Many residents of the North Miami area, as part of a community, belonged to the large community of St. Sophia. Many of these residents who lived in North Miami area felt a genuine and definite need for a Greek Orthodox Church in North Miami. A survey conducted of all Greek Orthodox residents in North Dade, Little River, El Portal, Miami Shores, Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Opa-Locka, Hallandale, and Hollywood via telephone directory and acquaintances established the fact that there were many families who, because of the distance of 10 to 20 miles, did not or could not conveniently attend services at St. Sophia regularly. Some families had been attending services in churches of other denominational backgrounds. In 1962, a committee of North Miami residents requested the president and parish council of St. Sophia to establish a chapel in North Miami. They espoused the plan and authorized a committee to look for a lot in the area at least two acres in size. The following day a real estate agent found eight lots, and these were submitted to St. Sophia. No action was taken at the time. Many months went by with no results and finally an Ahepa Chapter was organized in North Miami, with the hope that with the establishment of an Ahepa Chapter, the Church would become a reality.
Twenty-one persons in the North Miami area became charter members of the North Miami Ahepa Chapter. The Chapter grew in membership and met regularly; also social meetings were held. Finally at an Ahepa meeting it was proposed that the Chapter make a concerted effort to organize a church. At that meeting a “Special Projects” church committee was organized. Fourteen Ahepans comprised the committee. The following Monday the committee met and a catalogue of communicants was formed. In June, 1963 the chairman of the “Special Projects” church committee sent a letter to all the known residents and communicants asking them to help the committee find more people.
At a subsequent meeting this committee again approached St. Sophia and asked the council to establish a North Miami chapel under their direction. The president of St. Sophia approved a committee with four members from the Southwest area and two from the North Miami area. A meeting was again held in North Miami with 80 persons in attendance. In April, 1964 His Grace Bishop Aimilianos met with the North Miami committee, together with Father Mekras; and the need for a church was discussed at length. The Bishop’s advice was simple arithmetic. “If your have the finances, you can move ahead with your project. You have the blessings and encouragement of the Church.”
At a later meeting in the summer of 1964, the committee decided to name the church, “The North Dade Greek Orthodox Community.” A list of communicants and petitions were circulated and 179 signed the petition. A meeting was held on September 13, 1964 and the first interim officers were elected. A church Community Corporate Charter was applied for through the Secretary of State of the State of Florida, and was granted.
Not long afterwards, the committee learned that real estate was available at 12250 N.W. 2nd Avenue in North Miami with a complex of buildings and land for the prices of $55,000. An agreement was reached with the trustees of the property for that amount. Fifteen thousand dollars was to be paid as a down payment plus $3,605.70 as a 3rd mortgage, and the balance to be paid with a first and second mortgage. Each member of the committee donated fifty dollars, and a thousand dollars was given as a deposit.
The Community Hall was immediately made available for socials. A parish assembly meeting was held and $7,500 was raised. At a subsequent social Dinner-Dance in 1965, an additional $3,000 was raised. Father Demosthenes Mekras of St. Sophia greatly assisted at raising funds for the Church. Other fund-raising projects provided the additional cash. On August 10, 1965, the down payment was made.
An application was then made to the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America. Father Stephen Anthony of West Palm Beach came to North Miami under direction of the Archdiocese to investigate our application to become a church. The application was approved and sent to the Archdiocese.
A request for a priest was made after the approval of the application. A temporary priest was sent until a permanent one could be found. The Very Rev. Archimandrite Constantine Statheros was assigned and the first Liturgy in the new church was held on December 19, 1965.
In the meantime, necessary alterations were made on the school building to convert it into a church. Partitions were removed from classrooms, and an altar and Iconastasis were built by the loving hands of the parish membership. Many dinners were held in the Parish Hall to raise money for the Church. Father Statheros remained until April 23, 1966.
The Greek Archdiocese assigned the Rev. George X. Gallas, former pastor of St. Sophia in Albany, New York, as the permanent priest of the parish. He assumed duties on May 1, 1966. The first and primary duty of the new priest was to increase the parish membership and procure new altar appointments and other necessary items of the church from many donors.
The parish council and committee purchased a new and beautiful parish house at Andover Lake Estates as the official residences of the parish priest and family. The Greek Ladies Philoptochos Society undertook the responsibility of paying the monthly parish house mortgage.
The work of the Church continued with the capable direction and spiritual leadership of Father Gallas. The interior and exterior were painted; a steel belfry tower was erected, and one huge bell and three smaller church bells were installed. A Bishop’s throne, platform and chandeliers were also installed in the Church.
An accounting system was installed. A church choir was organized; and the Daughters of Penelope donated a church organ to be used by the church choir. Space does not permit us to list by name the many donors of our Church, but we are truly grateful to all these wonderful people for their genuine expression of love.
In the fall of 1966, Father Gallas and the parish council put into effect a voting system in the naming of the Church, allowing each communicant to actively engage in the Christening of the Church. Many Saints’ names were proposed and March 25, 1967 was set as the date of the naming of the Church. His Eminence Metropolitan Aimilianos of Selefkios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was invited to officiate at the Church Baptismal Ceremonies. In the meantime, the voting continued at an increased pace.
Many people of all denominations generously donated and participated in the voting process, thus becoming sponsors and Godparents. On Sunday, March 25, 1967, Feast of the Annunciation, Mrs. Sophia Laskaris cast the deciding votes for the Blessed Virgin, in honor of and for the health of her grandson Peter Lakis. The Church was baptized “Church of th Annunciation, “Evangelismos,” and Mrs. Sophia Laskaris was proclaimed the “Nouna” (Godmother) to represent all the Godparents of the Church of the Annunciation. Fifteen Thousand three hundred eighty dollars was raised during the church naming drive. To raise additional fund many dinners, bazaars and bake sales were held by Daughters of Penelope and Greek Ladies Philoptochos Society.
Since the naming of the Church, the parish has continued in its growth. The Jr. Greek Orthodox Youth of America was organized. A Mr. and Mrs. Club was formed which holds monthly dinner meetings with scheduled speakers. The Mr. and Mrs. Club donated a new piano to be used in the Parish Hall.
Last fall a car raffle was held and $9,500 was raised with a profit of $4,500. The Order of Ahepa, North Miami Chapter 421, had the winning ticket.
A Sunday School Department consists of eight teachers and 94 pupils. A lovely Christmas Pageant was held with all children participating. A welcomed addition to our parish life is the DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE. The purpose of this department is to perpetuate and propagate the high Hellenic ideals and Byzantine traditions of our forefathers. Boy Scout Troop No. 481 was organized and meets each Thursday evening.
In November, 1967, His Grace, The Right Rev. Aimilianos, the Diocesan Bishop, visited the parish and was overjoyed with its progress. In a surprise move at the termination of the services, His Grace, at the direction of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, elevated the parish priest, conferring upon him a high honor-the title of “Economos.”
A voluntary envelope system was put into effect to supplement the church offering trays as of November, 1967. Eighty members have espoused the wonderful plan. It is sincerely hoped that other parishioners will follow suit. The membership has grown from 86 members in 1966, when our priest assumed his duties, to our present 187 members. There are still some parishioners in the North Miami area who although have joined us in our spiritual quest, have not as yet formally become members of the parish. We look forward to them doing so in the very near future.
This is a brief resume of the life of our infant Church. We trust that all of you will join hands with all of us and help shape its future.
WITH GRATITUDE to the ORIGINAL FOUNDERS OF THE CHURCH
Theodore Alexander, George Anagnos, Peter Anthonopoulos, Gregory Constantine, Angelo Demos, James P. Demos, Charles Didimos, James Dimakis, Gus Efthimiou, Sr., George Emanuel, Dr. Sam Gianos, Spero Goumas, John Hapsas, Nicholas Jamieson, Arthur Melonis, Pericles Nichols, Anthony Paganakis, Van Panagopoulos, Constantine Roussos, Constantine Siatis, George Stamatis, Sam J. Sutton, Chris Valavanis, *Pano Varous
FIRST INTERIM BOARD OFFICERS
Arthur Melonis President
*Pericles Nichols Vice President
Theodore Alexander Secretary
John Hapsas Treasurer
*Pericles Nichols filled the unexpired term of Arthur Melonis and served the community as interim president until the first general election.
*Pano Varous filled the unexpired term of Theodore Alexander and served the community as interim secretary until the first general election.