By David Bjorkgren
Special to the Hellenic News
If you were looking to spice up your Christmas shopping with a little Greek flavor this year, St Luke Church in Broomall was the place to be.
The church hosted its annual Boutiques & Greek Treats Christmas bazaar Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3. The event, now in its third year, is hosted by the Ladies Philoptochos Society of St. Luke. It featured the usual Christmas treats like visits with Santa, holiday music, Nativities, as well as homemade wreaths and other holiday arts and crafts on sale. Vendors offered everything from books and jewelry to truffles, hand-sewn scarves and hand-made pottery.
But take a second look and you’ll discover this traditional Christmas bazaar offered a lot more. For lunch, visitors could munch on a Gyro, sample Moussaka, Pastichio, Spanakopita, Tyropita, and Greek salad or mingle homemade Greek pastries such as Kourabiethes, Finikia, Koulourakia and Baklava with traditional American pastries, washing it down with some red or white wine or soda. It’s all the same excellent food that can be found during the church’s largest event, The Greek Affair, held each fall.
The cultural blend continued as guests strolled through Yiayia’s attic to check out grandmother’s knickknacks, or as they visited the church’s book store display to read up on the Greek Orthodox faith and culture. Photographs of Greece were for sale, as was olive oil from southern Greece.
While guests enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of Boutiques and Greek Treats, they also helped support a charity.
“We pick a charity for every event,” explained Christine Turner, chairman of the Boutiques bazaar. In fact, the Ladies Philoptochos Society of St. Luke Chapter 282 gives all the money it raises throughout the year to charity. A charity for the bazaar will be selected by the Ladies later in December, Turner said.
“We’ve exceeded our goal every year of what we earned the year before,” Turner said.
The energy that drives Boutiques & Greek Treats comes from the more than 80 people who volunteer from the church. They can be found preparing and serving food, creating ceramics, crafts and raffle baskets, manning tables, donating items for the flea market and making sure everyone has a good time. Completing the picture are the local vendors, who lease a space from the Ladies to show off their products and services.
“We have much support, not only from our church community and our other Greek Orthodox communities but we have heavy support base here from the Delaware County community,” Turner said.
The Ladies start preparing for next year’s bazaar soon after the holidays, when they reach out to the vendors. Weeks before the event, the cooks and bakers will start meeting to turn out the delicious food and pastries.
“We still have active members that are in their 80s and 90s. They’ll come to do the baking and they’ll package everything. A lot of times they’ll cover our Greek baked goods. They are the gurus of baking. We’re learning from them,” Turner said.
“We have a really strong membership, a strong leadership in our president, Angelique Demetrios, but we have a really cohesive group of women,” Turner said. She thanked St, Luke pastor Father Christ Kontos and the Parish Council for their leadership.
Boutiques & Greek Treats raises money for charity, engages the community, but it also builds friendships and generates fellowship within the church.
“Any time we raise money for charity is very important, but the other importance for this event is it brings the community together and we all work together and we get to know each other and we form great and life-long friendships,” said Angelique Demetrios, president of the Ladies Philoptochos Society of St. Luke.
Support naturally comes from the church community, but outside guests visit as well, for the Greek pastries, the Greek food and to get a jump start on Christmas shopping, Demetrios said.
She estimated about 800 people turned out this year for the bazaar.
Martha DiCamillo, a member of the Ladies Philoptochos Society, designs wreaths for the bazaar and for the Greek Festival. Last year, she sold 72 wreaths, 62 at the bazaar.
“I do this for non-profit, for the church,” she said. “It’s kind of giving back to the community.”
Plus, she loves to do it. “I’m in my element, in my soul,” DiCamillo said.
Her work, which involves gathering a range of natural materials, then decorating a wreath base, sells for about $30 at the bazaar. A high-end shop might charge you $200 for the same thing, she said.
“I do a lot of foraging so I put a lot of unique elements to the wreath, things you might not see,” she said.
Over at the restaurant, lady volunteers dish out the Greek delicacies to guests.
“It’s a little bit labor intensive but we have a great team that works well together,” said Alexis Limberakis, one of the volunteers who helps prepare and serve the food. The five to 15 women have gathered weeks earlier to start preparing the food and pastries, guided by Festival head chef John Solomon, who prepared the Moussaka and Pastichio. Working together, they have all become friends.
“We love to share our heritage. We love to share as a family at St. Luke what we have. We all consider ourselves a family here,” Limberakis said. “It’s a wonderful bonding time for the community that we can share what we have with the community outside of St. Luke.”