New Jersey Metropolis President Anne Michals lives her faith. “To serve those less fortunate is the true test of our understanding of Christ’s teachings. We are given this opportunity to serve through Philoptochos and it should be our honor to do so,” Anne says.
In the beginning
Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos President Anastasia (Anne) Michals was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. As a child she went to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Jersey City with her family and attended Sunday School and Greek School with Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, Chancellor of the Archdiocese and former Spiritual Advisor to the National Philoptochos Board. Both of Anne’s parents were children of Pontian Greek immigrants who believed deeply in the educational opportunities that America provided. Her father, William Koles, was an Industrial Engineer who graduated from Yale University. Her mother, Stella Paskalides, holds several degrees from Jersey State University and spent her life as a devoted mother to five children and as a teacher in the Jersey City Public Schools. Anne credits her Pontian heritage for her work ethic and devotion to the Church.
Anne’s love of children and her concern for the education of inner city kids drove her to the field of Urban Education. She holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Education and Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She retired from her career as a school administrator and teacher to raise her children John and Anastasia (Bobbie) but has continued to be involved. She has a strong belief in the importance of education and its ability to lift people out of poverty. This belief led her to serve on the Manasquan Board of Education for nine years, four of which were as President. She is now the Vice President of the Manasquan High School Endowment Fund.
Anne is married to Jeff Michals, recently retired from an executive position at a privately owned software company and a devoted supporter of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey. Anne told me that she feels truly blessed to have her daughter-in-law, Victoria Moutis, a woman of great faith and her extraordinary daughter who has spent the last eight years dedicated to the education of inner city children, currently in Brooklyn, NY. All the women closest to Anne, including the outstanding women in her family, are members of Philoptochos.
Faith and Philoptochos
After leaving her position as Board of Education President, Anne decided to actively live her faith through her Church, something she had wanted to do for many years. Although she had spent her life as a good Christian, she saw that the energy and love she brought to those around her and in her immediate family could be extended to others. Anne recalls that it was her younger sister Daphne that led her to St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Anne recalls her sister saying ‘Christ expects all of us to love our families and do great things for them always. But the true test of our faith, the true meaning of love and sacrifice comes when we reach out to love and to sacrifice for someone we don’t know, someone not in our family circle, someone in need, someone who has no one to love.’
Anne was introduced to Philoptochos at St. George Church by Presvytera Angela Eugenis. One of the first parishioners Anne met was the Philoptochos Chapter President, Barbara Terlecsky, who invited her to join Philoptochos and who remains one of her best friends. A short time later Anne became a member of the Chapter Board. She also served as a Parish Council Secretary from 2007 to 2010 and became Philoptochos Chapter President in 2007, four years after she joined the organization.
Anne had a vision for her Chapter that included growth and the expansion of mission work. She implemented a handbook that dealt with every single aspect of her Chapter’s management, from ministry commitments to projects and events and she encouraged committee chairs to be active, instilling the importance of teamwork and open communication. She emphasized how important it was for Board members to be ‘Ambassadors of Philoptochos’ and to strive to include all members on committees to expand the understanding of the Philoptochos mission. In her tenure as Chapter President, membership increased by 40%. She credits this success on a fresh perspective and true understanding of the need for philanthropy throughout the community and beyond. This fresh perspective coupled with her belief that all good leaders must truly own the responsibilities of their position, created an environment ripe for growth and positive change. Anne’s achievements as Chapter President have continued in her work as Metropolis President.
Anne’s election to the Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos seemed to have taken place by chance. She had no intention of running but was encouraged to run by delegates present at the Annual Metropolis of New Jersey Clergy Laity Assembly. Her fate was determined; she would be an influential part of Philoptochos from that day forward. Accepting the role of Treasurer of the New Jersey Metropolis Philoptochos Board in 2009 she restructured procedures which brought positive change, growing the Social Services Program. In 2011, after two years as the Metropolis Treasurer, Anne was elected President.
Anne’s appointment to the National Philoptochos Board by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios in 2010, led her to a greater understanding of the remarkable work that is done by Philoptochos throughout the country and the world, as well as the challenges that accompany the mission. Working with the outstanding members of the National Philoptochos Board, she feels, has enabled her to fulfill her desire to live her faith, while touching humanity through philanthropy. As a Metropolis President she believes in leading by example and instills this belief in Chapter Presidents.
Anne believes that a sound process and a solid structure help organizations such as Philoptochos not only create stronger foundations but allow for growth. This is one focus of her presidency. She has also seen that structure helps draw younger women in, focusing on the objectives at hand, taking steps to set and reach goals. Anne does not just talk the talk, she walks the walk. At her Metropolis meeting she stated “Many of you have taken advantage of our leadership development program, Leadership Now, as we strove last year to ignite a sense of purpose and direction throughout the Chapter membership. Good leadership is something that is so important to every Chapter, as Presidents and Board members must exhibit all the qualities they hope to see in each member of Philoptochos.” She also instituted ‘Circles of Interest’ throughout her Metropolis to help every member or prospective member find their place, their purpose, and help the Chapter use the skills and strengths of their members in the best way.
Anne has great love and respect for His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos citing that he expresses his love for all things Philoptochos and is a great support to her. She praises her Metropolis Board and every Chapter within the Metropolis as she sees how all factors must come together for the mission of Philoptochos to be fulfilled. As Anne says, “The Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos Board is comprised of some of the most dynamic women in the Philoptochos. I am so privileged to know and to work with them.”
Anne has said, “The women of the Chapters in our Metropolis are the backbone of our Philoptochos. Their continued service to those in need and the Church move us to reflect on the female founders of Philoptochos who began the important work of helping the people of the Greek Orthodox faith who came to this country with little in their pockets, but enormous hope in their hearts. Who was to be there to help them if not for Philoptochos?”
Hurricane Sandy – New Jersey
“Our Philoptochos saw conditions throughout the Metropolis of New Jersey that were heart wrenching and forced many of us to put aside what we were doing, what we had planned for, so that we were able to make a difference in the lives of those who were suffering. In the first few days after the storm, I received a call from His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, who uttered these simple words, as he tasked Philoptochos to take charge, he said, ‘Anne, help our people,’” Anne Michals said.
The Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos had various fundraisers that they held on their own and that other organizations held on their behalf in addition to funding received from the National Philoptochos Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Through His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos’ leadership and the Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos’ energy and perseverance a ground effort was launched and all Chapters responded by organizing and gathering supplies and funds immediately after the storm hit. Living in one of the hardest hit towns on the Jersey Shore, Anne saw first-hand the destruction and suffering in the storm’s wake.
Anne Michals credits the Metropolis Board’s 2nd Vice President and National Board Member Eleni Constantinides with one of the key areas of the successful organization of the Metropolis of New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Program. The Program continues to review cases that come before the committee. Anne cites the extraordinary work of Metropolis Treasurer Stella Wacker who executed the tough task of keeping track of funding. These women were supported by all members of the Metropolis of New Jersey Philoptochos Board, especially 1st Vice President and National Board Member Alexis Limberakis who worked to distribute National Gift Cards, as well as shared in the visitation of chapters and Sandy victims.
As Anne said, “No one can truly know one’s faith until you stand with those who are suffering and witness in their eyes their abounding faith. Christ is present in those who believe and this is the core of their ability to be grateful for any and all of life’s blessings. The blows of circumstance do not hinder their faith.”
During one of the Board’s visitations to the hard-hit community of Atlantic City, Anne wrote to Chapter Presidents, “We went to restore their faith and they restored ours.”
Onwards and Upwards
The 2014 National Clergy/Laity and Philoptochos Convention will take place in the city of Philadelphia within the New Jersey Metropolis. Plans are in the early stages but Anne reports that the energy level and commitment are high in the Metropolis of New Jersey. During the recent 2013 Annual Metropolis of New Jersey Clergy Laity Assembly and Philoptochos Convention, Anne said to the delegates, “We will show the entire country the true meaning of Jersey hospitality.”
“Service is the essence of philanthropy and charity. Help others find it within themselves and embrace the idea.”