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Greek Children’s Fund Presents Vision for Future -Honors Long-Time Volunteers at Nov. 24 Gala

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. – by Sophia A. Niarchos

St. Stylianos is the patron saint and protector of children. Thus it is that in his name the Greek Children’s Fund (GCF), founded by Stylianos (Stan) Matthews, will give its first-ever Aghiou Stylianou Philhellene and Philanthropist Awards to two of its longest-serving committee members at this year’s gala on November 24.

“Although we initially set out to recognize the work of 40 individuals,” said Greek Children’s Fund President Sam Matthews, Stylianos Matthews’ son, “we’ve decided to focus on two: Marina Tsotsos, one of our original committee members and president of the board for more than a decade, was instrumental in planning our dinner galas over the years. Ismini Michaels, also an original committee member and treasurer for 40 years, was extremely gracious and housed patients from Cyprus in New York City.”

Conscious that people are generally well-aware of the work of the Greek Children’s Fund in the past (covering non-medical expenses initially for children with cancer and later for children with life-threatening illnesses in the New York tri-state area, Boston, Philadelphia, Florida, Houston, and Seattle), Mr. Matthews now wants to share his vision of its future.

“We want to broaden the scope of the Fund, an all-volunteer organization, having it go coast-to-coast and establishing it as an endowed program to provide financial medical assistance,” he explained. “We also want to re-educate the public, introducing them to philanthropy in general. After all, Greeks by nature are a philanthropic people.” 

The goal for establishing the endowment fund is to raise $100,000,000 in the next 10 years, and Mr. Matthews challenges every Greek to become engaged in achieving that goal. Asked how many Greeks there are and what each would need to donate to reach that goal, Mr. Matthews speculated. “There must be 1,000,000 Greeks or people of Greek or Cypriot descent. If that’s accurate, I challenge each of them to contribute $100 a year for the next 10 years. In that way, we will achieve our goal and be able to invest the principal and draw off the interest or dividends accrued from the investment.

“We are a 501(c)3 organization and file annual tax returns. We are compliant with all state and federal tax laws,” he added, enumerating the Fund’s specific requirements for potential beneficiaries. “Recipients of financial assistance must be of Hellenic or Cypriot descent, provide medical documentation of the condition that created their needs as well as documentation of the patient’s financial status.”

In its 40 years of existence, GCF has raised more than $10 million and helped more than 10,000 families and their children. Mr. Matthews fondly recalled such fundraising events as Greek nights, an international telethon with Antenna, several other telethons with the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, and the NY Islanders as well as a Concert of Hope in 1997, featuring such celebrities as George Dalaras, Eleftheria Arvanitakis, Lakis Lazopoulos, Alkinoos Ioannides, and Vasilis Papaconstantinou, who donated their time and talent for the event, which was attended by 18,000 people.

Mr. Matthews also is extremely grateful and wishes to publicly acknowledge the GCF’s biggest supporter for the Gala, the Pan-Gregorian Enterprises Restaurant Cooperative.

Although there is flexibility and there has been some deviation from the limits GCF places on funds available to those in need, there is typically a $10,000 cap per year per patient.

“By becoming an endowed program, we hope to expand from providing non-medical assistance to providing medical financial assistance as well,” Mr. Matthews explained, adding that one obstacle to supporting those in need is Greeks’ typical embarrassment in approaching others for assistance, something the organization would like to break through.  

In addition, there is a need to bring in younger people, those 30 and younger.

“Our emcees this year reflect our intention to draw in more young people. George Georgelis is a student at Villanova University and the son of GCF Vice President Eleftheria Georgelis, an active board member for 25 years who is now our vice-president; and my daughter Athena Matthews is a senior at the University of Maryland.

“I encourage everyone to attend the gala, to meet old friends and make new ones,” Matthews declared. “Spread the love; spread the charity.”