“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”...Philippians 4:13
The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society is blessed to have a permanent home! For the first time since its founding by the visionary Archbishop Athenagoras in 1931, the headquarters of the National Philoptochos are located in a beautiful, historic building in New York City that we own and proudly call the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy. From this location, the National Philoptochos leads over 400 chapters and an army of more than 26,000 dynamic stewards throughout America in answer to Christ’s call to reach out to those in need. From this location, Philoptochos responds immediately to National disasters, to international humanitarian crises, and to individual social services cases.
The path to the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy was not an easy one. The operations of the National Philoptochos were initially housed at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, then for more than 20 years in office space located at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Finally, due to the expanding needs of the Cathedral, Philoptochos moved its operations into space rented from the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in 2009. This was a temporary measure, and with the blessings and guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and under the impassioned leadership of President Aphrodite Skeadas, the National Philoptochos initiated a search to find a suitable home that would allow Philoptochos to expand its ministries and to grow its Christian and philanthropic mission. The National Philoptochos Board unanimously endorsed this vision to purchase a permanent home, as did the enthusiastic delegates at the 2010 Philoptochos Convention in Atlanta.
A committee of energetic and dedicated Philoptochos stewards, led by President Aphrodite Skeadas, embarked on a journey to realize that vision. Their goals were to find the best priced property in Manhattan, to pay for the property in the smartest way possible, and to ensure that the home would be an excellent investment for the future of the organization. To raise funds, an appeal was issued to every Metropolis, to every chapter, and to all 26,000 members of Philoptochos. Leadership gifts were solicited from individuals, foundations, and corporate grants. The response was enthusiastic and generous, with almost half of the funds coming from small to moderate individual donations.
Philoptochos gratefully acknowledges leadership donations from:
- The Nicholas J. and Anna K. Bouras Foundation, Summit, NJ
- The Mary and Michael Jaharis Foundation, New York, NY
- Michael and Katherine Johnson of Denver, CO
- Maria Allwin, Greenwich, CT
- The Constantine S. Siavelis Family, Winnetka, ILL
- Helen Andrea Carlos, Atlanta, GA
- George and Margo Behrakis, Boston, MA
The search for a new home successfully ended with the purchase of an historic brownstone building located in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan, with enough room for the organization’s current operations and a unit to provide ongoing rental income. The purchase was finalized in November 2012, and Philoptochos moved into its new headquarters in August 2013.
The purchase price was $3 million, of which $900,000 was mortgaged. To raise the funds for the final $1 million, Philoptochos appealed to every chapter to purchase a $1,000 leaf on the “Chapter Giving Tree” that would be located in the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy, with the identity of each donating chapter prominently displayed. As an incentive, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Foundation generously matched every dollar donated.
Thanks to the donations of generous Philoptochos stewards throughout our nation, the mortgage for our new home was paid in full by May 2014, a mere 18 months after its purchase! In addition, a $100,000 “evergreen” fund is held in reserve for emergencies.
On March 1, 2014, Philoptochos held the official ribbon cutting ceremony and celebrated the Grand Opening of the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy with a reception. Philoptochos members from across the country attended.
On March 8, 2016, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, celebrated an Agiasmo Service at the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy, bestowing God’s blessing on the Center. His Eminence presented an icon of the 20 Saints Anargyroi, including Saints Cosmas and Damianos, the patron saints of Philoptochos, to National President Maria Logus, who accepted the gift with great honor on behalf of the Philoptochos Society.
In 2017, restoration work was performed on the façade of the building, not only to maintain its excellent condition but also to recover some of the beauty of the original Italianate detail referenced in the property’s description. In addition, the building’s aging HVAC system was replaced, with free 2-year service contracts obtained to further assist in minimizing costs.
On November 27, 2017, Philoptochos celebrated the fifth anniversary of the purchase of the Center of Philanthropy. Since moving into the building, the Center has become the focal point for day-to-day operations, meetings, convention preparations, delivery of counseling services through our Social Services department, outreach services, and the organizational center for the National Feed the Hungry Program. As the National Director aptly stated at the November 10, 2017 National Board meeting, “126 East 37th Street has become a true center of philanthropy.”
In the late fall of 2018, the first of the Engaging Our Minds Speaker Series took place in the Center, followed by the second presentation in March 2019. Given the increasing public use of the Center, the Committee worked hard to purchase tables and chairs to make the space more versatile for future events.
The Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy is a vision realized, a testament to the spirit, hard work and generosity of countless Philoptochos stewards, and a home from which we can perpetuate the legacy of our mothers and grandmothers while we set the course for future generations.