Adopt a Yiayia and Pappou Program
by Rafaella Lambrinos
St. George Church, Ocean, NJ
This past year and a half, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all social gatherings and forced us to stay 6 feet apart, I felt an urge to connect. I took an idea that was brewing within me, and brought it to life. With the help of my priest and GOYA advisor, I launched the Adopt a Yiayia and Pappou Program in my church. I sought to help the senior members in my church community, who I worried were feeling isolated due to the pandemic, with the tools I had at hand: a phone, a list of interesting questions, and someone to call. We were able to match teen volunteers with senior members interested in a weekly chat. This simple idea had a profound impact on those who participated in it, both young and old. Through the program, we created meaningful relationships amongst the most unlikely pairs.
Personally, getting to know my 97-year-old adopted yiayia has been a gift. She is magnetic, and her positive attitude is contagious. She ends every conversation with a declaration: “Rafaella, I just love life.” Listening to her stories feels like reading a novel I just can’t put down. I am lucky that she is entrusting me with her words, and in many ways, her history, and I am grateful for our bond. Participating in the program and getting to know my adopted yiayia has been enriching, and is truly time well spent.
Launching this program has taught me that life is filled with interruptions that often force us to change course, and are opportunities in disguise. Connecting with the seniors in my community has been truly rewarding. Having received His Grace Bishop Apostolos’ blessing to move forward in expanding this program throughout the Metropolis, and with Father Peter Thornberg’s support and guidance, my hope is that all GOYAS across the Metropolis will implement the Adopt a Yiayia and Pappou Program in their church. There are countless stories waiting to be shared and new friendships to be made.
Rafaella Lambrinos is a senior in the Law and Public Service Program at Colts Neck High School, and a member of St. George Church in Ocean Township, NJ. She was selected as the 2021-22 Miss GOYA for the Metropolis of NJ and is the first recipient of the Gus Leontarakis Hellenism Award. Her future plans include attending college this fall and majoring in sociology.
Father Peter Thornberg is the Metropolis of NJ Youth Director.