“My mother arrived on this island on a boat, carrying with her a chest of things she was able to grab from her house as the village around her burned. One of the things she took was a tablecloth.”
This tablecloth will now have a permanent home in faraway Chicago.
Since the beginning of the refugee crisis that unfolded right before her very eyes from her seaside taverna, Maria Makroyianni has prepared thousands of meals for refugees and has opened her taverna and home to thousands.
Her kindness gained her the nickname Mama Maria from those she served.
Through its Project Hope for Greece campaign, the New York City-based Greek America Foundation fulfilled a grant on July 28, 2017 to Mama Maria, thanks to a donation from the Saints Peter and Paul Philoptochos in Glenview, IL.
Back in 2015 she transformed her Taverna into a make-shift shelter, feeding dozens at a time and laying out blankets at night to people who couldn’t find shelter.
Although she’s lost count, conservative estimates are that she’s distributed thousands of meals to people in need, especially during the influx of arrivals in 2015-16.
Maria was recognized by various news outlets and even the United Nations, which featured her work in a video that went viral online.
Thanks to the generous women of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, IL, the Greek America Foundation facilitated a $10,000 grant to purchase gift certificates from the local grocery store so Mama Maria can continue to buy food and cook for the thousands of refugees still living in camps on her island, as well as dozens who arrive regularly.
With the help of the Saints Peter and Paul Philoptochos, Maria will be able to prepare more than 800 meals every month for the next six months.
Maria, touched by the gift from the women of the Chicagoland area church, expressed her appreciation with a special gift in the form of a family heirloom hand-embroidered tablecloth that’s been in her possession for almost a century. Her mother, who arrived on the island of Samos as a refugee from Asia Minor in 1922, brought the table cloth in a chest with other family possessions.