Over 500 charity-goers from the diocese of Los Angeles attended the fifth annual Santa Verena Charity Banquet, held at Anaheim’s Embassy Suites Sunday, Sept. 23.
His Grace Bishop Estaphanos from the diocese of Beba, Samasta and El Fashn, and His Grace Bishop Apollo from the diocese of El-Tor (Raithu), Sharm El Sheikh and all of South Sinai, joined His Grace Bishop Serapion for the event, which raised over $50,000 to further the charity’s efforts throughout Egypt, Sudan and here in the United States.
H.G. Bishop Serapion began the evening with a prayer and mentioned in his introduction, that “We thank God for giving us this opportunity to serve and we thank those places in Egypt for allowing us to serve them.”
The Santa Verena Charity has done much work over the course of the year too for the two dioceses represented by the visiting bishops. H.G. Bishop Estaphanos had much to say about the importance of service.
“In service, we teach them to work and to also serve others,” said H.G. Bishop Estaphanos in Arabic. “The more we love God, the more we give to God.”
In addition to H.G. Bishop Estaphanos’ words on service, H.G. Bishop Apollo also reflected on the work of serving the poor. He said in Arabic, “When God gives us the opportunity to serve, it’s a very beautiful thing and something for which we should thank Him.”
In addition to raising money, the banquet is meant to update supporters on the current happenings of the charity. A panel of representatives updated the attendees.
Dr. Mary Mikhail, CEO of the organization, presented an overview of the Santa Verena Charity’s latest efforts and goals. Of these efforts, Dr. Mikhail highlighted several programs such as the Christian Family Sponsorship program as well as the Good Samaritan Program, which specializes in offering personal, interest-free loans, to the needy in Egypt. In addition the Agapy program provides funding for weddings and other special events for the needy.
Also mentioned were Diocesan Development Projects, which focus on service in Egypt by providing homes for the elderly and the disabled, internet cafes, and other projects. Other charity programs mentioned include the activities of the Coptic Christian Health Professionals and the Entertaining the Angel program, which provides newcomers to the U.S. assistance in establishing their lives here.
Dr. Magdy Malek discussed the finances of the Santa Verena Charity over the course of the year.
Last year, Santa Verena Charity has raised $2,067,000, according to financial statements compiled by Mr. Gaby Raphael, which reflect a 15% increase since last year. 81% of the total funds go to various Santa Verena Charity programs, and the remaining 19% is allocated toward specific designated projects in Egypt.
According to Dr. Malek, getting the word out on the charity’s projects has been a hurdle in attaining more support for the charity.
“The main reason for not being able to reach our full potential is because of a lack of promotion and advertising of these wonderful programs,” explained Dr. Malek.
The banquet also included a slideshow presentation from two youth service trips—one which traveled to Egypt and the other which traveled to Mexico this year. Fr. Anthony Attallah from St. Mary and St. Athanasius Church in Northridge introduced Michael Hanna and Mora Matta’s presentation on the youth service trip to Egypt last summer. Fr. Anthony said about the youth, “They have the interest and the zeal to visit their mother land and to offer some service.”
Michael Guirguis and Paul Awad presented a slideshow from St. John Church’s Mexico house-building trip.
In addition to the slideshow presentations, Sunday’s event also featured a performance by the St. Maurice Church children’s choir, who also raised money by selling their newly-released CD of spiritual songs and hymns.