FOCUS North America has received the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance National Charity Seal. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance is the most experienced charity evaluator in the United States and the appearance of the seal on FOCUS’ website, in mailings, magazines, or elsewhere is a clear and concise sign that FOCUS meets the Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability — standards that go beyond what government regulators require.
Before national charities can even apply to use the seal, they must undergo evaluation from the BBB. The evaluation process is anything but superficial; it involves rigorous scrutiny of a charity’s governance, effectiveness, finances and solicitations and informational materials. Organizations must pass 20 distinct managerial, ethical, and financial standards before being considered for the program.
“It has been an intense process,” says FOCUS Executive Director Nicholas Chakos, “but we’re overjoyed to commit to such a high standard of accountability and organizational excellence for the sake of our supporters and donors.”
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. Each year, FOCUS helps thousands of homeless and working poor families. FOCUS transforms lives, moving people from dependency to self-sufficiency by helping people obtain jobs and permanent homes, and providing children with educational resources. Through all of our programs, FOCUS promotes the engagement of Orthodox Christians in practical, hands-on activities that serve those in need. FOCUS has operations and youth volunteer experiences in more than 30 cities across the United States and a volunteer corps of 7,000.
FOCUS North America is launching an extensive back-to-school program this season in 28 cities across the country, providing new shoes, backpacks, and school supplies to 193,000 children from homeless and working poor families.
“We are equipping and preparing the poorest children in the country at a time when they are the most vulnerable—on their first day of school,” says program manager and FOCUS Orange County Center Director Jacob Lee. “FOCUS’ distributions will insure that children have the basic provisions they need to attend and participate in school.”
“Having solid footwear is crucial to our students,” says Linda Russell, a representative of the Magnolia School District in southern California. “Many students come to school in their parent’s shoes or in sandals, or in shoes that are simply falling apart. With inadequate footwear, they can’t participate in recreational activities. We’ve even had students stay home because they don’t have anything to wear.”
The Magnolia School District is one of dozens of public school districts partnering with FOCUS to distribute the shoes, backpacks, and school supplies. “To have a donation like this from FOCUS—solid, effective, new, and size-appropriate running shoes—is just a Godsend,” says Russell.
Increased school attendance and participation aren’t the only benefits. Russell expects that children and their families will become more invested in the schools and more committed to their education. “When we as a school district have the opportunity to step outside of our role as educators and support a family’s basic needs, it bonds families and children to the education process,” she says. “It’s incredibly significant.”
While FOCUS’ nationwide back-to-school program is new, its commitment to children isn’t. Since its founding five years ago, FOCUS has consistently provided educational support services to schoolchildren, while assisting their parents to secure employment and permanent housing.
FOCUS North America brings people together – those who “have” and those who, by worldly standards, may not have as much. But the paradox of giving is that when we gather together to serve those in need, we often receive more than we give. FOCUS works here at home, in America, to help homeless and working poor families obtain sustainable jobs and permanent housing, so that they can live self-sufficient and God-pleasing lives. FOCUS builds bridges among people from every walk of life – the young and old, rich and poor. It’s when these bridges are built, when we gather together to share our blessings that we come to know ourselves and understand our faith and purpose on a much deeper level. By helping others, we give them tools that they need to succeed in school and in life. They, in turn, give us much more.