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Martin C. Barry

The 15th anniversary of FILIA’s annual Walk A Thon last Saturday marked the second time the outdoor fundraiser took place in the City of Laval, while also reflecting how increasing numbers of Montrealers with Greek roots have gradually been migrating from Park Extension to Laval.

2nd year in Laval

It was the second year the senior citizens’ association held its health and awareness-raising event at Saint Norbert Park on the eastern fringe of Chomedey.

And this being an election year for federal and municipal politicians, a good number of candidates from both levels of government seeking re-election or running for the first time took a break from their door-to-door campaigning to stop for a while at the park on Cartier Blvd. to show support for FILIA.

For meals-on-wheels

The Walk A Thon is held in September every year as a fundraiser for the FILIA meals-on-wheels program. While FILIA’s mission at one time was to provide assistance to Greek women of the Park Extension Hellenic community and later throughout Montreal, the organization’s mandate now is to serve senior citizens and people of every description are welcomed.

The walkers made their way along the streets surrounding Saint Norbert Park during FILIA’s 2021 Walk A Thon. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Although FILIA held the Walk A Thon during the first 13 years in Park Extension, which is still regarded by most Hellenic Montrealers as the emblematic centre of the Montreal Greek community, FILIA has been focusing increasingly on making its services available in Laval, while continuing those in Park Extension.

Shifting demographics

At one time, according to Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros (who took part in this year’s walk), up to 20,000 people of Greek origin lived in Park Extension. However, the number of Greeks remaining in Park Extension has dwindled to 3,500, she said, noting that extended families will often choose to relocate to one place like Laval because they want to be close to one another.

Led for many years by executive-director Johanna Tsoublekas, FILIA’s services include home housekeeping and supervision, volunteer training and a healthcare clinic for the feet. During this year’s and last year’s Walk A Thons, the walkers made their way along a circuit that went around Saint Norbert Park on Cartier Blvd. in eastern Chomedey.

Officials and candidates

Those who wished could later stop to rest and chat with longtime friends in the park, while also enjoying a bagged lunch prepared by FILIA volunteers for everyone who took part in the walk.

Among the special guests this year were Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette, federal MP for Vimy Annie Koutrakis, Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis, L’Abord-à-Plouffe city councillor Vasilios Karidogiannis, Souvenir-Labelle city councillor Sandra El-Helou, and Action Laval leader and mayoralty candidate Sophie Trottier.

An honour to attend

“FILIA has been doing an amazing job, especially during the Covid, to make sure that all members stay connected and don’t feel isolated,” Koutrakis told The Laval News. “It’s my pride and my honour to be able to participate here today.”

The participants FILIA’s 2021 Walk A Thon, including many elected officials and election year candidates, gathered to be photographed in Saint Norbert Park before setting off. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“It’s a must to be here,” said Ouellette, who was the only elected official at this year’s Walk A Thon not facing an imminent election. “Even if she [Johanna] started FILIA in Montreal, she now has groups in Chomedey and we appreciate that.”

“Our seniors are the most important priority,” said Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis, noting that she is the administrator for a local seniors retirement home. “I think there is a lack of activities for Greek seniors. But Johanna does an extremely good job organizing activities to motivate the seniors.”

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