In the presence of more than 350 prominent Orthodox Christian faithful and friends, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) celebrated two decades of delivering humanitarian assistance, during their spring Anniversary Gala in Washington D.C.
The May Gala brought together IOCC supporters and volunteers who have helped shaped the organization into a global humanitarian arm of the Orthodox Christian Church. To kick off the day's events, an afternoon Congressional reception at the US Capitol included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Rep. Andrew Harris of Maryland, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, and Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts. Each lawmaker addressed the crowd, offering their congratulations on the milestone and praising the IOCC organization for delivering humanitarian aid to some of the most volatile places in the world.
Then on the same evening, a reception and Gala dinner at the Capitol Hilton included hierarchs, diplomats and ambassadors, members of royal families, musicians, and many faithful Orthodox Christians. Among them, Antiochians Charles R. Ajalat and Dr. George J. Farha received the Compassion at Work Award for their "extraordinary philanthropic contributions to IOCC's mission."
At the end of the evening, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios included a surprise announcement of the establishment of the Harry and Liberty Tsakalos Endowment for Agriculture Development and Food Security. The generous gift of $100,000 to the newly established fund will advance programs that provide emergency food assistance to people affected by natural disasters and emergencies, agricultural support and training for farmers, and other initiatives to provide solutions for vulnerable families around the world.
One such life-sustaining IOCC initiative is currently providing relief to the beleaguered Syrian populace. Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou recently explained, “In Syria, we are working directly with the Church to deliver emergency programs and humanitarian outreach. We’re working and have been working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (GOPA) out of Damascus in response to the Iraqi crisis. An estimated one million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria, and together with GOPA, we have provided support for Iraqi refugees to create opportunities to sustain themselves in country."
Mr. Triantafilou noted that the IOCC's excellent relationship with local Syrian churches helps the organization's efforts to be much more successful. "As in the past, our relationship with the Church in host countries gives us the access and the freedom to operate in some of the most volatile and closed societies in the world. It’s allowing us to respond to the current crisis in Syria. The dire humanitarian needs for essentials like housing assistance, infant supplies and medical kits are becoming evident as people are moving within Syria and beyond the borders into the neighboring countries of Lebanon and Jordan where IOCC also has an established presence through the Church.“