On Saturday morning, when some kids her age were sleeping, playing video games or going to the mall, Pike School eighth-grader Victoria Skrivanos was cooking and serving a meal at the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Haverhill as part of Food for Friends, the nonprofit organization she founded in October 2009.
Victoria, 14, who lives in Andover with her parents, Lorna and Konstantino, and brother Niko, said she began Food for Friends because it combined two of her favorite activities.
"Community service is something I've been so passionate about, and I've always loved to cook," she said. "So I put two things I love together."
The Skrivanos family attends the Haverhill church, where Food for Friends serves a monthly meal.
Saturday's meal, which included a salad, bread, orzo, steak tips, cake and home-made chocolate chip cookies, was the 14th of its kind at the church, and served more than 100 people.
"Anyone is welcome," she said.
Victoria, who has raised more than $12,000 by herself to help pay for the food through an e-mail, letter-writing and phone call fundraising campaign, said her motivation partly stems from the reaction of the first feeding 14 months ago.
"I knew how appreciative they were and how happy they were. One man said to me, 'If it weren't for you, we wouldn't eat,'" she said.
She said the name for the organization came to her as organically as her call to service.
"Food for Friends just stuck," she said. "I wanted them to be my friends. I wanted to make it personal."
Victoria, who plays tennis and is busy applying to private high schools around the area, serves the meals on the last Saturday of every month.
"I know I can't do it all," she said, adding that she buys all of the food from local grocery stores and Costco. "But I know they can look forward to the last Saturday of every month," she said of those who attend her meals.
Victoria's father is originally from Haverhill, and the family has been a part of the community and the church for years.
"This is our home base," Lorna Skrivanos said.
Victoria, who bakes a dessert for each feeding — including 12 batches of chocolate chip cookies for Saturday's meal — and helps serve the struggling members of the community, said her parents have instilled in her the value of service and civic duty from an early age.
"We've always been a very fortunate family, so just teaching us that not everyone has a house with food on the table," she said. "They've taught us to give back when you're lucky enough to have those things."
While most of the people at Saturday's feeding were return customers, several new faces came to enjoy the warm, home-cooked meal.
Lawrence's Steve Lomvari, 25, said he couldn't believe the entire organization was run by a 14-year-old.
"It's incredible," he said. "Can you imagine that?"
Jimmy Hodgkins, 22, of Haverhill, a first-time customer, said the food was delicious, adding how impressed he was with the meal.
"It just tells me that that's one smart girl and that she has good taste in food," he said. "I'm definitely going to come back."
Valerie Gounaris, the president of the Ladies Philoptochos Society, the church's philanthropic group, said Victoria's genuine interest in community service, at such a young age, is extraordinary.
"It's just very impressive that she is so interested in helping the community," she said. "She's brightening their day."
Five months into her Food for Friends tenure, Victoria began a second nonprofit organization, Books for Buddies, and now brings 30 to 70 books to each monthly meal.
"I didn't want to help by just feeding them, and I've always had a lot of books because I'm a big reader," she said. "I can bring in children's books for the kids and chapter books for the adults. It's such a big hit."
Lorna Skrivanos said her daughter's desire to help and serve is evident from her excitement the morning of each session.
"She just jumps out of bed to do it," she said.
Victoria has begun her second round of fundraising to relatives, community members and her school, and will begin planning for February's feed in a couple of weeks.
Gounaris, who has been involved with the church's ladies group for more than 15 years, said she is consistently amazed at Victoria's passion for community service.
"Such a young age to want to help," she said. "I was stunned. I find her to be a remarkable young lady. I'm very impressed, and I'm so proud."
To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to hgazette.com. You can follow Ross on Twitter at twitter.com/rosshgazette.com.