So far, over the past nine years, the Holy Cross Brooklyn Outreach Center (HCBOC) has funded 27,000 meals for the homeless but, according to organization President Maria Vasaka-Monioudis, it’s “only a drop in the bucket.”
In support of the mission, therefore, over 100 people were in attendance at the third HCBOC annual fundraiser held on Tuesday, June 6 at Casa Calamari.
The goal of the fundraiser is to collect enough money to open an actual outreach center with a soup kitchen. So far, the group has raised $20,000 of its $100,000 goal, enough to keep the center open for two years, and give HCBOC a base for operations outside of the church at Ridge Boulevard and 84th Street it has been working out of for the last nine years. One notable person recognized for her efforts during the event was 10-year-old Girl Scout Kyra Neamonitakis, who sold over 1,000 boxes of cookies to raise money for the project.
Also honored at the fundraiser were the two chefs that Vasaka-Monioudis said work “countless hours,” Panormiti Tsavaris and George Bletsis. Recognized as a sponsor was Leo Lykourezos of Casa Calamari, who is on record for hosting the fundraisers and supporting the programs.
“When you don’t have an address, you don’t exist to get help. It’s a very deep hole that’s hard to get out of, and I think different communities have to come together, and the homeless are scared to go to shelters. You don’t know who’s next to you and it might be a dangerous situation,” said Father Gerasimos Makris, the spiritual head of Holy Cross, in regards to the growing homeless population on the city streets.
“I can’t not do it, because they’re waiting for me,” said Vasaka-Monioudis, who recalled that she was inspired to start the organization back in 2008 when she saw the growing population of homeless people on the streets during her drives to church. Alongside Makris, the 100 percent volunteer effort began working to address the issue, later expanding to feed the elderly in 2014.
“They’re sitting there by themselves in a dark apartment, and their cabinets are bare,” Vasaka-Monioudis said. Since expanding, she said, the group has made over 1,350 meals for elderly people without mobility and completed over 2,700 grocery trips for those unable to leave their homes.
“When you see the people and how appreciative they are, your life changes,” Vasaka-Monioudis said.
Over the years, the center has also started collecting shoes for people and held a barbecue off of a truck by partnering with churches in Chicago. It has worked with St. Mary’s and St. Nicholas church in the past, and is currently seeking more volunteerss to go through clothing and make food runs.
“I always believe we get more out of giving than receiving,” said Makris. “A lot of people come wary of the homeless, but leave with a new understanding.”