Martin C. Barry
While the month of January can be a dull and depressing time of the year, a hopeful ray of light shone for the staff and clients at Agape in Chomedey last week when city councillor Vasilios Karidogiannis dropped by with a $450 donation to the charitable services group.
First time for everything
Although it was the first time Karidogiannis, who represents the district of l’Abord-à-Plouffe, made a major donation to Agape, he said it’s something that will probably be an annual tradition from now on.
“We’re allocated a certain amount of money every year to help support our community organizations, and it’s up to us to find which ones need support,” he said. “Agape is at the top of my list. This is the first year, but hopefully not the last. And hopefully we can make this donation grow somehow.
A friend to Agape
“I’m always offering a helping hand whenever Betty needs something,” Karidogiannis continued, referring to the organization’s secretary-treasurer Elizabeth McLeod. “It’s not always easy, but I try to help as much as I can. They’re also my neighbours because I live just down the street. The people that Agape helps are also my neighbours. And you never know when you may also be in a position to needs Agape’s help.”
Agape was just one on a list of eight or nine charitable organizations that benefited from donations from Councillor Karidogiannis. They included local community supermarket Au Panier de Chomedey on Lévesque Blvd. West. “I had four-and-half thousand dollars at my disposal this year and it was partitioned to as many groups and organizations as possible,” he said. “And hopefully next year it’ll be for even more.”
Praises anglo services group
He praised Agape for being the only group of its kind in Chomedey to stand up for the rights of its principal clients. “It’s the only anglo services community organization in the neighbourhood, which is very important since the anglophone community is growing,” said Karidogiannis.
In an interview with the Laval News, McLeod said the money “will help us feed more people. We have more refugees and immigrants coming in. We have people who arrived in this country last year who are no longer receiving support and they’re starting to come to us now. So every penny that we receive now really helps us to feed everyone who comes in to us.”
Ongoing refugee crisis
While maintaining that the refugee situation hasn’t changed much since last year at this time when it was being treated as a crisis, she added, “we sort of got used to dealing with it. We’ve kept most of the families who arrived. The bigger crisis happens when they’ve been here a year and their support runs out. They’re learning French, but they can’t find a job. That’s when they become eligible to apply for welfare which is not a large enough amount of money to survive.
“So we have to continue seeing to their needs, feeding and clothing them. I don’t see an improvement over last year, but I do see a regular flow continuing of what started for us last year. We have to bear in mind through this that we still have our regulars. Some of our people can’t work because they have severe handicaps and restrictions for work. Others suffer from mental health issues. We have to take care of all of them. These are some of the biggest challenges we face.”
A tight financial situation
All this being said, Agape is not anticipating any major increases in subsidies or donations in the near future, McLeod continued. “I would love to say yes, that all kinds of money is coming in and we can all be happy about it, but this is not the movies.
“Our biggest concern is to make sure that we can keep our heads above water,” she said. “Being the secretary-treasurer, of course, I always feel the big responsibility of seeing that our financial affairs stay proper. But the money just doesn’t come in. We’ve been operating at loss for a few years. We promised our chartered accountant that this year we would break even, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”