New South Wales is in its toughest lockdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and this has led to the closure of many small businesses and thousands of people losing their jobs and financial security.
In response, Greek Orthodox churches across the state have decided to do their part and support those impacted the hardest by the lockdown. Whether that is through a home cooked meal, food and hygiene packages, or even just offering some form of social connection, every action is making a difference.
Here are some of the initiatives launched by the All Saints Parish and Community in Belmore, the Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Parish and Community in Liverpool and the St Nectarios Parish and Community in Burwood:
Mother Maria of Paris Mission – Belmore:
The All Saints Greek Orthodox Parish and Community in Belmore have been working hard during the lockdown to help those in need through the ‘Mother Maria of Paris Mission.’
This mission, which is running with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia and under the guidance of His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa, sees volunteers from the Parish cook about 100 homemade meals every Wednesday to be distributed to the local community.
“We cook for Riverwood Community Centre, Belmore Youth Resource Centre here and obviously anybody else who needs food,” Jenny Hantzopoulos, who is a volunteer cook, tells The Greek Herald.
“It’s nice to give something back to the community… When you see the young teenagers, the young families and there’s elderly that need help as well, something like this is giving from your heart. It’s fulfilling. You’re just helping people in need.”
As part of the mission, the All Saints Parish and Community also deliver food bags and hygiene packs to the local community and youth centres. These bags are full of groceries, tin food and vegetables which are donated by parishioners and a number of businesses such as Oz Harvest, Goods 360 and Bakers Delight in Roselands.
“We probably have a list of about 50 families so far that we’re supporting and the list is growing by the day,” Chris Constanti, a mission coordinator, tells The Greek Herald, while thanking the community and businesses listed above for their support.
“It’s not about Greek people, it’s not about where you live or what colour you are, it’s about supporting people in the community.”
This Mission has been so successful it has seen the Parish coordinate with other churches at St Euphemia in Bankstown, St Therapon in Thornleigh, St Ioannis in Parramatta and St Paraskevi in Blacktown as well. All Saints Grammar School, St Catherine’s in Mascot and the Archangel Michael in Crowsnest also support the program.
If you would like to donate to the Mother Maria of Paris Mission you can contact Belmore church on 02 9789 1659 or 0451 936 868.
The Cottage Kitchen – Burwood:
The St Nectarios Greek Orthodox Parish and Community in Burwood has been running The Cottage Kitchen during lockdown. This program provides free home cooked meals every Monday to the vulnerable and those in need. Meals are prepared and delivered in the local area in a Covid-safe way by volunteers.
Launched last year as a result of a $5,000 grant from Multicultural NSW, The Cottage Kitchen has since secured a further $10,000 in grants from the organisation, as well as donations from generous community members. This has all helped keep the service going on a regular basis.
“We are grateful for their support,” Christina Efthymiades, Board Secretary of the Parish and Community, tells The Greek Herald.
“We’re also currently working with Burwood Council who is contacting local grocery retailers to seek support for those in need during this health crisis.
“Shoppers will be encouraged to donate groceries for those who need assistance and our Parish and Community will be one of the local charities that distributes these groceries to those facing hard times. We will be announcing details as soon as plans are finalised.”
The Parish and Community has also effectively pivoted to online services with Greek School, Youth In Action, fortnightly lectures, fortnightly bible study and Church services, all available online.
Anyone in need, or facing particular challenges, can contact the Parish Priest, Father George Liangas on 0415 124 709 or the Ladies Philoptochos, Christina Scalone on 0418 612 187.
The Ark of Love – Liverpool:
Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Parish and Community in Liverpool are also playing their part during the lockdown with the recent launch of their program, Ark of Love.
The Ark of Love is like a ‘grocery store’ where people in need are given bags containing non-perishable items donated by locals, and a box of fruit and vegetables provided by FoodBank and delivered by the Australian Defence Force to the church grounds.
“The Ark of Love was established about two weeks ago and its purpose was solely to provide assistance to all those people, both Greek and non-Greek, Orthodox Christian or any denomination, any faith system or no faith system,” Liverpool parish priest, Father Asterios, tells The Greek Herald.
“So if you were to call and say, ‘Father I need assistance,’ I would ask one of our members or myself to prepare a box depending on how many people are in the family and what their needs are.
“That is then given to one of our people that is part of the Philoptochos and other volunteers and it is delivered to that particular family… and they create a relationship with that family and look after that family with any needs they have.”
This personal service is also seen through the Parish’s feeding program, which has been running for three nights a week and distributes about 60 home cooked meals to the homeless and vulnerable people.
Father Asterios says all these initiatives wouldn’t be possible without the support and collaboration of the Parish Committee, Philoptochos and local community, and encourages anyone who wants to donate to reach out.
“My thanks to everyone, not just from the Liverpool district, but everyone who has supported the Ark of Love and continues to. Our Committee and the Philoptochos have been working together so wonderfully to support all people in this very difficult time,” Father Asterios concludes.
If you would like to donate to the Ark of Love, you can contact Father Asterios on 0404 209 844 or email: Father@straphael.org.au.
*Note: This is not an extensive list of all church initiatives available across Greater Sydney.