The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) proudly hosted its inaugural Appreciation Ceremony, to recognize and honour the dedication and selfless contributions of exemplary volunteers with 10+ year of community contribution. This heartwarming ceremony brought together community members, devoted volunteers, and priests from the Holy Church of “Annunciation of our Lady”, “Holy Trinity” Church, “St. George” Church, Holy Church of “St. Eleftherios” and Holy Church of “St. Dimitrios”.
The ceremony began with a warm welcome from Nick Koukouvitakis, GCM Secretary, expressing gratitude for the invaluable contributions of volunteers who have made a significant impact on our community. He started his speech with a famous quote from Helen Dyer, ‘Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud,’ and he continued “Your compassion and kindness towards others are an inspiration to all, and your efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
The GCM President’s, Bill Papastergiadis, OAM, speech, took us on a retrospective journey through the history of the community and its churches. He put together the threads of the community’s past, highlighting key milestones, challenges, and triumphs, created a powerful narrative that resonated with everyone present. By delving into the history, Mr Papastergiadis not only honoured the sacrifices and contributions of those who came before us but also provided a context for our present identity and aspirations.
The key points of this narrative were that in 1898, an eight-member ecclesiastical committee consisting of Greeks and Syrians was appointed with the goal of bringing a permanent priest to Melbourne. On December 6, 1900, the foundation ceremony of the first Orthodox church took place, marking the official beginning of Orthodox doctrine in Victoria. For almost 60 years, the Holy Church of “Annunciation of our Lady” was the sole church meeting the religious needs of Orthodox Greeks. Today, it is considered one of the most significant buildings representing the historical Greek presence in Melbourne. In the 1950s, the Community responded to the increasing needs resulting from post-war mass migration by establishing two additional Orthodox churches. Throughout these years, the members of the Community volunteered their contributions to the operation of Orthodox churches, covering administration, financial obligations, fundraising, and everything necessary for their smooth functioning.
He stated, “The GCM is built on the foundation of unity and shared values. Our volunteers embody these principles, and it is only fitting that we come together as a community to honour their commitment, passion, and generosity. This event serves as a platform to shine a spotlight on their selfless acts and express our heartfelt gratitude for the positive change they bring to the lives of others and our community.”
Father Phillip Papagiannopoulos, Archdiocese’s representative, expressed his gratitude to the volunteers, “Our volunteers are the heartbeat of our community, and their unwavering dedication deserves to be recognized. You are our light. You are our faith. You are the backbone of our churches. Your exemplary service echoes the spirit of love, compassion, and unity”.
The Consul General’s, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, speech fostered a sense of unity and continuity, reminding us that our shared history is a source of strength and resilience. He remarked, “Volunteerism is not imposed; it is inspired. It is grounded in Love, the kind that is written with a capital ‘L’ and resides deep within us. This humility is a path of greatness. The power of volunteering is unifying, is transformative. Your dedication is a source of inspiration for us all.”
The Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Ms Vivienne Nguyen, by sharing her personal story being a refugee herself, expressed profound appreciation for the volunteers, “This ceremony is a testament to the profound impact you had on the wider community. You set a strong foundation for all the communities that came after you here in this city. We followed your footsteps. You have created a sense of belonging for all of us. It was very healing founding this reminder of the home we left behind. We are immensely grateful for their tireless efforts and selfless service.”
Following the moving speeches, Associate Prof. Marinis Pirpiris, Treasurer of the GCM, & Helene Hiotis, GCM board member and principal of Bentleigh Secondary College, presented certificates of recognition to over 40 of the GCM longstanding volunteers. Four certificates were also given to the families of volunteers who are deceased. Among the volunteers was Mr. Costas Kolokythas, who has been the chanter of “St. George” Church for 58 years. With his selfless contributions and humble commitment, he was an inspiration for all the attendees.
The success of the inaugural ceremony has set a positive tone for future endeavours aimed at recognizing and appreciating the unsung heroes within our community.
ABOUT THE GREEK COMMUNITY OF MELBOURNE
The Greek Community of Melbourne is a community organisation founded in 1897. It represents the large and vibrant Greek community in Victoria presenting Education programs to over 2000 students, Cultural programs that include the landmark Antipodes Festival and advocacy across a broad range of issues.
For more information call us on +61 3 9662 2722 or by email: email@example.com
πηγή Αστρινή Κοπελούδη Wallace