Sdn. Paul Abernathy, graduate of St. Tikhon’s Seminary and the director of the Pittsburgh branch of FOCUS North America, speaks at the 19th Annual Ancient Christianity and African-American Conference. The conference was held May 25th-27th, 2012 at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
FOCUS North America is helping single and underserved mothers across the country find suitable housing and daycare, while providing them with many other vital services that enable them to thrive and properly care for their children.
Twenty-Four year-old, Candace Johnson was 7 months pregnant, living on the street with a three-year old daughter, but she refused to give up the hope of finding a better life.
“I was about to have a baby, and I couldn’t have my baby on the street in the snow,” she said, “There was always some sort of stipulation that prevented me from finding help. In all of the social assistance programs I went to, I was turned away and undervalued, as if it was my fault I was on the street.”
But in coming to the Pittsburgh FOCUS Center, Candace found something different.
“I told them my need and right away [Center Director] Paul Abernathy said ‘We’re going to help you.’ Period. There was no ‘I’m going to get back to you’. He told me ‘We’re going make it happen.’ And he made it happen.”
By the end of the day, FOCUS staff had successfully enrolled Candace and her daughter in transitional housing
“It’s difficult for single mothers when they’re in times of transition,” Paul Abernathy said, “Looking for work and housing is extremely challenging when you are taking care of two or three children.”
Throughout the many FOCUS Centers around the country, mothers are not only finding sustenance, but hundreds of moms are taking time out of their day to volunteer their precious time and valuable skills to help FOCUS reach out and provide crucial programs.
Meredith Burnett heard from a friend about FOCUS and immediately began volunteering four days a week with her son Samuel at the Center in Pittsburgh.
“It’s just people helping people,” she said, “I love that.”
It wasn’t long before Meredith became a key leader in the Center’s backpack feeding program.
“The program currently provides 50 children with food over the weekend,” she said, “These kids don’t eat if they aren’t receiving meals at school.”
Since her first day at FOCUS Candace Johnson has made great strides. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy and she and her children now live with her sister. She continues to come to the FOCUS center to volunteer and she participates in the Wednesday evening Bible study.
FOCUS continues to support, assist, and honor mothers, not only on Mother’s Day—but every day, as they establish and inspire value in the most rewarding and joyful job in the world.
Bobby Maddex interviews Nicholas Chakos, the new Executive Director of FOCUS North America, the Orthodox service organization devoted to serving “the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned by providing Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding, and Shelter.”