On Thursday evening at the conclusion of Great Vespers on the eve of the feast of St. Panteleimon, John Kozak, a long-time friend and dedicated volunteer of Saint Andrew’s Camp, was presented with a gramota — the highest honor that a Bishop can give to any layperson — by Bishop Michael of New York and New Jersey.
His Grace recognized John for his tireless and selfless commitment to serving the camp and its youth, and for putting the children, their safety, their growth in the faith, and their camp experience first. In the words he spoke about John — which were focused on John’s dedication to handling any matter related to camping (grass cutting, dish washing, cooking, first aid, waterfront, choir conducting, and so much more!) — His Grace was able to impart to campers the importance of ministering as laypeople in Christ’s church and John’s example in doing so.
In addition to being presented with a gramota, John was also given a poem and photo framed as a remembrance by camper Johnny P., a long-time SAC camper during the time that John Kozak shared his labors with Saint Andrew’s from 2004 to 2012.
Joining His Grace and the campers and staff that evening for Great Vespers were Fr. Adam Sexton and his wife, Angie and children, Fr. Leonid and Matushka Laura Schmidt of Ss Peter and Paul in Syracuse, New York, Nurse Debbie, and Paul Kondakoff, a close friend of John’s and a volunteer at Saint Andrew’s. The camp community venerated the relics of St. Panteleimon the Healer and were anointed with oil from his reliquary by Fr. Adam.
A special celebratory cake was prepared by Chef Stan Bilinski, which beautifully channeled the look and feel of Saint Andrew’s Camp while offering celebratory congratulations.
May God grant John many years and keep him in His loving care as he continues to minister to the church! There will never be anyone else quite like John, and he will be missed.