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Following her father’s death on March 12, the actress, 57, said she was unable to fly home to Canada for his funeral as the novel coronavirus restricted many people’s travel plans.
Gus, who was the inspiration for Nia’s father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, showed signs of his declining health during Christmas, the star told Variety.
“If he had gone 14 days ago when they weren’t acknowledging the [coronavirus] global threat, we all would have gathered and it could have brought down the city,” the actress said, adding that she took her father’s death as a sign of his “impeccable timing.”
“He waited until the church said they couldn’t have any more large gatherings. I think my father knew he was keeping people safe,” she added.
After her father’s death, Vardalos shared on social media that she wanted to give back during this turbulent time in honor of Gus.
“I am grateful for my life, this last week of mourning made me even more sure that giving back and connectivity is the way forward,” she wrote on Instagram Friday. “If you have a little money to spare, donate a little. If you have a lot, please consider helping the many who need food, masks, gloves. Open your big fat wallets and donate. Let’s do something good. 🍎🍊 #bigfatdonation.”
Vardalos has been tracking people’s donations on her Twitter page, retweeting other celebrities who have used #bigfatdonation to give to charities of their choice.
“People in our industry, we’re fortunate, we’re privileged, we’re pampered and some of us want to use our voices to do something,” Vardalos told Variety.
Vardalos added, “That’s why I decided to go online and find different organizations. We have to do some good or we’re going to go nuts.”
Along with the My Life in Ruins actress, many celebrities are lending help to their communities as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
Also, PEOPLE recently confirmed that Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos donated $1 million to the New York Governor’s Office for the purchase of urgently needed ventilators as well as to WIN, an organization running 11 women’s shelters across New York City.
As of March 21, there are at least 21,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. with at least 267 deaths. Meanwhile, worldwide, there are now 287,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 11,921 deaths.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.