habitat for Humanity. It is mobilizing aid for Asia Pacific peoples suffering from typhoon and earthquake disasters. It is helping Uganda’s orphans recover from civil war and has been a key player in the aid of Haitian earthquake victims.
Tickets are available at Stew Leonard's Wines, 396 Route 17 North, Paramus, NJ 07653, (201) 649-0882 or by calling St. Anthony's at (201) 568-8840 & Press 7. You can also visit www.StAnthonysorthodox.org.
November 8, 2010
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working with Philanthropy, the charitable fund of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and local organizations to assess the needs following a moderate 5.3 earthquake that struck central Serbia on November 3 claiming at least two lives and injuring more than fifty people.
The temblor was centered near the city of Kraljevo where it destroyed or damaged buildings and left parts of the city without utility services, according to Interior Ministry of Serbia. The area is 30 miles from institutions where IOCC is implementing projects to assist disabled children and adults. There have been no reports of damage to the facilities, although the residents were shaken by the tremor.
"As we know from the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, beyond the damage to buildings, loss of life and the immediate physical needs, the psychological effects of the earthquake can be deeply felt," observed Constantine M. Triantafilou, IOCC executive director. "We pray for the families who have been directly impacted by the quake and those who have been traumatized by this disaster."
IOCC and Philanthropy are long-time partners in Serbia and will coordinate their response to the affected areas. The agencies anticipate providing emergency assistance through the provision of food items and are assessing the need for construction materials to repair damaged homes as colder winter weather sets in.
IOCC and Philanthropy are members of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.
October 30, 2010
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) signed an agreement with International Orthodox Chrisitan Charities (IOCC) to extend assistance to Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The $4.5 million award from PRM, implemented with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, will provide food assistance, educational support and vocational training for Iraqi refugees and Syrians in communities hosting large numbers of refugees.
IOCC Regional Director, George Antoun, anticipates that the project will provide direct assistance to more than 56,000 people over the next two years.
"The future for many Iraqi refugees remains uncertain," explained Antoun. "Although conditions in Iraq have improved, the situation remains fluid and many refugees are reluctant to return in the absence of stability and security as well as access to clean water, sanitation, electricity and other basic necessities. Others fear for their lives and the lives of their children who cannot safely walk to school."
The program will assist vulnerable Iraqi refugees and underserved Syrians residing in and around Damascus, as well as in Aleppo and Jazirat.
Many Syrians have suffered under the economic burden of inflation which followed the massive influx of Iraqi refugees beginning in 2003. IOCC's program seeks to alleviate part of the hardship by providing vulnerable families with assistance similar to that being offered to the refugees.