Utah Philanthropist Meets with Leader of Georgian Orthodox Church


Award-winning author and philanthropist John M. Simmons recently traveled to Tbilisi, in the former Soviet State of Georgia, to meet with His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II of All Georgia Mtskheta. Eighty-year-old Ilia has been the Patriarch and leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church since 1977.

Because of health conditions common to his advanced age, meetings with his holiness are extremely difficult to obtain and are often reserved for heads of states. The Patriarch agreed to meet with Simmons after his Ele Lembra Foundation added several children under the church’s care to its Georgian program, Chance, at Ilia’s personal request. Program Chance is a Georgian accredited Non-Government Organization that assists orphans and other disadvantaged youth with an after-school program to help prepare eleventh and twelfth graders for continuing education. The program also provides its college students with a stipend to cover living expenses while they complete their schooling.

While adopting several children from Russia, Simmons fell in love with the orphans he met and was distraught when he realized the dismal lives that they would live if they were not adopted and if no one intervened. Because of these feelings, Simmons and other family members established the Ele Lembra Foundation to provide high-achieving at-risk youth with the means to continue their educations, rather than turning to life on the streets when they aged out of government-sponsored institutions.

Ele Lembra’s Program Chance utilizes a Jewish school in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, to give students added training in Mathematics, English, Georgian Language and Literature, as well as Health and Personal Hygiene. Rabbi Meir Koslovsky, an Israeli Jew who also studied in the United States, and now lives in Georgia, provided access to the school and all of its resources at no charge to Program Chance. The program employs the same teachers that the private Jewish school uses, who collectively represent various religious backgrounds. Participants of Program Chance are provided with equal opportunities regardless of gender, race, religion or ethnicity.

“As I met with many people in Georgia,” Simmons said, “most of them were amazed to see the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, a Jewish Rabbi, and an American businessman-turned-philanthropist working together despite their different backgrounds and beliefs. It was funny to watch others who wondered how differences could be put aside so easily. But the great men I worked with did not even consider our differences and neither did I. All good people of the world agree that one of our greatest responsibilities is to children. Surely, anyone who believes in any form of a Higher Power must realize that He would be happier with us spending time to ensure the success of vulnerable children, than He would with us spending the same time in disputes, ill will and antagonism. One of my greatest desires is to see orphans break free from the often generational repetition of life in orphanages. I want to see these orphans rise to lead their own families, in their own homes, and to be the loving, supportive and providing mamas and papas that they are meant to be.”

The Ele Lembra foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity with its home office in Kamas, Utah. http://EleLembra.com. https://www.facebook.com/EleLembra. https://twitter.com/@HeRemembers

(A media kit, photos, and references are available on request)

Ele Lembra Foundation
Sherrelle Pontarelli, 801-783-6040
Fax: 435-783-6128
© Business Wire 2013



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