Greek food bank helps Laval’s needy

Greek food bank helps Laval’s needy

By Robert Frank

Every Thursday morning, some 20 Laval families visit the food bank at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church on Souvenir in Chomedey.

“It has been operating for nine months, using the capacity of the church’s large kitchen,” Hellenic Social Services of Quebec (HSSQ) director Eleni Fakotakis-Kolaitas told The Suburban.

“We don’t just help Greek people,” she said in an interview. “We’re very open to helping anyone who comes to us, and volunteers are very much appreciated as well.”

“We also try to help these people get out of the situation that led them to the food bank,” Fakotakis-Kolaitis continued. “We try to get to the root of why they are in their current predicament. Are they caregivers and can’t work more? Are they unable to hold down a job? Some we have to help with their curriculum vitae skills, to help them find a job, for example.”

HSSQ has operated on a shoestring since 1972 as part of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal. In addition to Laval, HSSQ also operates in Côte des Neiges, Park Extension and the South Shore.

“We have very, very, very limited resources, which is why we’re progressing so slowly on a budget from [regional health care authorities] of only $32,000 a year,” Fakotakis-Kolaitis explained. “We also receive a small budget of $35,000 to help natural caregivers to the elderly. It’s a recent program and we’re very proud of it.”

Last month, HSSQ convened all the major groups that try to help Laval’s elderly to a bilingual conference—in English and Greek—at Holy Cross Church.

“We talked about the problems that those who care for loved ones face,” she said. “They’re often vulnerable as well, either because they’re working or they’re elderly themselves. We help make them aware that they’re in a vulnerable position and need to seek help themselves. It’s a new concept in our community, because our members are not used to asking for help for themselves.” Fakotakis-Kolaitis added that second-language proficiency is often the first ability lost due to dementia, so HSSQ also has a program to interpret and translate for elderly Greek residents whose can no longer speak English or French—even though they might once have been fluent in those languages.

“We do a lot of advocacy and liaison with public service organizations,” she said. “For example, when people try to get help from a CLSC and don’t receive the amount of services that they’re entitled to, we intervene and mediate so that ultimately our clients will understand the system better and get the services that they require.” 

She praised the Laval transit authority’s seniors program, which help to support HSSQ efforts to help the elderly.

“The free bus fare for seniors is excellent,” Fakotakis-Kolaitis enthused. “For an elderly person who needs to be accompanied, the person who has to accompany them can also ride free!”

“HSSQ has also built two Greek residences and is looking at constructing two more, because of the need for appropriate accommodation for elderly who can no longer live at home alone or require two to three hours of care per week,” she said.

“We’re looking at building two more,” Fakotakis-Kolaitis continued. “We’re looking at two scenarios for St. Laurent and perhaps Laval in the future.”

She said that people who would like to donate to help HSSQ advance its objectives can contact her at [514] 738-2421 x 120.

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Social services specialists held a seminar at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, June 18, to address non-francophone seniors’ needs.
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