By Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Anna Neal is a lifelong Jacksonville resident who has made her permanent home in St. Johns County. A wife and mother, Neal has dedicated herself to helping her community, while still making time for her family and for herself.
Q: Tell me about yourself. Are you from Jacksonville?
A: I went to Bishop Kenny High School and grew up on the Southside. Then after I met my husband, we spent a couple of years in the Avondale area before deciding to jump down to the suburbs. We live off County Road 210, in St. John’s Forest, and we love it there. It’s the perfect place for our family. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so that keeps me really busy — getting kids everywhere they need to be. I also work with Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the Florida Forum, which I joke is my “job that doesn’t pay.” We have two fundraisers each year, and I chaired the Art and Antiques Show in 2016, and this year, I’m chairing the Florida Forum with two other ladies, and that is a bigger series that we produce each year. We had Nikki Haley already, we have John Meacham coming up in January, and Jerry Rice in February, which will round out the season.
Q: How did you get involved with Wolfson Children’s Hospital?
A: My husband works at Nemours, and Wolfson and Nemours have a very unique relationship. When I wanted to start getting involved with raising money and helping kids in the area, at the time, Nemours didn’t have an organization like that. So I jumped on with the Women’s Board, in 2010. And I’ve just dedicated my time to the organization; I’ve fallen in love with it and the people that I’ve met. The Women’s Board makes fundraising commitments to the hospital, generally every five years, so right now we’re in our second year of a $4 million, five-year commitment, and that will go to benefit the new neonatal intensive care unit. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art unit where babies and parents can be in the same room, unlike now, when they’re separated. It’s a huge expansion.
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I play tennis at Julington Creek and go to OrangeTheory Fitness. We’re also members of Ponte Vedra United Methodist Church, so I try to stay involved with that. I try to be a good mom, and try to balance my time. Ever since my kids were little, I’ve been volunteering with the Women’s Board — so it’s always, “Oh, it’s the Women’s Board again!” I’ll always do it though, it’s near and dear to my heart. They’ve kind of adapted to my crazy schedule volunteering. But I try to make sure that I’m a good mom and also do things for myself. I think it’s very important to balance taking care of yourself and working. So I do try to take some very important time for myself. If you’re constantly doing things for other people, and never take time for yourself, that’s not helpful, either. So I am very lucky that I get to take that opportunity and take time for myself.
Q: What do you love most about living in St. Johns County?
A: Sometimes, I call it our little “bubble.” When we leave downtown — my husband works downtown — we get to just come to this quiet area, and get away from the hustle and bustle. But everything is still within 20 minutes away, if we want to go to a game or to the Town Center. I just enjoy the quiet aspect of St. Johns County. It is growing by leaps and bounds, but right now, I love the schools that my kids go to, I love the athletics that are offered in the area, and I think it’s a great place to raise a family.
Photo courtesy Michelle Cardinal