A “living” legend in the Atlanta Metropolis Philoptochos Society is Tarpon Springs, Florida native Duchess Arfaras. Eighty-six-year-old Duchess simply “loves doing the work of Philoptochos,” and her devotion to help those in need inspired her journey to ultimately organize, fund and sustain the only Philoptochos social service “office” in the Metropolis of Atlanta.
The journey started in 1977 when Duchess became the first president of the charter chapter at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs. Her challenge was to persuade the established group of 300 women who raised money for the church to now become philanthropic workers for Philoptochos. With “please, thank you, and a smile” she invited them to meetings. Once “they came and saw” what the chapter was doing for those in need, the membership grew into “one large family, and they started raising money” for Philoptochos.
Duchess continued her leadership in both chapter and Metropolis roles, and she actively supported many fundraising events. Philoptochos fundraising for Duchess chimed a Greek saying: “Half the shame is mine for asking; half the shame is yours for telling me “no!” When the local chapter generated $25,000-$30,000, a combined food pantry and social service “office” was launched. Duchess is credited for her initial support and her ongoing efforts to support the project.
Located in a small space at the back of St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Philoptochos social service “office” is open three days a week to help the needy of the greater Tarpon Springs community. Two Philoptochos workers welcome, interview, and offer food and assistance (medical costs, living expenses, and other needs) to those who qualify.
“In January 1999, Archbishop Spyridon awarded the prestigious Medal of St. Paul to Duchess for her faithful and tireless efforts of serving those in need.”
Duchess continues to support chapter fundraisers to raise money for the poor. She serves as the Advisory Chair for the annual “Heart of Gold” fashion show, a fundraising event Duchess named “because if you are Philoptochos, you have a heart of gold.” She supports the chapter’s scholarship program and the Thanksgiving and Christmas gift certificates drive where admission to the Christmas party is a $25 or more gift certificate earmarked to help battered women and their children, many of whom attend the party.
Duchess’ legend also recognizes her efforts to help several families who were victims of a Florida hurricane. Because important records were lost, the stricken families did not qualify for aid, so Duchess made a direct plea to Archbishop Iakovos for help. He met with Duchess and agreed to grant $5,000 assistance to each family.
In January 1999, Archbishop Spyridon awarded the prestigious Medal of St. Paul to Duchess for her faithful and tireless efforts of serving those in need. Duchess is a true Philoptochos legend indeed!
Duchess lives in Tarpon Springs. She has a daughter Irene Steffas, daughter in law Anna and son Damian and four grandsons – Nicholas Steffas, Michael Steffas, Michael Arfaras and Steven Arfaras Arfaras.