WEIRTON - The All Saints Greek Orthodox Church community celebrated the accomplishments of two of its members - and presented a local charitable organization with a $7,500 check - during a recent reception.
The reception honored Alexandra Melonas, who was one of nine Philoptochos members chosen to receive the Agape Award as unsung heroes of the Greek Orthodox Church's philanthropic arm.
"Agape" means "love" in Greek and stands for All Generations Accomplishing Philanthropic Endeavors. It was first awarded in 2008, and there is one winner from each of the country's metropolises.
AGAPE AWARD WINNER — Darlene Ballas, All Saints Greek Orthodox Church Chapter Philoptochos president, left, Alexandra Melonas, All Saints chapter member and Agape Award winner, center, and Rosemary Nikas, Metropolis of Pittsburgh Philoptochos president, pose with Melonas’ award and gifts she received as one of nine Agape winners throughout the country representing the unsung heroes of the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Church. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
"It's so overwhelming," said Melonas. "You're sitting up there on stage, and all the metropolitans are sitting down in the first row, and you think, 'what did I do? I don't deserve this.' It was the most humbling experience in my life."
Melonas has been a member of the All Saints chapter of the Philoptochos for approximately 40 years, serving in many capacities and in many offices during that time. She also has served on the Metropolis of Pittsburgh Philoptochos board and as an officer for the metropolis Philoptochos. She is currently serving as the treasurer for the metropolis Philoptochos.
She first learned not only that her chapter - one of 485 in the country - had nominated her for the award, but that she had won, from Rosemary Nikas, Metropolis of Pittsburgh Philoptochos president.
"I was so shocked," she said. "I didn't even know I was nominated by the chapter."
Melonas was presented the award during the national Philoptochos biennial convention, which was held in Phoenix, Ariz., at the Musical Instrument Museum.
Nikas explained that the award isn't just about service to the church, but outreach and fellowship in the community.
"It's about reaching out to the entire community," she said, explaining that when the Patriarch Athenagoras created the society in 1931, he charged the ladies of the Greek Orthodox community to reach out to their neighbors.
"It's what our mission still is."
One of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh's Philoptochos' largest events is the biannual Childern's Medical Fund Luncheon, scheduled for Oct. 12, 2013 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh. The luncheon helps the Philoptochos raise more than $200,000 to local charitable organizations. Those interested in making a donation or attending the luncheon can contact the metropolitan Philoptochos Treasurer, Melonas, at (304) 797-0155 or (304) 797-9884.
Melonas, the daughter of the late William and Maxine Kuprowicz, has been a member of the All Saints congregation since her marriage to the late Michael Melonas, who died in 2005, more than 50 years ago. The couple have two sons, Neo Michael of Martinsburg and Anthony of Jefferson Hills, Pa., and one grandson, Neo Matthew.
"I really appreciate all the good wishes and congratulations everyone has extended to me," said Melonas.
The congregation also celebrated the elevation of the Rev. Frank Milanese to the rank of protopresbyter, the highest rank a married priest can achieve within the Greek Orthodox Church. Milanese was notified June 17. "Protopresbyter" means "senior priest," and Milanese noted he would now join other protopresbyters during metropolitan events.
Milanese has served the Metropolis of Pittsburgh for the past 26 years, pastoring at churches in Akron, Ohio, Columbus, Huntington, and, for the past seven years, at Weirton, celebrating his pastoral anniversary at All Saints in early September. He has also served in the metropolitan offices twice, once as the youth director and once as the director of the camp building project.
He and his wife, Cynthia, have two sons, Christopher, 24, and Matthew, 22.
Also during the reception, the church presented the Weirton Christian Center with a check for $7,500, which that organization will use toward defraying transportation costs associated with its pre-school and afterschool programs.
Kim Weaver, Christian center director, praised All Saints' partnership with the center, adding the church also hosts an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the children at the Christian center and the Dunbar Recreational Center.
The "blessing bags" of healthy snacks the church provided those children attending inspired a similar program in which children are provided bags of food over long weekends and holidays away from school.
"We are very grateful for this donation," said Weaver. "We really depend on donations from the community."
She added that the children had volunteered during the recent Greek Festival held by the church and had enjoyed the experience.