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Photo by Sophia Valiotis
Efstathios and Stamatiki Valiotis, founders of The Hellenic Advancement of Education and Culture, donated $50,000 to the FDNY EMS Help Fund.

A Queens-based charitable foundation is providing vital support to New York City’s frontline medical workers battling COVID-19. 

The Hellenic Advancement of Education and Culture in Long Island City donated $50,000 to the FDNY’s EMS Help Fund, a nonprofit that offers crucial economic support to the families of the Department’s EMS workers sickened, injured or financially struggling. 

Efstathios and Stamatiki Valiotis, founders of The Hellenic Advancement of Education and Culture, say they hope to offer some assistance — and sustenance — to those battling the devastating illness on the frontlines. 

“New York is our home and it is where we raised our family. With our fellow New Yorkers suffering during this terrible pandemic, we feel an incredible gratitude to the men and women who answer the call, putting their own safety at risk in order to provide the critical medical care that is so badly needed,” said Efstathios. 

About 150 EMS workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 600 are symptomatic. Despite being regularly exposed to the illness and diseases, FDNY’s EMS workers receive only 12 sick days a year, rather than the unlimited sick days for other uniformed service members, creating financial hardships for their families. 

When they surpass that limit, they effectively fall off the city payroll and need to find other means to feed their families and pay the rent.

“It warms my heart to see people like the Hellenic Advancement of Education and Culture acknowledging the work we do here,” said Carl Gandolfo, a member of the EMS Help Fund Board of Directors. The EMS Help Fund is something we created to help our EMTs, paramedics, fire inspectors and their families overcome any hardships they face from this line of work. Now more than ever, people are realizing how dangerous this job is, but our responders are out here each and every day ensuring this city’s medical safety.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, EMS workers have been forced to respond to a staggering increase in 911 calls and face serious potential danger of exposure to the virus. 

While they responded to more than 1.5 million emergencies in 2019, since the arrival of the coronavirus, emergency call volumes have soared, and in many cases have doubled to meet the emergency needs of fellow New Yorkers.

Many FDNY EMS workers have been afraid of exposing their own families to the COVID-19 disease and have been separated from their loved ones for prolonged periods of time since the outbreak began, with some taking up residence in their personal vehicles.

“Our members are often referred to as New York City’s Street Doctors, because we are out there every single day and night saving lives and loved ones, when there is no one else to turn to,” said Oren Brailzay, president of the FDNY’s EMS Local 2507. “Over the last month, with the massive spike in coronavirus, New Yorkers have truly seen how irreplaceable the men and women of the FDNY EMS truly are to this city and its citizens. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to the members of FDNY’s EMS, and through this fund we are here for your needs as well.”

Additionally, the Hellenic Foundation has also arranged through the New York State Nurses Association to provide a week’s worth of to-go meals, for members of the medical staff at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights. 

The Wahi Diner staff, in partnership with the Hellenic Cultural Foundation, deliver food to medical staff at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights (Courtesy of Wahi Diner)

The freshly made meals will be prepared daily and packaged for delivery by the staff at the WaHi Diner, at Broadway and 164th Street in Washington Heights. The meals will be delivered midday each day for the week beginning April 12. 

The diner is producing roughly 150 meals per day for nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel risking their own safety to take care of New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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