FOCUS and OCF Offer Students a Real Break

A group of college students is embarking on a one-of-a-kind spring break this week, the result of a partnership between FOCUS’s Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). Rather than sun themselves on the beach, the students are participating in a Real Break—a service trip to Los Angeles’ Skid Row, a community known for its acute poverty and homelessness.

Working with two local organizations—the Fred Jordan Mission and Midnight Mission—the students will spend their spring break serving the poor and gaining a first-hand experience of the many faces of poverty. The students are being led by Father Apostolos Hill, Proistamenos of St George Greek Orthodox Church in Prescott, AZ. 

YES is a ministry of FOCUS North America that provides local parishes and youth workers with the resources to engage  high school students in community service and short-term missions projects. Its goal is to encourage youth to live out their faith in service to others.

“YES has been involved in service activities in Skid Row for years”, said Katrina Bitar, YES Program Director. “We are so pleased to be a part of the OCF Real Break to Los Angeles. We are looking forward to sharing this life-changing experience with the members of OCF.”

OCF began its Real Break program in 2000 to give college students an Orthodox Christian alternative to the “traditional” spring break. Since then, more than 1,000 students have participated in Real Breaks in more than a dozen locations, engaging in prayer, fellowship, witness, and service.

FOCUS North America is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America. FOCUS has operations and youth volunteer experiences in more than 20 cities in the United States.

Join FOCUS This Lenten Season

FAST

1 out of every 5 households with children in America are food insecure.  This means that they are regularly in fear of hunger or starvation. Food insecurity exists in every county throughout the nation, with 48.8 million people living without enough to eat.

Fast for FOCUS Daily Meals: This year, FOCUS will provide 110,000 free meals to the homeless and working poor.  Providing these meals allows families to save on groceries, so that they can afford to pay their rent, utilities and support their children.

Fast for FOCUS Weekend Food Sacks for Children: Poor children often go hungry over the weekends.  FOCUS works with schools to give kids a weekly backpack full of nutritious food to sustain them and their siblings.

Fast for FOCUS Urban Gardens: Our community gardens continue to thrive and offer a healthy food options for families who don’t have regular access to or can’t afford nutritious food.  Our gardens also serve as gathering places where community is built through planting, cultivating, harvesting and eating together!

More than anything, our meals and feeding programs serve as gathering places where Orthodox communities join together to offer something back to their neighbors in need while putting their faith into action and serving as a witness to the selfless love of Christ.

PRAY

47.5 million people, including 23.5 million children, live in working poor American households. These are working families who just can’t make ends meet. FOCUS helps these families which in turn keeps kids in school, builds healthy communities, and a stronger nation.

Pray for FOCUS Men: FOCUS operates two men’s shelters where we train and help men with employment, teach them necessary life skills, and support them to be better husbands, fathers and family leaders.

Pray for FOCUS Women: FOCUS offers mentorship, employment, education and family support to women so they can live empowered and inspired lives. FOCUS helps thousands of women each year and they in turn give back to others.

Pray for FOCUS Children: FOCUS provides children with positive role models, educational services, and an ‘extended’ family through our FOCUS Centers to ensure that kids grow up healthy, smart, and strong to the best of their abilities.  

Pray for the continued good work of FOCUS, for those we serve, and for all those who volunteer and support this vital ministry.

GIVE

In 2012, the poverty rate in America hit 16%, the highest rate in 50 years. 50 million Americans live in poverty-stricken families. A family of four making less than $21,200 a year is considered to be living in poverty. Today families and individuals from every age, race, and socio-economic class are experiencing poverty.

Give once: Make a one-time gift to FOCUS that will support our programs to help keep kids in school, provide shelter to the homeless, and help to the working poor.

Give often: Sign up for a recurring donation to FOCUS, which will allow us to better budget for current programs and develop new initiatives.

Sponsor A Center or Program: Become personally invested in a FOCUS program. Support a specific area of interest such as medical aid, education, mentorship, housing, and employment.

Volunteer: Become a part of the FOCUS nation, no matter who you are or where you live. Giving your time and talents to FOCUS will create a personal and meaningful relationship with those in need!

FOCUS North America Welcomes New Chairman

Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage and a well-known Orthodox philanthropist, has been named the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for FOCUS North America. Gerich succeeds Charles Ajalat, who completed a four-year chairmanship in January, 2013.

“FOCUS is a dynamic ministry and an expression of Christ’s love — offering jobs, housing, feeding programs, and other human services to the homeless and working poor of America,” said Gerich.  “FOCUS also plays a vital role in bringing Orthodox Christians into direct relationship with the poor, positively impacting their own lives while helping those in need.”

Under Ajalat’s leadership as founder and first board chairman, FOCUS grew into a vibrant and strong organization with eight flagship FOCUS centers across the country and a dedicated volunteer corps of more than 6,000 people.  In 2013, FOCUS has forecasted an annual budget of $10 million, with service outreach programs planned for 29 cities.

Gerich said he is humbled to succeed Ajalat. “I have worked with Charles for over 25 years.  Charles is an amazing man whom God has blessed with many gifts and talents. His commitment to serving the poor is amazing.”

“In just four short years FOCUS has touched the lives of so many, and we’re growing daily,” said Executive Director Nicholas Chakos.  “It’s an exciting time in FOCUS’ history.”

FOCUS North America is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.