‘A lot of our members are now from here,’ says FILIA founder Johanna Tsoublekas
Although the year 2020 has been far from normal up to now because of COVID-19, it seemed only fitting that the FILIA Association for Senior Citizens would go with the flow and break with a longstanding tradition beginning this year.
So, while this marked the 14th year in a row FILIA was holding its annual Walk A Thon for senior citizens, this was also the first year the Park Extension-based organization held its health and awareness-raising event on a gorgeous autumn Saturday Sept. 19 at Saint Norbert Park in Laval’s Chomedey neighbourhood.
The impact of COVID
“We decided to do it in Laval because a lot of our members are now from here,” said Johanna Tsoublekas, founder of FILIA. “However, because of COVID-19 there are not as many people this year who have come out. But many of our members and supporters live in Laval.
“But the thing is that with the COVID, many who are of a certain age are now afraid to come,” she continued. “All the same, we prepared carefully with face masks for those needing them. And we are, of course, keeping at a safe distance at the same time.”
FILIA offers services
The Walk A Thon is held in September every year as a fundraiser for the FILIA meals-on-wheels program. While FILIA’s initial mission was to provide assistance to Greek women of the Park Extension Hellenic community and later throughout Montreal, its mandate has since been broadened and people of every origin are now welcomed.
Some of the services FILIA provides are home housekeeping and supervision, volunteer training and a healthcare clinic for the feet. During this year’s Walk A Thon, rather than make their way around the streets of Park Extension, the walkers made their way along a circuit that went around Saint Norbert Park on Cartier Blvd. in eastern Chomedey.
Smaller event this year
Those who wished could later stop to rest and chat with longtime friends in Saint Norbert Park, while also enjoying the bagged lunch prepared by FILIA volunteers for everyone who took part in the walk. Although grilled souvlaki has traditionally been served at past FILIA Walk A Thons, the limiting conditions this year meant the organizers could only offer the bagged lunch.
Among the special guests at the 2020 FILIA Walk A Thon were elected officials from Laval and other areas of the greater Montreal region. They included Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette, Laval-Les Îles MP Fayçal El-Khoury, Laval city councillor for the district of Souvenir-Labelle Sandra El-Helou and Saint-Laurent MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos.
Officials among the guests
“I just want to thank everyone for being here today,” said El-Helou. “It’s not easy with the COVID situation. I would particularly like to thank Ms. Tsoublekas for everything she’s doing for people. And my thanks also to my colleagues for being here today. It is a pleasure to be among you.”
“I would like to thank the organizers, and in particular Johanna Tsoublekas, for organizing this event today,” said El-Khoury. “I am very happy to be here and to see the good work being done by FILIA for seniors here in Laval. I am working on their behalf in Ottawa and will continue to do so.”
Gathering in Laval at last
Ouellette noted that holding the FILIA Walk A Thon in Laval was the fulfillment of a longtime ambition for Tsoublekas. “Johanna has had this dream for so long,” he said, noting that Tsoublekas had spoken about it to him when FILIA held gatherings in recent years for supporters at the Château Royal in Chomedey.
“I am here to express my support for FILIA which does great work for the senior community on the island of Montreal and in Laval,” said Lambropoulos.
“It’s important to promote the fact that we can still live in health while finding ways to protect ourselves from COVID-19, regardless of the fact this virus is going around. If we wear masks and keep our distances, there are ways to continue living normally while staying healthy.”