Focus on Re-Engaging Fathers

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Congratulations to Rodney Knott, an Orthodox Christian working with FOCUS North America, who has developed a successful life-recovery curriculum to re-engage fathers and their children. ReEngage, a ministry partner of FOCUS North America, has as its goal to connect men with their families and to help them gain the skills needed to truly “be a man.”

Knott’s Man Class offers instruction and mentoring in the areas of self-control, personal responsibility, perseverance, social responsibility, education, financial responsibility, workforce development and self-discipline.

Thanks to your support FOCUS North America not only provided a grant to help develop the curriculum but is working with Knott towards implementing his successful education program in its FOCUS centers nationwide.

Click here to read more about ReEngage, the Man Class and Knott’s work. And follow this link to read a recent article about how the Man Class is affecting not only young men, but veterans.

Polamalus put ‘FOCUS’ on outreach to needy

A crowd of more than 400 people packed the community center at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church Jan. 25 to raise funds for FOCUS, which stands for the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve.

The evening titled “Restore Living Icons” featured dinner, live and silent auctions and keynote speaker, Theodora Polamalu, wife of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

FOCUS, which also stands for food, occupation, clothing, understanding and shelter, provides outreach to those in need.

The main focus for the event was to raise funds to open a FOCUS center in the Pittsburgh area, which could be open by as early as this summer. The organization is looking to possibly open the first FOCUS Pittsburgh center in the Hill District.

“We work to serve the poor,” said Thea Martin, president of the Ladies Philoptochos society at Holy Cross, which organized the event. She added that the Jan. 25 dinner was the first-ever FOCUS Pittsburgh event.

“By serving the needy, we are humbled and truly blessed,” Polamalu said in her speech, adding that a FOCUS center locally could alleviate the suffering of many.

In addition to Polamalu’s speech, the evening featured speeches by Father Justin Mathews, executive director of FOCUS North America, Paul Abernathy, director of FOCUS Pittsburgh and Charles Ajalat, founder of FOCUS.

Attendees also had the chance to bid on several silent auction items, including jewelry and Steelers items.

Eight people won a live auction and the chance to sit at a table with Troy and Theodora Polamalu and have dessert at the end of the evening, which raised more than $11,000 for FOCUS. A signed Polamalu jersey fetched $5,200 and two tickets to the Steelers home opener next season, which were donated by the Polamalus, went for $1,200. 


A FOCUS on service: Orthodox churches expand to Hill District to help the poor

The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve sees Pittsburgh mission as ‘centerpiece’ of national effort
Sunday, January 30, 2011
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Orthodox of Pittsburgh are famous for mouth-watering food festivals that support their churches. But in April they will open a center in the Hill District to give food and other assistance to the poor, regardless of their faith.

It will be the seventh center for FOCUS North America, the first nationwide pan-ethnic effort by Orthodox Christians to provide social services in America. Because of the concentration of Orthodox in the Tri-State area, FOCUS founder and board chairman Charles Ajalat expects it to become a “centerpiece” for the 2-year-old organization. “We have 130 priests and six bishops within a two-hour radius,” he said Tuesday at a fundraising dinner that drew 400 people to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon. Few regions can say the same.

FOCUS stands for Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve. Its website is focusnorthamerica.org.

Elsewhere, FOCUS has developed niche ministries. In Orange County, Calif., where it couldn’t afford to buy or rent in the sky-high real estate market, a FOCUS truck brings food to motels where many evicted families live. Last month in St. Louis, FOCUS helped 45 women with crisis pregnancies fill out online job applications and trained them in basic skills such as job interviewing and budgeting. “We don’t want to duplicate unnecessarily what any other association, ministry or social service is doing here,” said the Rev. Justin Mathews, a Serbian Orthodox priest from Kansas City, Mo., and executive director of FOCUS.

While its range of mission is being developed, Pittsburgh FOCUS will have an outreach to low-income and homeless military veterans. It has hired an Iraq War veteran as the center director. Struggling vets are a special concern of the FOCUS’s most prominent supporter, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. He surprised organizers by attending the dinner amid Super Bowl preparations. His wife, Theodora, was a founding national board member of FOCUS. Its capital campaign was Tackle Poverty with the Polamalus.

“I grew up very poor,” Mr. Polamalu said in an interview. Before he moved to live with his aunt and uncle at age 9, he was often on the streets of Santa Ana, Calif., while his mother worked.“I was hanging out with homeless people, even stealing food from picnic tables and giving it to homeless people. Even, at times, stealing for myself to eat,” he said. His closest friends have always been those who have known poverty, he said. Mrs. Polamalu spoke at the dinner on seeing the image of God in the poor.“We are all images of the very God we serve,” she said. “It is the imperative of this organization to restore the dignity that belongs to each man as bestowed by God.” She spoke of people who lost everything in the recession and of veterans who returned from war “to homelessness and despair.” “You might ask, ‘Where is God in their lives?’ The better question is ‘Where is God in our lives?’” she said, urging listeners to respond in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday’s dinner raised $62,000 toward a $150,000 launch budget for the Hill District center.

Eight people bid a total of nearly $12,000 to eat dessert at a table with the Polamalus. An autographed Polamalu jersey brought in $5,200 and a pair of the Polamalus’ prime seats at Heinz Field yielded $1,200.

Ann Rodgers can be reached at JavaScript required to view address or 412-263-1416.

First published on January 30, 2011 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11030/1121413-53.stm#ixzz1CkLxYaNj

Polamalu Family Supports the New Pittsburgh Center of FOCUS

By Kevin Kirkland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On Sunday, Troy Polamalu will be playing in one of the most-watched sporting events in the world, and his wife, Theodora, will be among those watching in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. But last Tuesday, they were just two young parents at a church dinner, trying to juggle their kids.

As Mrs. Polamalu prepared to speak at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon, 4-month-old Ephraim fussed in her arms. (“He really needs to eat,” her mother reminded her.) Meanwhile, her husband the Steelers safety had given up trying to intercept speedy Paisios, 2, and passed those duties to his father-in-law.

The entire Polamalu family was on hand to support the new Pittsburgh center of FOCUS (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve). Mrs. Polamalu, a founding board member of FOCUS North America, said the center that is to open in the Hill District in April will provide food, shelter, job training and other services to the needy, regardless of their religion.

“This center will fill so many needs of people in this city,” she said.

Her husband, who corralled both boys long enough for a group photo, said earlier: “For me, [giving] has always either had to do with children or to deal with helping the homeless, because it’s something I have dealt with personally.”

Homeless veterans are among those the Polamalus are especially eager to serve. FOCUS Pittsburgh’s director, Paul Abernathy, is a non-commissioned Army officer and an Iraq War veteran.

The location of the FOCUS Pittsburgh center, the eighth in the country, is not yet set, but Charles Ajalat, founder and chair of FOCUS North America, said he hopes to eventually use the former St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in the Hill, the oldest Orthodox church east of the Mississippi (focusnorthamerica.org).

Read more: here