The gift of thrift

The four nominations that Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou received for consideration in this issue all told of a selfless woman who would likely laud others as far more compassionate and committed contributors to society. True to their suppositions, the 49-year-old sheepishly accepted distinction as a difference maker, saying that any success she has had as a co-founder and co-manager of Philly AIDS Thrift, 710 S. Fifth St., comes mainly through the sacrifices of peers.

“I’m just a good facilitator of all the goodness around me,” the Lower Moyamensing resident said of her involvement with the Queen Village location that two weeks ago celebrated its 11th anniversary. “People are going to read about me, but it’s everyone working together that drives our mission.”

The seventh-year South Philadelphia has helped to orchestrate the donation of more than $1.5 million to Philadelphia-area HIV/AIDS organizations and has established admirable affiliations with such entities as the Youth Health Empowerment Project, the AIDS Information Network, and the Mazzoni Center, which named her its 2013 Ally Award winner. The in-store inclusion of an HIV testing center has proven another means to work toward a less judgment-laden society, with Kallas-Saritsoglou seeing it and the location’s other components as reflections of her call to care.

“My worldview is that we’re here to serve, and I’m happy to serve in any way possible,” she said, adding that Philadelphians, particularly South Philly inhabitants, are among the most nurturing individuals she has known. “My job is a joy that helps me to live that philosophy, and I’m thankful for the opportunities to brighten lives.”

Never an attention seeker, Kallas-Saritsoglou admitted to feeling embarrassed over her inclusion as a difference maker but dubbed herself “humbled and honored” to join this publication’s seventh class of admirable leaders.

“It’s so sweet,” she said of the commendation. “Truly, though, I just want to play my little part in improving the big picture.” J.M.