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Martin C. Barry

For the first time in two years, volunteers and supporters of the Park Extension Association of Senior Citizens – better known as FILIA – gathered at the Château Royal in Laval on the afternoon of Sunday Nov. 21 for a celebration that everyone associated with the group has come to know as FILIA Day.

As has been the case for so many other organizations, COVID-19 sanitary restrictions made it impossible to hold FILIA Day last year. In keeping with a Greek community tradition, the event is held annually close to or on the actual date (Nov. 21) of the Presentation of the Theotokos.

There was wine, a multi-course meal, some great Greek music provided by a DJ, and a great mood settled down upon all the FILIA supporters.

During the FILIA Day event last Sunday, executive-director Johanna Tsoublekas was presented with a Senate of Canada certificate of recognition by Senator Leo Housakos. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Honoured guests

Among the guests were Senator Leo Housakos, Liberal MP for Saint-Laurent Emmanuella Lambropoulos, Montreal city councillor for Park Extension Mary Deros and Laval city councillor for L’Abord-à-Plouffe Vasilios Karidogiannis. Although she was unable to attend, Laval city councillor for Souvenir-Labelle Sandra El-Helou sent a letter of greeting and praise for FILIA which was read out.

“We are starting again because we have to start not only to celebrate FILIA Day, but people have to get used to beginning normal life again, especially the seniors who are a little more hesitant because they are concerned about Covid,” said FILIA executive-director Johanna Tsoublekas.

New beginning for FILIA

Although the organizers welcomed more than 100 guests, they were far fewer than would normally be the case because of the restrictions. “This is a new beginning,” Tsoublekas added. “We are very satisfied with the turnout.”

Senator Housakos presented Tsoublekas with a Senate of Canada certificate of recognition for her exemplary leadership and dedication to community service.

“Johanna has given forty years of her life to community service, volunteerism – she represents the best of the best in the Hellenic community and the greater Montreal and Quebec communities,” Housakos said in an interview. “As a Hellene, I’m so proud of her and of the hard work she puts in and what she’s accomplished with FILIA in the service of helping senior citizens. It’s just outstanding.”

A common mission

The afternoon’s featured speaker, Shield of Athena executive-director Melpa Kamateros, gave a detailed presentation on some of the difficulties that non-profit community organizations encounter. FILIA and Shield of Athena have worked together for years for a common purpose.

Deros said she too felt very proud of Tsoublekas’s organization which was founded and remains based in Park Extension, even though it has gradually been establishing new roots in Chomedey/Laval where growing numbers of Park Extension Greeks are migrating.

Special guests at last Sunday’s FILIA Day included (from the left) Saint-Laurent MP Emmanuella Lambroproulos, Laval city councillor for L’Abord-à-Plouffe Vasilios Karidogiannis and his spouse Sheyda, Senator Leo Housakos, and Montreal city councillor for Park Extension Mary Deros and her spouse Peter. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

She said FILIA played a key role assisting senior citizens during the Covid pandemic. “Our seniors were isolated and couldn’t see their grandchildren or their children,” said Deros. “But Johanna provided that human touch on a weekly basis, keeping everybody in touch and making sure they knew that everything was alright. So, I congratulate her for everything she does for the seniors in Park Ex and in Laval.”

A growing impact in Laval

Karidogiannis said, “The needs are here as well, and we’re happy to have Johanna and her organization here and we support her a hundred per cent. My council colleague, Mme El-Helou, is a huge supporter of her. Johanna is one of the ladies I have come to admire. She says things as they are, she finds out what is needed and she gets it done. She is a true force of nature.”

While noting that Ottawa is always ready to provide FILIA with support when necessary, Emmanuella Lambropoulos said, “For all these years, Johanna Tsoublekas has been leading an extraordinary organization that does very important work in the community. It’s important for all community leaders and all organizations and all Greeks who can afford it to support this organization.”

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