“Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” – Mother Teresa The Greek
Children’s Fund would not exist without the determined and diligent efforts of its founder, Stanley Matthews. Stanley has dedicated his life to putting his love for others into action by being a beacon of hope and solace to Greek, Cypriot, Greek-American and Cypriot-American children in need. His biography and a synopsis of Stanley’s many accomplishments and contributions to the community are summarized here.
Greek Children’s Fund Chairman and Founder, Stanley Matthews, is known in the Greek-American community and among medical institutions throughout the East coast for his vision, his unceasing devotion to children in need and his philanthropy.
Stanley was born in Vavitsa, Lakonia, Greece, where he grew up during the German Occupation and the Civil War. He is the fifth of eight children. In 1951, at the age of 21, he immigrated to the United States with the assistance of his Uncle George and Aunt Helen and resided in the Philadelphia suburbs. His aunt and uncle were honest, hard working people who served as a positive influence in Stanley’s life. The values they instilled in him can be summarized in Uncle George’s rule of life, to “perform at least one good deed a day.” This motto is what motivates Stanley to this day.
During the next several years, Stanley worked alongside his family in the restaurant business and assisted all his brothers in immigrating to the United States. In the late 1950’s, Stanley and his brothers (Stratis, Spero, Peter, Elias and Stavros) opened their first restaurant. This marked the beginning of the Matthews brothers’ partnership in the New Jersey restaurant business. Their partnership has lasted for more than 50 years and continues today. Presently, Stanley is the founder and owner of the Matthews Diner and Pancake House businesses.
Importance of Family
Family has always, been at the core of Stanley’s life. He has been married to Niki, his lovely and supportive wife, for 42 years. They raised their family in Bergen County, New Jersey. They have three children, Sam, Kathy and Allison, and eight grandchildren. Stanley and Niki are active members of the church and community of the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Tenafly, NJ. Their strong faith and values sustain them and have given them the strength, courage and resolve to overcome their own challenges, to be leaders in their community and to help people facing difficult times with kindness, generosity and integrity. Stanley and Niki have passed on these values to their children and grandchildren.
Greek Children’s Fund
Beginning in 1979, with his daughter Katy’s illness and later with the Greek Children’s Fund inception in 1983, Stanley opened the door for the voices of sick children and their families to be heard by the hospitals and the Greek-American community in order to alleviate some of their pain and suffering. The accomplishments described below are a testament to Stanley’s perseverance, dedication and pioneering actions.
In addition to his accomplishments with the Greek Children’s Fund, Stanley has been a member of the Greek Orthodox Church; AHEPA; past Board of Trustee of the Pan Gregorian Enterprises of New Jersey and the P.G.E.I. Charitable Foundation of America for which he served for 10 years; a member of the Skoura-Varvitsa Brotherhood; Mary’s Dream at Englewood Hospital; the preemie department at Englewood Hospital; the Ronald McDonald House; and countless other charities. Every year, Stanley hosts Diner Day at his restaurant, where all proceeds from 6 a.m. to midnight are donated to the maternity department at Pascack Valley Hospital in NJ.
Awards and Recognitions
Over the years, Stanley has been recognized as Man of the Year by his hometown of Harrington Park, NJ; Pan Gregorian of NJ (twice); Pan Gregorian of Upper New York; Pan Gregorian of Metro NY; Pan Gregorians of Connecticut; AHEPA (twice); Nassau-Suffolk Diner Restaurant Association; Skoura-Varvitsa Brotherhood; the Christmas Carol Production at Madison Square Garden; Hellenic University Club of New York; Federation of Karpathian Association of America; and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (three times).
Stanley has also been recognized by Congressional Record from the US Congress; by Proclamation from the NJ Governor’s office; by Resolution from the New Jersey Legislature; and by Resolution from the State of New York.
His philanthropic efforts have led him to new opportunities. At the recommendation of MSKCC, Stanley was invited to the White House during the Clinton administration to speak regarding the Medicare program.
In May 2003, he achieved his greatest recognition by receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2004, Stanley was first recipient of the Aristotechnon award, established by World Hellenism. This award honors those who have achieved their personal best and who work to benefit others. Stanley was honored for this dynamism and creativity which sets him apart and defines him as an example to be followed.
Other awards that have been especially meaningful to Stanley have been:
- Receiving and icon of St. Stylianos sent especially from Constantinople. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos gave this icon to Stanley during the Annual Benefit Luncheon of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society National Philoptochos Cancer Fund on March 11, 1989.
- Estiator magazine honored Stanley on October 17, 1994 at an event in Atlantic City. During this event, Peter Makrias personally handed him the award and made honorable mention of all of Stanley’s accomplishments with the Greek Children’s Fund.
- Battle of Life, an organization started by the parents of Greek and Cypriot children being treated in New York presented Stanley with and award on February 7, 2004.
Impact on Children
For Stanley, there is no better reward than the knowledge that he has helped a child. He always says, “the purpose of the Geek Children’s Fund is to help one child, not the whole world.” No one can describe Stanley’s impact on enhancing the lives of others better than the patients and their families. Here is an excerpt from one of the thousands of letters he received over the years. This letter summarized the influence that Stanley’s actions have had on the lives of families in need. The letter has been translated from Greek.
If Maria wins her life, she will owe a big part of her recovery to your kindness and big heart. We will never forget everything you’ve done for us. Thank you for your time and for listening to me tell you my problems as if you were my friend. All of the parents here feel like you are our friend, sent from God to give us courage, compassion and to keep us from feeling bitter, as we confront our daily struggles. I hope that God always gives you strength because we truly need you. My family will always be grateful to you.
Continuing his Mission
Twenty-nine years later, Stanley continues to be the driving force behind the Greek Children’s Fund, always making the children’s well-being his first priority. In 2008, in order to adapt to changing times and to assist a greater number of children, Stanley created relationships with All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL and Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, NJ. His vision for the next twenty-five years of the Greek Children’s Fund is to continue helping children with life threatening illnesses and their families throughout the United States.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead
Looking back at the Greek Children’s Fund’s 25-year history, it is evident that together, Stanley Matthews, the GCF volunteers and the Greek-American community have achieved something extraordinary.
In pursuit of their shared goal of making a difference in the lives of less fortunate children, they chose hope over fear by focusing on the values of generosity, compassion and team work, to provide financial assistance towards the daily, non-medical needs of children of Hellenic descent who suffer from life threatening illnesses. As a result of everyone’s efforts, GCF has assisted more than 7,000 patients and has raised approximately $7.5 million, $6.5 million of which have been distributed directly to the families.
GCF’s history begins with the story of a Greek-American family in distress. One of their children was diagnosed with leukemia and was fortunate enough to have a quick recovery. This experience motivated Stanley Matthews, the child’s father, to dedicate his life to helping other children and families in similar situations. When Mr. Matthews founded GCF, he gathered together the best team of people to help him begin his mission. Through his experience as a father with a child facing a life-threatening illness, Mr. Matthews found common ground with the patients at MSKCC and their families, with social workers, physicians and hospital administrators. He introduced these individuals to the Greek-American community and asked for their support. Together, they built the most successful ethnic charity at MSKCC.
The success and growth that GCF experienced under the auspices of MSKCC in the 1990’s enabled it to stand on its own as a charitable organization. As a model ethnic charity, GCF was able to partner with other hospitals like Schneider Children’s Hospital in 1998, All Children’s Hospital in 2008, and Hackensack University Medical Center in 2009. As GCF grows in New York, New Jersey and Florida, it will continue to put the best interests of children first.
The Greek Children’s Fund will continue for years to come. Relationships are in place for GCF to carry on its mission of helping children with talented and dedicated teams of volunteers in New York, New Jersey and Florida. They will continue GCF’s tradition of excellence.
As the Greek Children’s Fund looks to the future, it will explore new fundraisers and create new alliances with hospitals and community organizations.
Stanley Matthews, with the support of the GCF committee, will continue to keep his promise to Andonaki, to carry forward the noble cause of helping children in need and their families.
Over the last 25 years, the Greek community has put its blood, sweat and tears into helping children in need. The GCF committee is both honored and humbled for the opportunity to have served these young people and their families during times of great distress.
Once again, GCF thanks everyone for the support and friendship they have provided since the beginning. The commitment of the Greek-American community, the hospitals, and GCF volunteers has been steadfast and their contributions have been many. The children with life threatening illnesses are the tre beneficiaries of everyone’s incredible generosity, compassion and teamwork. May we continue to work together to enhance the lives of children for years to come.