The Hellenic Community helped people of Greek origin with social service related matters until 1972, through the women’s auxiliary Church Services (Philoptohos). Subsequently, in 1972, the Hellenic Community established the Department of Social Services, which was named, “Job and Information Centre” whose purpose was to help newly arrived immigrants with their orientation and integration challenges. Many hundreds were given information, helped to find a job, a place to stay and made to feel welcome. This service was operated by the Social Affairs Committee (SAC) as it was referred to then and what still exists as Social Services Committee in the HCGM By-laws, article 15. At that time, the social service office was situated on St-Laurent Boulevard, across from where the Just For Laughs building is today, in the bright, intriguing and historical Godin Building. Hotel 10 is west of the Godin building that is situated on the corner of St-Laurent and Sherbrooke St. West. Holy Trinity Church, which burnt down in 1986, was replaced with Hotel 10.
In 1976, as the demands placed on the Hellenic Community’s Social Services increased, the Social Affairs department offices transitioned from Blvd. St-Laurent to 5679 Park Avenue, in Mile End and also opened a branch office in the district of Parc-Extension (initially over Afroditi Bakery and subsequently moved to and occupied both floors of the St. Cuthbert Anglican Church, built in 1913, which was converted into a community centre at 821 Ogilvy Avenue, known today as “Chalet Ogilvy”. The building was rented from the City of Montreal and shared with the Senior’s Club Evangelismos. The services were offered to people of Greek origin and were primarily informative in nature and included helping the elderly fill a variety of forms and applications, occasionally information sessions were organized. One of the interesting projects that were introduced during that period was, the “Thalassemia Extensive Research Project” under the supervision of Dr. Julius Metrakos and Miss Marietta Hadjipetros. The Park Avenue office was eventually closed, keeping only the office at Chalet Ogilvy.
In the late 80’s, Social Affairs Committee (SAC) of the HCGM had a second office in Côte-des-Neiges/Outremont, at the head office of HCGM, 5777 Wilderton Avenue. The Director’s position was created on a part-time basis at that time; Eleni Kolaitis-Fakotakis (Lily) was the first to fill this position. As the By-laws only had representatives from the HCM BOD and HCM regionals, Lily and the Secretary of the HCM Board to the SAC, Mr. Yiannis Troulis modified the By-laws of the SAC at an HCM General Assembly to include Greek health care professionals from the public network, a priest from one of the HCGM churches and a principal of Socrates school, in order to effectively address all the concerns of the Greek community internally and at large. At that time the Director networked a lot with non-Greek organisations in order to address socio-economic concerns of clients at a local level and to increase the department’s visibility and participation in the public system. The promotion of referral services in a variety of psycho-social concerns was also considered a priority. Attempts were made to obtain collaboration from the various Greek associations in order to form a network of support for the benefit of the whole of the Hellenic community at large, by pooling resources together. Attempts failed, as it was not possible, due to the fact that the structure and administrators of the associations are not permanent enough and their mandates are mostly social and recreational related.
This is a photo of the very first pamphlet of HSSQ. The picture was designed by a Socrates II student, Christina Irene Kolaitis, the HSSQ Board of Directors chose this child’s drawing because it symbolises the importance of healthy, happy children.
Clients of the SAC service were helped to understand and to use the public services effectively and were accompanied when necessary. Elaborate lists of health and social services professionals of Greek origin were kept updated for effective referrals. Attempts were also made to create an association of Greek Social Workers, who could sensitise the public system to the multitude of barriers that were identified by SAC and which prevented SAC clients to receive appropriate help by the public system. Although an association of Greek social workers was not created, meetings took place regularly with this group of social workers in order to help identify the psycho-social needs of the Greek community and to shape the direction of the Social Affairs committee. The Director of Social Affairs became VP on the CSSSMM beneficiaries or (usagers) Board (At this time this was the organization that protected youth in the French sector).
Since 1972, the Social Affairs Committee witnessed many reorganisations to the health and social services system. The development of the Health Insurance Plan, the mental health reform, the CLSC network and the regional health boards, which were replaced by the Health and Social Services Agencies in the reform of the 90’s, where many nurses, social workers and other professionals (OTs, Physiotherapists, etc.) were retired or transferred to the various neighbourhood CLSCs that the general public was being encouraged to use. Just before this reform and the juggling of professionals and services in the public network, the President of the HCM, Mr. Adrian Maris, along with Mme Nicole Saint-Germain, General Director of Socrates had successfully negotiated with the French youth protection system (CSSSMM) to receive three full-time social workers for all the campuses of Socrates schools and for the Social Affairs department, the CSSSMM administration agreed and drew up the contract, that needed the signatures of both sides. The minister of health at the time was Madame Lavoie Roux and Mr.Christos Sirros was part of her team. Unfortunately, Greek lobbying power was limited and the whole deal was swept up in the winds of change brought forth by this health care reform and fell through completely.
The SAC became incorporated and received its own charter on March 30th 1992. Thus, the Social Affairs department of the HCM, officially became the organization, ‘’Services sociaux helléniques du Québec (SSHQ)’’ or Hellenic Social Services of Québec. The concept of the logo was created by the Director and designed by Valia Hatzithomas. It was inspired by the health care reform at the time. It symbolises the individual, a Greek individual. It was also important to support the reason why the reform was taking place. To place the individual at the heart of the health care system, thereby making the individual also responsible for their care and an active partner in making informed decisions.
Logo created by Valia Hatzithomas in 1992.
The three dimensional look was created by Christina Kolaitis in 2010.
The very first Board members were: Dr. Nicholas Constas (who ran a private medical clinic with a variety of medical doctor associates), Dr. Apostolos Papageorgiou (Head of Pediatrics, JGH), Mrs. Toula Karahaliou, Director of Socrates Campus II, Mr. Nicolas Pagonis (accountant and a Board member of the HCM and the current HCGM President to 2019), Danae Savidis (social worker in the public network), along with Director, Eleni Lily Kolaitis. The mandate in the Charter or Lettres Patentes specifies that the community must be sensitised to the public services and that SSHQ has to provide services and support in the following areas: the creation of a documentation centre, promote mental health, promote the protection of youth, offer home care services, encourage clients to continue to live in their homes for as long as possible and to avoid institutionalisation (specifically the elderly, people with mobility problems and intellectual and physical limitations), offer services to victims of violence, provide temporary transitional shelter to victims of violence, provide sensitisation regarding AIDS, set up a network of Greek foster families.
Throughout the 90’s and beyond, SSHQ has been a reliable partner organisation along with other community organisations, participating as one of the key players in projects introduced by the public services and with collaboration by the community groups such as SSHQ: SSHQ also offered Early breast cancer screening and sensitisation activities in our Church basements; the Director assisted in the initial meetings held at CLSC Réné-Cassin that resulted in the well-known Hotline for senior mistreatment (1-888-489-ABUS (2287)) and the slogan, ‘’Let’s not turn a blind eye to elder abuse’’; The Director’s collaboration and lobbying with other key community organisers (representatives from Alliance Quebec and ACCESSS, etc.) during the health and social services reform enabled the groups to lobby and succeed in obtaining the Banque d’interprètes. During the same year, SSHQ also succeeded in having one of their Board Members elected to the Agence Board of Directors in the early nineties, this individual was Dr. N. Constas.
Important services offered by the two full-time people and the many dedicated volunteers over the years included:
- A supervised social work intervention program in the Socrates school system through a student trainee, a special collaboration was set up between the McGill Social Work Department and SSHQ to make this a reality. The Director of the Social Service Department at McGill at the time was the late, Mr. Bunny Dalfen;
- smoking cessation workshops;
- support groups for parents of special children;
- offering support services to the elderly of the Foyer Hellénique Pour Personnes Agées;
- offering home economics and independent living (used an apartment in the Foyer Hellénique Pour Personnes Âgés for the training space) and transportation workshops for young people with special needs;
- collaboration with EXODUS (a drug rehab program);
- recreational & Greek cultural program for the Leclerc penal institution;
- information sessions on AIDS, on Mental health, on senior violence prevention;
- ‘’Nobody’s Perfect’’ workshops for parents of young pre-school aged children;
- workshops on Breast self-examination;
- a yearly Christmas, food and toy distribution to the poor;
Director Eleni Fakotakis Kolaitis left the service in December 1998 to operate the Quebec office of a private home and workplace social service (Comcare) which had offices across Canada. The SSHQ was directed by six other Directors, only those who operated SSHQ for more than six months are mentioned below:
November 1999 to December 2000, Nikos Sozos
May 2001 to September 2009, Fani Triandos
With two full-time employees and two part-time employees, the service was also able to offer support services to the elderly of Residence Hutchison and also introduced computers for the elderly and French courses for people with limited education and financial means through the organization, CREP. Since April 2004, SSHQ has been offering a weekly Montreal food bank service that initially operated in the basement of Evangelismos Church in Parc-Extension. In the fall of 2007 the food bank moved its operations to the Parc-Extension SSHQ office space at 821 Ogilvy (referred to as the Chalet Ogilvy). From 2009 to 2014, the CSSS de la Montagne funded the exercise and balance program for seniors entitled, PIED, today this service is no longer funded, however, an exercise program is still offered for a reasonable cost to the elderly, enough to pay for the instructor.
Since 2010, again under the Direction of Ms. Eleni Fakotakis Kolaitis, SSHQ, is a referral, information and support service concerned with quality governance, offering service excellence and serve mainly Greek clients, however, services are also offered to clients of diverse origins. Detailed rules, regulations and regular team-work and performance management strategies have been identified and monitored to assure that the service mission, vision and values are respected. The service’s main service objectives and strategies target mostly the following clients: elderly, natural caregivers of the elderly, mistreated elderly, the poor, the isolated and marginalized people. SSHQ has branched out serving beneficiaries throughout the greater Montreal region via local offices and a wide variety of support services and fun, recreational, educational activities. Although the South Shore office was initially opened in 2009 and operated on a part-time basis for one year, it was not feasible to keep it open due to lack of funding. Presently it functions as an answering service only.
The Laval SSHQ office (on 4236 Souvenir, Chomedey) has been in operation on a part-time basis since March 2011 and on a full-time basis since February 2014 when SSHQ received additional funding for a Caregiver of the elderly support and referral service offered to Greek caregivers living in Laval, this program is made possible through the funding of L’Appui Laval. Interesting conferences and workshops are presented every month; many hundreds have attended so far. The Food Bank services were implemented in Laval, in the summer of 2013 and operates in the basement of Timios Stavros Church, this is coordinated by the President of the SSHQ, Mrs. Eleni Tsinalis.
The HSSQ collaborates on a variety of Tables de concertation along with public and community institutions such as the CLSCs, the City, other partner organisations to collaborate and coordinate efforts in order to implement important community-based activities, including the occasional blood pressure clinics and blood donor clinics, local security for the elderly, sharing information, etc. SSHQ programs include: Support and workshops to natural caregivers of the elderly, support and a variety of programs for the elderly, food bank services (Parc-Ex and Laval), for more information refer to the annual SSHQ documents (Annual Activity Reports, Annual Financial Reports, Annual Strategic Plan, service pamphlets, Face Book page).
In January 2017, the logo of Hellenic Social Services was changed from
Former SSHQ Presidents:
1996-1997 Maria Larivée Papanicolaou
1997-1998 Effie Gournakis and Panagiotis Theodorou
1998-2001 Penelope Athinaios
2001-2002 Vicky Kompogiannis
2002-2004 Angeliki Kritikou
2004-2006 Steve Sideris
2006-2008 Cleopatra Maragos
2008-to date Eleni Tsinalis