Chicago’s Hellenic Foundation hones it mission to better serve the community, with innovative initiatives and a new grant program.
When most people think of Hellenic Foundation, they think of social services. In the last several years, Hellenic Foundation has retooled and reorganized, in what they call an “efficient and effective use of resources”. This has allowed them to hone their mission, and incorporate more services for the changing needs of the community. They’ve recently introduced a grant program, and other exciting offerings will be announced soon.
What is Hellenic Foundation?
In 1953, Father George Mastrantonis and a group of community leaders came together to create an organization that would serve the elderly, as well as youth and families in need. Through the years, the not-for-profit organization evolved, and is known for assisting members of the community in need with kindness, compassion, integrity, and discretion.
The first initiative of the fledgling organization was to serve the housing needs of the oldest members of our community. To offer affordable housing to area seniors, in 1973, Hellenic Foundation purchased Hollywood House, a senior living facility. Residents enjoyed exercise programs, seminars, recreational activities, and more. Hellenic Foundation offices were then- located at Hollywood House. Among the other programs for the elderly, was Hellenic Golden Circle, a recreational program for seniors, created in 1980.
In 1974, Hellenic Foundation surveyed the community to determine other areas of need. Soon after, a social service agency, Hellenic Family & Community Services (HFCS), was established. This agency offered referrals, advocacy, translation and information services, plus assistance with immigration issues. In 1995, when the current building were purchased, administrative and social services were moved to that location, all under the Hellenic Foundation name.
Selling the Hollywood House
As the cost of maintaining the facility grew, so was the strain on the resources of Hellenic Foundation. It became increasingly challenging to raise money to support Hollywood House. Further, fewer and fewer Greek community members were residing their. In 2007, with the real estate market at its height, the board of directors voted to sell the facility. The proceeds from the sale were invested to allow Hellenic Foundation to continue to service the community for years to come.
Hellenic Foundation still services the Greek residents at Hollywood House with personal issues, and works closely with the property manager to insure that their needs are addressed in a timely and efficient manner..
In-Home Care Program
In-Home Care Program is invaluable for seniors. Through Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program, Hellenic Foundation provides for a Greek-speaking home aide, if desired, to seniors who qualify for Medicaid, or on a private pay basis for those who do not. These supportive services help seniors to remain in their homes and retain their quality of life. It’s been very successful, therefore, more Greek-speaking home aides are always needed..
An exciting initiative recently introduced by Hellenic Foundation is the grant program. This is the realization of a long-time goal of the board of directors. Non-profit organizations in the Chicagoland area promoting Hellenism and Orthodoxy, or those that directly serve the local Greek Orthodox population, are eligible to apply. Executive Director Peter E. Valessares spoke about the scope of the program.
“The focus of the Grant Program is to support programs and organizations benefiting the Greek-American and Orthodox community of Chicagoland. It’s funded with the earnings of the monies realized through the sale of Hollywood House. Since Chicago’s Greek community supported the Hollywood House effort, it is imperative that the grants funded by the program directly impact our community.”
The effort to develop the program was facilitated by the support of the Virginia H. Farah Foundation. The Farah Foundation graciously shared its policies and procedures, which allowed the Hellenic Foundation to adopt and implement a proven framework for the program, and execute it in a timely manner.
Peter explained another benefit of this program.
“Based on partnerships we have been able to make, other philanthropic organizations may review applications during the vetting process. This presents another opportunity for applicants to get exposure to other organizations that may be willing to fund them, regardless of whether or not we elect to fund a project.”
Philanthropists and other foundations are invited to partner with Hellenic Foundation in this effort.
“Effective and Efficient”, new mission
In keeping with the objective of the Hellenic Foundation to be make “efficient and effective use of resources,” they’ve streamlined in-house offerings, and have collaborated with local, qualified city and state agencies that have extensive expertise and properly trained staff. This has allowed them to offer more services to the community, and in effect transformed Hellenic Foundation from a “social services agency” to a community service model. With that, they have redefined their mission, to assist projects, programs, and organizations that service the needs of the Greek and Orthodox community of the Greater Chicago area, by providing necessary resources and support.
“We will not turn anyone away. If we cannot service them, we will connect them with an agency that can, and follow up to be sure they were served. That part of our mission has remained the same since our founding,” said Sophia Stamatis, Community Services Director.
The Hellenic Foundation continues to be the only not-for-profit organization serving the social service needs of individuals, couples, and families in the Greek community. Later this year, they will announce some important new programs, which are also the result of exciting partnerships with other with other local organizations. There’s much more to come from this organization, which has pledged to continually adapt to the changing needs of the community.
Click for Grant Program information
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