Jeffersonville, PA – The International Orthodox Christian Charities hosted its fifth annual benefit banquet this past Saturday evening at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church. The event featured a silent auction and keynote speaker Mark Ohanian.
The event brought together approximately 300 attendees from 21 Orthodox churches from all over the Delaware Valley, including, Ukrainian, Albanian, Antiochian, and more. Those that attended represented a broad brush stroke of how important and universal the organization in term of its philanthropic endeavors. “Ninety-two percent of IOCC’s resources are used directly for humanitarian relief and development programs,” said Anthony Pantazopoulos, Master of ceremonies and Chairman of the Philadelphia Committee of the IOCC.
Many members of the Greek Orthodox clergy, especially from the Metropolis of New Jersey were present, including Reverend Archimandrite Ambrose Bitziadis-Bowers of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia. Father Ambrose gave the opening and closing prayer for the evening. “I came here to give the prayer, but also with my presence, to unite the clergy of the Greek Orthodox region and parishioners here,” said Father Ambrose. “The IOCC is international, but at the same time, it is an Orthodox Christian Charity. People need to see that and increase their support by funding this organization. There are so many places around the world, outside of the United States they are devastated. Some of them are Orthodox, and they need our support”, added Father Ambrose.
Development officer Lou Zagami, a long time representative of the IOCC, spoke about the current national programs the IOCC has invested in recently. He specifically addressed disasters and catastrophic events in the US and North America that have fallen from the news and the public eye. “We have about 120 people. They are called our front liner program. It’s part of our emergency response network. They have been trained to give emotional and spiritual care. Or they will go in and give an assessment as to what’s needed in a crisis. And what resources can IOCC bring to the table”, said Zagami. “That disaster could be Hurricane Matthew or following a tornado for example. But Hurricane Matthew if you noticed, it’s not on the news anymore. A lot of people don’t realize anymore, that there are 7 or 8 Orthodox churches missions there. And four or five of them have been decimated. IOCC has had a presence there now for many years,” added Zagami.
The evening was highlighted by Director of IOCC programs Mark Ohanian’s keynote speech that addressed IOCC international efforts, especially in Syria in the middle east and Ethiopia in Africa. But he also addressed works in areas like Georgia, Jordan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestine and Israel, where the IOCC continues to invest in educational and daily programs for both Christians and Muslims. “I spend a lot of time these last few years in the Middle East, especially Syria. Syria is a place that now consumes much of my time, but also much of my colleagues time as well given the scale of the needs. Our programs there are the largest in terms of size, depth, and magnitude”, said Ohanian. “We have a very strong partnership in Syria with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. We work via and through the church inside Syria in places many others do not have access or have difficulty accessing. It is truly amazing work we are doing. We have literally assisted millions and millions of Syrians and locally affected populations in the past five years from this past crisis”, added Ohanian.
More information about the International Orthodox Christian Charities or how to get involved with the Greater Philadelphia Committee of the IOCC, visit them online at www.iocc.org.