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September 2012 Observer

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Procedures For Local Chapters / Metropolises

Social Services

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This document supplements “Social Services Administration” found in the 
2006 Guidelines of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. 


The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. founded in 1931, is the duly accredited women's philanthropic society of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Its mission is: 

  • To aid the poor, the destitute, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the unemployed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the widowed, the handicapped, the victims of disasters, to undertake the burial of impoverished persons and to offer assistance to anyone who may need the help of the Church through fund raising efforts; 
  • To promote the charitable, benevolent, and philanthropic purposes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, through instructional programs, presentations, lectures, seminars and other educational resources; 
  • To preserve and perpetuate Orthodox Christian concepts and the Orthodox Christian Family, and through them, to promote the Greek Orthodox Faith and traditions, in accordance with its doctrines, canons, discipline, divine worship, usages and customs; 
  • To promote participation in the activities of the Greek Orthodox community, with the cooperation of the Parish Priest and the Parish Council. 

The charitable work of the Society is performed with discretion, courtesy and kindness. 

* * * * 


To ensure that social service efforts performed at all levels of the Society are consistent, compassionate and accountable, National Philoptochos encourages Metropolis and local Philoptochos Chapters to implement the policies and procedures outlined below.  We ask that you review and discuss this document with your executive and full boards.    At any point in time during your social service contacts, you may contact your Metropolis and/or National’s Department of Social Work for assistance – you can refer the person (client) seeking help to us to supplement what you can do, or you may ask us to interview him / her on your behalf.  We will notify you of our findings and recommendations.  In such situations, please obtain the person’s permission prior to contacting our office.  

Questions about or requests for clarification concerning this document may be directed to: 

Paulette Geanacopoulos, LMSW 
National Philoptochos Department of Social Work 
126 East 37th Street, New York, NY 10016 
Phone: 1.212.977.7782 

Recommended Steps For Local Parishes


  • Although Philoptochos has existed for over 80 years, many people – even those within our own community - are unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of our services.   
  • To inform people of what Philoptochos does, and to notify those in need of your services, develop an outreach flyer to insert in your Church bulletin, post in a prominent location or distributed through the various organizations in your parish.  
  • As some people may not want neighbors or friends to know their problems, please include information about how to get in touch with National’s Social Work Office along with the local contact information for your chapter.
  • Suggested wording for an outreach flyer is as follows:


  • Has a loss of employment put you behind with your rent, mortgage or utility bills?
      • Are you swamped by out-of-pocket medical costs? 
          • Do you need help finding homecare for your mom? 
              • Do you know someone who needs help, a friendly call or visit?

Confidential assistance is available!

Contact Philoptochos:

Locally by calling (insert name of person and phone number)


Contact National Philoptochos at 1.212.977.7782 or

The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. assists Greek Orthodox and Orthodox Christian individuals and families throughout the United States, as well as Greek and Cypriot nationals, regardless of their immigration status, who are in the U.S.A.    We welcome new members and your ideas.


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  • Those who seek our help should have the expectation that their information will remain private.  Since people in parishes tend to know one another, even minimal information may be enough to identify them, so please respect their privacy.
  • That being said, it ALSO is important that those seeking help understand that confidentiality is not absolute.  
  • Those seeking help should be told who will know their name and situation, such as your president and treasurer – those who sign financial assistance checks.  
  • Note: The recommended outreach flyer asks you to insert the name of a local contact.  This can be your “point person” (see below) – who also will know who is seeking help, or, you can ask your priest to be the first line of contact when assistance is being sought. Thus his name will be on the outreach flyer.

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  • Select one or two trusted members of your Chapter or Metropolis to be your Social Services “point person”, designated to interview those seeking help.  This person can be your president or other member/officer.  She is not expected to be a social worker, but rather, a Philoptochos representative who will fulfill – with sensitivity - the mission of Philoptochos.  
  • Note:  If the size of your chapter makes it difficult for you to designate your own social services person or to conduct your own interviews and evaluations, please ask your Metropolis Philoptochos and/or National’s Social Work Office to do so on your behalf.
  • Skills to Look for in your Social Services ‘Point Person’  
  • The Ability to:

    1. Maintain confidentiality
    2. Listen to and respond directly to the stated concerns of those seeking help
    3. Deal with difficult people and difficult situations 
    4. Understand that the person is under stress and coping with a range of emotions related both to their situation and reaching out to you for help
    5. Offer timely, clear and consistent information about what you can and cannot do
    6. Empower the person; offer a sense of control by encouraging him/her to participate in decision-making. For example, “Since our resources are limited, which of these bills do you think are most important for us to pay?”
    7. Keep their own values in check – it is not helpful to say (for example) to a victim of domestic violence, “I would have left by now. What’s the matter with you?” or “Why didn’t you realize (x) would happen?”
    8. Lay their sympathy feelings aside.  (Show compassion rather than pity).
    9. Be sensitive to our community’s cultural characteristics including cultural strengths and barriers.  
    10. Recognize if the cumulative effect of listening to people’s problems is negatively impacting their own psychological, physical or spiritual well-being.  (Vicarious trauma)
    11. Know when they are over their heads and need help from others.

Return to Recommended Steps


  • How do you maintain case records? Do you create a file folder for each and assign a number coordinated with the year the case first became known to you and that is used to identify the case to your board and or members? 
  • How do you cross-reference cases that carry over to another year or another administration?
  • How do you track return “askers” so that you have a complete picture of help you and others have provided?        
  • Where do you keep your records?
    • Is there a secure file cabinet, locked closet or office at your church where your records can be kept?  While many chapters keep files in the home of the president or treasurer, and although this may make your work easier, it is not good practice since confidentiality of records can become a problem.  As important, files can be misplaced at home, thus making the transition from one administration to the next incomplete and difficult.

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    • Because the cases that come before National are nationwide, we frequently conduct telephone interviews; however, for local cases and whenever possible, we recommend conducting a face-to-face interview – much can be revealed by the person’s physical and emotional state, neatness, condition of clothing, body language, eye contact, etc.  
    • Where is the interview conducted?  If there is no private location in your church that you can use, consider a local coffee shop, restaurant, or in good weather, a park.  
      • Do not invite people you do not know into your home, and, do not go to the home of someone you do not know by yourself.  
      • If you telephone someone from your home or cell phone, be sure to dial “ * 67 “ first so that your phone number does not show up on their Caller I.D.  
    • Application for Assistance for Chapters and Metropolises (Attachment A).  We recommend use of the attached “intake” form that can be completed by the interviewer or by the person seeking help.  It asks the person to sign the form to affirm that the information provided is true.  If you are unable to use this form as written, we ask that you use it as a guide to ensure that you are obtaining all necessary information.  The form asks the following:
      • Identifying information such as full name, address, date and place of birth; 
        • Note:  One section asks for citizenship status – not because we are concerned about immigration issues, but because eligibility for some public benefits requires recipients to be citizens or permanent residents.
      • Others in the household – names, their relationship to the client, and their identifying data such as date of birth
      • Housing information – rental, privately owned, a shelter, undomiciled, etc.  
      • Household income and expenses including amounts and sources   
      • How they heard about your help – outreach flyer, priest, hospital social worker, etc. and that person’s contact information. 
      • What brought the person to you?  What is their “ask” and why do they state they are in this situation?   How do they think the situation will be resolved? Have they been in this situation previously?
      • Are there underlying issues that they may not be revealing?  
      • Have they been helped previously by Philoptochos at any level (National / Metropolis / Other Philoptochos chapters)?
      • Have they been helped previously by public, nonprofit or religious groups?  
      • These questions may help determine factors that have caused the situation:
        • RECESSION:  Loss of employment, underemployment, etc. 
        • DISASTER:  Natural disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. 
    • FAMILY SITUATION: Divorce, abandonment, domestic violence, death
    • HEALTH / MEDICAL: Illness of client or other person in family, etc. 
    • PATTERN / HABITUAL “ASKER”:   Person who does not or cannot change their behavior and thus continues to fall into same / similar situation.  
    • JUDGMENT:  Try not to judge people unfairly, or based on your own frames of reference.  Sometimes, the path to good judgment is paved by a series of poor judgments. And, the “penalty” for poor judgment should not have to be homelessness.  
    • ENTITLEMENT:  People who seem to have a “sense of entitlement” and who believe they have a “right” to financial help from Philoptochos.  
    • Some open ended questions that we recommend are: 
      • What has brought you to us today?
      • How long have you faced this problem? 
      • Have you faced this type of problem before?
      • How have you managed until now?  
      • How do you think we can we best help you?
      • Do you have family or friends who can or have helped you in the past? 
      • Have you been helped by Philoptochos before? 
      • What other organizations have you reached out to either now or in the past? Do you plan to seek help from these or other sources?
      • Since we cannot help you on an ongoing basis, what steps will you take in the future to manage on your own after our assistance ends?
      • If financial assistance is requested, do you ask for verification of household income and expenses?  
      • Philoptochos is not and cannot be the answer to all problems faced by people. To help you help clients as fully as possible, learn the resources available in your community / county, and develop a flyer that lists local places people can go to for help.  
      • The flyer can be given to clients at the end of your interview, or placed in public places within your church.  
        • People who may be embarrassed to seek your help directly may benefit from such an informational flyer. 
      • Some of the ways you can research resources: 
        • GENERAL:
          • Some states and jurisdictions have a specialized phone number, e.g. “311” or “611” etc. that people can call for referrals to a wide range of local services and services.  If such a number is not available, contact your local United Way or YM/YWCA for a list of local government and nonprofit agencies, homeless and domestic violence shelters, food pantries, senior citizen centers, children and family resources, etc.
          • Many localities have a Social Services Department / Office / Person in their government center (Borough/Town Hall) who can refer you to local programs and/or who have developed Resource Manuals specific to your area. These documents list services for their residents of all ages including homecare, transportation, food pantries, shelters, etc.  Find out if one exists in your area and request copies. 



    Or by phone at:  or at 1.800.677.1116. 

      • The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has created a comprehensive Web-based service that allows people 55 years old and over to screen their eligibility for benefits from federal, state and local programs ranging from heating and energy assistance to prescription savings programs to income supplements, and more. 



    • The National Domestic Violence Hotline (24 hours/7 days per week
      • 1-800-799-SAFE (7223)
      • TTY:  1-800-787-3224


    • For suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of children, adults including those who are disabled physically or developmentally, or the elderly, contact your local or state Department of Social Services.  

Return to Recommended Steps


National does not recommend unconditional or unlimited ongoing financial help  

  • Does your chapter have a “cap” (maximum amount) that it can award for each financial grant that you may award per case?  
    • Note: Some chapters and Metropolises cap their awards at $500 / $750 / $1,000 regardless of the type of request. National’s cap is $7,500 – an amount that can be exceeded, if warranted, with approval by the Finance Committee). 
  • What process did you use to set this amount? 
  • Have you discussed how you will exceed this amount if the compelling nature of the case so warrants?  
  • Have you discussed whether your financial help, per case, will be a one-time grant, or will you give repeated help?  If the latter, under what circumstances? 
    • In cases where someone needs regular financial assistance, it may serve him/ her better to help the client apply for public benefits or to refer them to a local agency that can help them with this process.  
      • In the meantime, though, your chapter may decide to provide monthly assistance until such government benefits begin.  
      • If the person, regardless of reason, is not eligible for government benefits, your chapter may decide to provide regular help.  
        • In those situations, National recommends time limiting help to six months, after which time you revisit the case and decide whether and to what extent to continue.  
  • Decide to whom a check will be issued. 
    • We recommend that your check be made payable directly to the vendor such as direct payment to the landlord, mortgage holder, utility company, medical provider, funeral home, etc.   
    • In situations where circumstances warrant giving the client assistance with items such as food, clothing, etc., we recommend giving them a supermarket or department store gift card.  
  • Direct Cash Assistance 
    • There may be times when cash may be the best way to help.  Be prepared for such situations by establishing the criteria in advance. 
      • NOTE:  Keep in mind that if the person is applying for public benefits, your direct cash assistance may disqualify them for benefits, or may delay their ability to receive them. 

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  • We cannot state too often or too strongly that the financial details of those seeking your help must be kept confidential. That being said, how do you verify need?    
    • It is recommended that you 
      • Document income by asking for pay stubs, tax return, public benefit award/denial letter, etc.; and, 
      • Document expenses through a lease or rent receipts, mortgage bill, utility bills; arrears notice, eviction and/or shut-off notices; court papers; bill from a funeral home, etc.  
    • Note: As noted earlier, National’s Social Work Office, at your request, is available to conduct this task on your behalf and make a recommendation to you about what can / should (or should not) be paid.  
    • If you choose to ask us to perform this task for your chapter, please obtain the person’s permission to contact our office. 

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  • Are requests for financial assistance presented to and decided upon by your board and/or your membership?
  • Who presents financial assistance cases to your board / membership for approval? 
    • This could be your social services point person or your president. 
    • This may be your priest
  • What information do you ask to be presented?  It is recommended that you use the following criteria:
    • Without revealing facts that may help identify the person / family, provide enough information to ensure that the board/membership is able to make an informed decision.   
    • Report help that has been given by or requested of other organizations.
    • If the request is for someone you have helped in the past, provide a complete history of help, including when they were previously assisted, the amounts awarded and their purpose(s) and to whom checks were made payable.   (e.g. “x” amount in rent arrears was paid in 2008; do not include the name of the landlord).
    • Have copies of documentation on hand in case specific questions are raised.
      • (These are not to be shared – just used as a reference by the case presenter if a question arises about a specific bill, for example). 
  • It is recommended that you put the question to a vote, including a motion that is seconded and then voted upon.
    • Per Roberts Rules of Order, discussion is held following the seconded motion and prior to the vote being taken.  

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  • In emergency situations where you cannot wait for approval to be decided at a board or general membership meeting, have you established agreed upon procedures in order to provide such emergency assistance?   
    • This should include who can make such decisions (generally, the president and treasurer), and the maximum amount for such an emergency grant
  • How and when do you inform your membership about emergency help that was provided?  

Return to Recommended Steps


  • While you neither need the approval of your priest to provide services or financial assistance, nor must you inform him of every case, it is helpful to work with your priest as he is in an excellent position to help you identify persons-in-need in your community.  
  • If a hierarch, your priest or another member of the clergy asks your Chapter / Metropolis to assist someone, this is not necessarily a “mandate” to help this individual or family.  Follow your own procedures and conduct an evaluation of the merits of the case and respond accordingly. 
  • As noted, you may wish to have your priest as the contact on your outreach flyer, and depending on the sensitivity of the case, there may be times you may wish to ask your priest to interview someone for your chapter, or confirm what is being reported to you

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    Financial management of your chapter goes hand in hand with your chapter’s activities. Per National’s policies (By-laws, page 16), each chapter must maintain a reserve fund for emergency charitable needs not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000.00). 


    Chapters should establish an annual budget to project income and distributions. This budget should be submitted to and approved by your board and subsequently by your general membership and should include: 

    • By project, the amounts and dates by which you will need to raise funds in relation to what you estimate will be expended, including National commitments; local nonprofit charities your chapter has voted to support; social service financial assistance to local individuals and families; and administrative costs such as printing of (for example) a membership recruitment brochure, other supplies, additional postage expenses
    • Transparency:  
      • Providing tax deductions to donors: Most chapters use their church’s tax exempt status so that donations are tax deductible.  Always give a receipt. 
      • Donor’s “right to know.” Clearly specify how contributions will be used.  If, for example, someone makes a donation for what you have publicized as a charitable or philanthropic activity, that donor has the right to know that this is how his/her money was used, rather than (for example) to re-pave the church driveway, or purchase a new chandelier.  This does not mean you cannot assist with the financial needs of the Church – it means that you must tell people the purpose of your fundraising.  
      • As noted in the Philoptochos Guidelines, when the Administration of your chapter changes, you are required to have your books audited by an outside accountant to protect both your incoming and outgoing officers.
      • Questions regarding chapter audits can be directed to the National Office’s Bookkeeper or Director.  They can be reached at 212.977.7770.

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