Back To School the Right Way

Everyone knows the building anticipation as the kids get ready to go back to school. There’s excitement and nerves, eagerness to start a new year, sadness that summer is ending. Unfortunately, counting down the days to a new school year is yet another reminder of struggle for many kids across the country. Imagine how excitement would turn to trepidation if going back to school meant a supply list filled with items that mom and dad couldn’t afford, sneakers from last year that don’t quite fit, and hand-me-down clothes from older sibling that leave you feeling less than confident.

It’s hard to for struggling families to prepare for a successful school year when they are in the midst of crisis. Wherever homeless families end up staying, if it’s not a permanent, sustainable home, the children suffer incredibly from constant displacement and insecurity. If parents can’t afford a place to live, how will they equip their children with the supplies necessary to attend school?

image1FOCUS North America’s Back to School program involves parishes across the country in providing high quality backpacks, school supplies, and clothing to children when it is time to return to school. FOCUS works closely with school workers in every community to ensure that donated items are given to the kids who are experiencing homelessness, living in hotels, or doubled up with friends or family.

A study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that there is no jurisdiction in the United States where a working family of four, earning the poverty threshold wage of $24,000, can afford even a one-bedroom home at fair market rates. This means that there are struggling families in your town. Even if the poverty is not always visible, it is always present.

FOCUS needs you to help meet these basic needs, and take the stress off of many hardworking families that are already stretched thin. Help us give kids everything they need to get back to school and succeed in acquiring an education.

FOCUS will send participating parishes high quality backpacks with a packing list of items to fill them with. Filled backpacks will be collected at the parish. Through our school district partnerships, FOCUS will ensure the backpacks and supplies are given to the kids with the greatest need in your own city.

If you know your parish, SOYO, church school, women’s group, or other group would love an opportunity to bring FOCUS’ Back To School program to your town, contact us today! This is a great opportunity for groups that regularly work with FOCUS, as well as new communities who may be just figuring out the best way to serve.

Redevelopment effort in Hill District targets effects of long-term trauma – FOCUS Pittsburgh in The Post-Gazette

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.16.03 AM“Trauma-Informed Community Development grew out of research that found underlying causes of violence, homelessness, joblessness, poverty, addiction and abuse in exposure to chronic emotional stress and trauma. The premise is that if people can get help digging out from trauma and start to heal, they can get their own traction to improve their relationships, the well-being of their block and what happens on it, Rev. Abernathy said.

“Trauma is the most challenging problem we have” in the African-American community, he said. “We are seeing people get jobs and lose jobs, get housing and lose housing, not because they are stupid or bad but because they are wounded. We want them to be healthy enough to sustain opportunities.””

Click HERE to read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from this past Sunday about the Trauma-Informed Community Development Initiative.

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FOCUS Backpack Program on OCN

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Helping kids go back to school on the right foot

Imagine how excitement could turn to trepidation if going back to school meant a supply list filled with items that a family might not be able to afford. Your parish can sponsor backpacks for children in your community!

How does it work?

FOCUS will send you as many brand-new backpacks as your parish can commit to sponsoring. Parish families will take the backpacks home and fill them with supplies on a packing list included in the backpack. Also included in the backpack is a $10 donation envelope to FOCUS to cover the cost of the backpack.

Once filled, parishioners return the packs to church and the coordinator delivers them to a local FOCUS partner that works with children in need.

E-mail JavaScript required to view address to get your parish involved this August!

We hope to work with you and your local schools this fall!

Farm to Table: Harvest time at FOCUS

100 miles North East of Cleveland, FOCUS North America owns and operates a 75-acre free-range cattle farm that currently supports almost two-dozen head of cattle. Working in cooperationwith the surrounding Amish community, FOCUS is facilitating  sustainable agriculture while providing food not only to the St. Herman FOCUS Center in Cleveland, but for other shelters in the area as well. 

“Restaurants in Cleveland are excitedabout the opportunity to use our meat on their menu generating revenue that  goes directly to feeding those in need,” FOCUS Center Director Paul Finley said.

Not only is the farm a sustainable food option, but it is also a therapeutic ministry to the men who live at the center.

“We have workdays on the farm to instill the importance of returning to responsibility and reliability, Finley says.”

Over the next year, FOCUS plans to expand the farm to 50 head of cattle and begin providing organic meat to other FOCUS Centers throughout the United States. 

“There’s already a trend of creating sustainable options for raising and growing food. People are beginning to turn towards locally grown, locally raised food; we see it at restaurants, grocery stores and farmer’s markets. St Herman’s House FOCUS Cleveland has a huge opportunity to tie into that cultural trend while at the same time being true to our ministry to serve people in need.”

 

Win a signed TROY POLAMALU jersey or signed football: Free to enter!

Theodora and Troy Polamalu are teaming up once again with FOCUS North America in their annual Tackle Poverty campaign. Enter to win a signed Polamalu jersey or signed football by re-sharing a post related to the jersey contest at FOCUS North America’s Facebook page, or Troy Polamalu’s Facebook page. Or earn up to 200 more entries by texting TROY to 91011. It’s free to text! Click for contest details, focusnorthamerica.myw2m.com. 

FOCUS North America is a faith-based national organization that works to transform the lives of the homeless and working poor in America.  FOCUS has operations and programs in 30 cities across the United States. All of FOCUS North America’s services are provided without discrimination of any kind and never require a faith commitment from anyone receiving assistance. What makes FOCUS different is a commitment to help people through the creation and development of community support networks.  FOCUS creates a comprehensive support system built around individuals and families that provides opportunities and support through all phases of the transition from lives of dependency to self-sufficiency. 

Theodora Polamalu is an advisory board member and strong supporter of the work and ministry of FOCUS.

Official rules and regulations can be viewed here.

FOCUS Receives BBB National Charity Seal

BBB Accredited CharityFOCUS 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 Launches Nationwide Back-to-School Initiative

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.