HACCI Community Service Award

In November 2021, at the 35th Awards presentation of the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Vic), Gina Poulos was recognized as the winner of the Community Service Award. 

Gina was born in Cyprus in 1944 and in 1954 emigrated with her family to Traralgon in Victoria. In 1964, Gina married Peter Anagnostopoulos. It was following their wedding reception that Gina felt inspired to distribute any left-over food to people in need in the local community. So began a way of life for Gina and Peter that continues to this day.

In 1974, along with Peter and their young family, Gina moved from Sydney to Traralgon to manage her parent’s property business while they took an extended trip back to Greece. Gina soon saw an opportunity to purchase a former SEC worker’s hostel and with the help of her extended family and members of the local community, an accommodation refuge with 72 units was soon established for disadvantaged and lonely people. Through this facility, Gina played an important role in the network of welfare agencies operating across the Latrobe Valley. In 1995, Gina registered a charity known as Theodora’s Cheerful Givers, which operated a food-bank distributing emergency relief food to disadvantaged families and individuals in the region.

In 2000, Gina and Peter moved to Frankston, where they soon established another Theodora’s Cheerful Givers food bank. As the need for emergency relief food grew in the region, Gina expanded the food-bank operations to larger premises at 1/12 Govan Street, Seaford. This was indeed an inspired move because soon after in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out bringing great hardship and despair to many people in the community. In response, throughout most of 2020 and 2021, Theodora’s Cheerful Givers have distributed approx. 2,000 food-hampers and 5,000 pre-cooked frozen meals each month.

In addition to the time and effort Gina puts into preparing meals and managing the food bank, she also works tirelessly at fund-raising activities on weekends to provide financial resources in support of the food-bank operations of Theodora’s Cheerful Givers. Gina gives all the glory for her life-long achievements to God Almighty – and is quick to add that none of it would have been possible without the unflinching encouragement and support of her family and the dedicated efforts of her loyal volunteers.