FOCUS ReEngage Furthers Holistic Approach to Life Recovery

KnottFOCUS North America is blessed to have Rodney Knott join its ministry team. As the Director of FOCUS ReEngage and Gifts In-Kind Solicitor for FOCUS NA, Knott will implement the successful education, mentoring and counseling initiatives of FOCUS ReEngage in FOCUS Centers nationwide.

“The FOCUS ReEngage curriculum furthers the occupational initiatives of FOCUS through its job readiness and soft skills education, while simultaneously furthering the understanding component of FOCUS by incorporating fundamental life recovery elements,” Father Justin Mathews, FOCUS North America Executive Director, said.

Knott said he is looking forward to expanding the program in other FOCUS Centers. At the heart of FOCUS ReEngage is the rebuilding of people’s lives through education, mentoring, counseling, job training, and helping individuals develop their own sense of purpose.

“The nature of poverty that we are addressing today is different than it was in the past,” Knott said. “More than just a physical lack, today people have a real emotional and spiritual lack.”

Knott said that these emotional and spiritual needs require different solutions. “If we don’t address the emotional and spiritual needs, then the efforts we put forth to address the physical needs won’t change the long term outcome for people,” he said.

One of the purposes of the FOCUS ReEngage’s Man Class, a 12-week educational component of FOCUS ReEngage, is to redefine manhood. Knott said for many men, young and old, living in impoverished communities means a definition of manhood that embraces violence, conflict, idleness, negativity, abandonment, and a lack of desire to better oneself. “If we can help these young men understand what it means to be a man—How should I behave? What is my role in my family? What is my role in my community? How can I support myself?—We can help them change the outcome of their lives,” Knott said.

“We want these men to leave the 12-week program ready to get a job, with the skills to keep a job, and with the necessary life skills to further their own life development,” Mathews said. “The FOCUS Center is the perfect environment for this curriculum to be implemented in because it provides those we serve with an in-depth, holistic life recovery program.”

FOCUS ReEngage is a work readiness program that was developed in 2009 with ReEngage, Inc. and the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Social Work. The program has seen many successful pilots in 2010 and has been endorsed by Congessman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO). The FOCUS ReEngage program will eventually include a parallel curriculum to the Man Class for women. Mathews said the FOCUS ReEngage curriculum is built upon proven social work principles and a strong Orthodox foundation.

Part of the expansion of FOCUS ReEngage’s efforts will also include a secondary Man Class that will have a decidedly Orthodox Christian foundation. This second version will incorporate wisdom from the holy fathers, scripture and an Orthodox worldview, Knott said.

“The psychology of poverty for many amounts to an attitude that ‘nothing is possible,’” Knott said. “This is what we want to change for people. We want people to expand their dreams for what is possible. Empowered parents empower their children and then we begin to see communities change.”

FOCUS Appalachia Team Transformed by Serving Others

Bad weather and a last minute change of projects didn’t dampen the spirits of 21 FOCUS Appalachia volunteers who spent March 7-12 working and serving in the mountains of North Carolina.

The group of young adults from all over the Northeast set out from Pittsburgh with the vision to serve others and also to use the time together to reflect on their own spiritual needs.

Niko Petrogeorge, FOCUS North America National Ministries intern, was charged with planning and leading the trip. And although the group had planned on working together on outside home repair for a disabled couple, freezing rain dictated a necessary change in plans.

The group was rerouted to the Quiet Reflection Retreat Center in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina. The retreat center is run by a newly chrismated Orthodox couple who invite people to use the beautiful land and center for reflection and prayer. Badly in need of upkeep and repairs, the couple appreciated the efforts by the FOCUS Appalachia team, realizing that their hard work at the retreat center would benefit many people in the coming year.

In spite of the hard weather the group managed to erect a rock retaining wall to slow erosion, mulch, build needed chairs for the center, paint the inside of the lodge and much more.

“We realized after we arrived, that the retreat directors definitely needed our manual labor,” Petrogeorge said. “But they also needed the support of their Orthodox brothers and sisters too.” He said the couple participated with the group in the services, prayers, teaching and times of reflection.

“We had decided on the theme, Come and See, for the trip,” Petrogeorge said. “But the real theme of our trip ended up being about transfiguration. The trip really was about us saying ‘Thank you’. We went to serve, but we realized we needed to be there … It was good to be there. We were so grateful.”

Petrogeorge said the group quickly become friends and were great examples of Christ’s love to one another and the couple they were serving. He was impressed with the group’s willingness to serve and adapt to the change in projects.

“One of the young men who was with us wasn’t Orthodox,” Petrogeorge said. “He remarked after one of the services we had that he felt he had been selfish his whole life and he felt very challenged because he had never really experienced that type of love and community before.”

The FOCUS Appalachia program aims to provide meaningful short-term service and work projects for groups in the Appalachian Mountain region. Part of the FOCUS Appalachia experience also involves guided reflections, spiritual teaching, prayer and leisure time to enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Through prayer, work, teaching and time together, FOCUS Appalachia trips provide a holistic approach to retreat and service.

*If you or your church group wants to participate in a service trip with FOCUS Appalachia, please call Bryan Dahms, National Director of Ministries, at 866-267-3083 or email him at JavaScript required to view address. FOCUS NA will connect you with the appropriate project for your skills and budget and will arrange lodging, meals and other logistics.

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FOCUS Grant Enables Free Meals in Struggling Community

About a year and a half ago I met with several parishioners here at St. Michael Orthodox Church in Southbridge, Massachusetts to see if there was some way that we could aid in the relief of the economic situation in town. St. Michael is a small older church in the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese and really had never been involved in anything like this.

Southbridge is an old mill wn like many in Massachusetts.  However it is one of the most economically depressed towns

work_for_food in Central Massachusetts.  More than 12% of the 17,000 people are on unemployment and 15% live at or below the federal poverty limit.  Additionally, 23% of children under 18 hungry. We needed to do something.

We decided that we would begin a monthly community meal. Keep in mind we have never done this before and we did not even know where to begin nor how many people would show up. That first night we fed about 45 people and it has grown steady since that first night. We are very grateful to all of the folks that come and help us serve the meal it is just as important to them as it is to the folks that partake of the meal. The meal we serve has left a lasting impact on the entire church community.

Last fall we applied for a grant from FOCUS North America with the idea of expanding the meal from once a month to twice a month, looking toward a time that we would offer this meal once a week. January of this year saw our first twice-a-month meal and in February we had so many people that we actually ran out of food—and when I say ran out I am saying we had nothing! Luckily only the workers were unable to have something to eat and all of our guests were able to eat. One thing I have noticed is that people come and eat and now they hang around and chat over a cup of coffee and a pastry and catch up with friends and really look at this as a social time for themselves. It has truly been a blessing. If it was not for the generosity of the donors to FOCUS North America and the FOCUS Board we would not have been able to expand this program. In our own small way we are able to help some very needy people survive a very trying time.

May God Bless the work of FOCUS North America!

Fr. Peter Preble is the pastor at St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Visit his website to learn more about his ministry.

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

FOCUS, Polamalus Welcome New Pittsburgh Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IMG_6575PITTSBURGH, PA (Jan. 25, 2011)—Speaking to over 450 people at the Jan. 25 FOCUS Pittsburgh fundraising dinner, Theodora Polamalu challenged those present to put their hope and desire to help those in need into action.

Theodora and her Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh Steelers husband, Troy Polamalu, are committed to caring for those in need. Theodora, FOCUS North America Advisory Board Member, said during her address to the crowd, “to treat every person as an icon of Christ is the foremost principle of FOCUS, the heart of its mission.”

Seeing that mission realized is what brought such a large crowd to the event, which was hosted by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos Chapter and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Clergy Brotherhood. Through tickets sales, auction items, sponsorships and general donations, the event raised nearly $65,000 to further the good work of serving those in need.

“Word got out about the event and people started lining the walls,” Thea Martin, Philoptochos Chapter President, said of the event which had been sold out for over a month. “The great thing is that people are excited about having a FOCUS center here. I am already hearing from people who want to help out.”

Paul Abernathy, FOCUS Pittsburgh Local Director, challenged citizens of his hometown to work with FOCUS to “find the solution and get it done because people on our streets are suffering.”

“The generosity of those in attendance have brought great enthusiasm and hope to the success of FOCUS Pittsburgh,” Abernathy said. The FOCUS Pittsburgh center aims to have its full spectrum of services—Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding, Shelter—operational by Bright Week 2011.

Abernathy said the success of the event demonstrates “the power of God working through Orthodox Christians to further His kingdom in Pittsburgh.”

Charles Ajalat, Chairman of the Board of Directors for FOCUS North America, said the event was an exciting beginning to what will prove to be a godly and worthwhile effort for those in need in the Pittsburgh area. “The Pittsburgh community is ready to engage in serious Orthodox social action through FOCUS North America,” Ajalat said.

Guests enjoyed a gourmet Greek dinner, guest speakers including Theodora Polamalu, a silent auction with nearly 100 items including autographed Steelers jerseys, golf packages, jewelry, wine, restaurant and hotel certificates, and much more. Martin said having Troy and Theodora Polamalu there made it extra special for those who call Pittsburgh home. Excitement over the Polamalus showed with two people paying up to $5000 for signed Polamalu jerseys and another eight people bidding $12,000 for dessert that night with the celebrity couple.

“The first thing Troy did when he arrived was went into the kitchen and thanked everyone for their hard work,” Martin said. “It really set the tone for the night and got them excited.”

Theodora reminded guests that with nearly one-third of Pittsburgh’s kids living below the poverty line and over 1400 homeless living in the city, the work of reconciling the needs of others is great.

She said she and Troy hoped that “whether the name is Polamalu or Smith, we will all share the responsibility of lifting the great name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whose name is above all names.” This lifting up of the Lord through the love of our neighbor will take the “aggressive and concerted means of all those gathered.”

If you want to support FOCUS North America or want to hear more about what FOCUS is doing in other cities click here!

Photos from the event: gallery/1-25-2010

 

Troy Polamalu Shares Counter-Culture Views on Christmas

This article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 7, 2011

Christmas arrives today for many Orthodox Christians around the world

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Theodora Polamalu, Paisios Polamalu and Troy Polamalu.

The most famous Orthodox Christian in Pittsburgh, if not the nation, has a greeting for his fellow believers today:

“Kala Christougena!” said Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. That’s Greek for “Merry Christmas!”

Mr. Polamalu and his wife, Theodora, actually celebrated Christmas 13 days ago, but they keep the same Orthodox traditions as those who observe today. Most Orthodox celebrate on Dec. 25, but many Slavic churches tie liturgy to the old Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar. The Greek Orthodox Church and some others have adopted the Gregorian calendar — except at Easter.

“We all celebrate Easter on the same day,” said Mr. Polamalu, 29. Orthodoxy is the Eastern wing of the earliest Christian church, which split into the Orthodox and Catholic churches in 1054.

He and Theodora converted to Orthodoxy about five years ago. His background was Catholic and Protestant, hers Muslim and Protestant. They were Christians in search of a deeper, more consistent experience of God.

“Orthodoxy is like an abyss of beauty that’s just endless,” he said. “I have read the Bible many times. But after fasting, and being baptized Orthodox, it’s like reading a whole new Bible. You see the depth behind the words so much more clearly.”

That fasting is a Christmastime difference between Eastern and Western Christians. While many Americans pile on the food from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Orthodox Christians start fasting Nov. 15 or 28.

“Christmas Lent” or “Winter Lent” lasts 40 days, broken by a feast on Christmas, said the Rev. Stelyios Muksuris, administrative assistant to Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh and professor of liturgy and theology at Ss. Cyril & Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary. Slavic Orthodox keep a strict fast, abstaining from meat, dairy products, oil and fish for 40 days. Greeks usually permit fish, cheese and oil for the first few weeks, then fast strictly for the last two, he said.

Mr. Polamalu is of Samoan heritage, and belongs to the Greek church, but fasts like a Russian.

His consists of a “fast from dairy, from meat and from oil for 40 days — as well as from sex,” he said. “It’s to prepare you for the birth of Christ, of God incarnate.”

Fasting doesn’t affect his football fitness, he said. “When you fast, you can eat extremely healthy by eating a lot of light food, like fruits and vegetables.”

There are other aspects to fasting.

“Maybe not watching as much TV, or not getting caught up in idle talk or different things, in order to keep you spiritually healthy,” he said.

The most important Orthodox fast is Great Lent, for 50 days before Easter.

When he has kept longer fasts “I have never felt more spiritually strong,” he said. Referring to great theologians of the early church, he said, “The church fathers have said that when you eat gluttonously or you eat a lot of meat, your passions get stronger, so your inclination toward sinning becomes stronger. … [Fasting] really does soften your passions. It gives you spiritual insight.”

In Orthodox theology “passions” are negative impulses — such as sadness or greed — that can harm the soul.

He doesn’t claim that practicing the faith improves athletics. The player known for crossing himself on the field has seen his faith grow more from his injuries than his interceptions.

“When I got injured, I learned so much from it spiritually, just thanking God for the health that I had when I was healthy,” he said.

“People have this idea that the more pious and devout I am, the more successful I am. Which is very dangerous. If you look at faith in that way, you’re bound to fail at both — spiritually and in your career.”

As the Polamalus build Christmas traditions for their children, Paisios, 2, and Ephraim, 3 months, “It’s become less about Santa Claus and more about the birth of Christ and the celebration of the Virgin birth,” he said.

They spent Christmas Eve at an Orthodox monastery. The service lasted several hours, ending at 1 a.m. It was entirely chanted.

“Orthodox chanting is non-emotional, it’s very monotone,” said Mr. Polamalu, who also calls it “the most beautiful thing.”

“It’s the perfect environment for prayer,” he said. “Chanting in Greek … is like a beautiful opera, but way better. You have candles, not [electric] lights. It’s dark. You have the women sitting on the left and the men sitting on the right. Everything is to keep your mind focused on God. … To me the most beautiful thing anyone on earth can experience, other than maybe marriage and child-bearing, would be the Orthodox Liturgy.”

Before he became Orthodox, he said, songs in church sometimes moved him to tears. He now distrusts those passing feelings.

“I’d start crying and feel ‘This is awesome.’ If I’d had a Red Bull, I’d feel it even more. If I’d had breakfast, I’d feel good. If I didn’t have breakfast, I didn’t feel anything, I was grumpy,” he said.

“It was a very superficial experience. I was thinking, ‘God, why did I not feel you today?’ because I wasn’t feeling the music today. Orthodoxy is very sensitive to that, to take the emotion out of it, to really go after the heart.”

The difference between the heart and emotion, he said, is like the difference between the deep love he has for his wife and their daily ups and downs.

“I could say, emotionally, I’m mad and sad with my wife. But that has nothing to do with how much I love my wife within my heart,” he said.

“Before we were Orthodox we were able to separate our spiritual lives and our daily lives. Now that we’re Orthodox, because of the prayer life that is required… and the fasting, it consumes your life. It’s the number one thing in your life.”

Join the Polamalus in their support for those in need! Click here to learn how you can sponsor the January 25th dinner and conversation with Theodora Polamalu!

The Food Column: The Polamalus focus on good cause

By Rebecca Sodergren, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

polamalufamily_160

Theodora Polamalu will make a rare public appearance at a Jan. 25 dinner to raise funds for an Orthodox Christian charity.

A silent auction that night also will feature items signed by her Steeler husband, Troy, including adult and children’s jerseys, a throwback jersey and a hat.

The Polamalus, Orthodox Christians themselves, want to bring a branch of FOCUS North America, the primary Orthodox outreach organization, to Pittsburgh. The dinner will help to finance the Pittsburgh center’s planned opening on Orthodox Easter, April 24, 2011.

Thea Martin, president of the Ladies Philoptochos Society of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon, notes that the Pittsburgh center is in the process of securing a building. The center will focus on serving the working poor and will begin by feeding the hungry. As the center grows, it may move into other avenues of outreach, such as shelter or medical care, Mrs. Martin said.

Mrs. Martin hadn’t heard of FOCUS until she attended a church convention in Atlanta. She stopped by to visit the FOCUS booth, discovered that Mrs. Polamalu is on the national FOCUS board, and began hatching a plan to ask Mrs. Polamalu to speak to her 150-member women’s group.

What resulted was an event much larger than a speech for 150.

The Jan. 25 dinner at Holy Cross will include silent auction items from hotels, restaurants and other businesses in addition to the Polamalu memorabilia. The Greek dinner, at $50 per person, will include appetizers (feta, olives, hummus and pita), Kotopeta Avgholemono (chicken rolls), rice pilaf, green beans almondine and dessert (baklava and galatobouriko, a Greek custard in phyllo).

Mrs. Polamalu will speak on “Restoring Living Icons,” or reaching out to serve other people just as Orthodox Christians might reach out to the saints depicted in their icons.

“FOCUS is a ministry that Troy and I are excited to be involved with since its mission to serve the poor is one that resonates deep within our philanthropy,” Mrs. Polamalu said in a statement. “We chose to get involved with the ministry because as Orthodox Christians we are called to exemplify the commandments of Christ to care for our fellow man in need.”

FOCUS, which started just last year, has seven other centers scattered across the country in cities such as Minneapolis, Orlando and San Diego. The name stands alternately for “Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve” or for “Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter.” The organization is Pan-Orthodox, meaning it is a cooperative effort of all Orthodox sects: Greek, Russian, Syrian and so on.

For the Jan. 25 dinner, RSVP by Jan. 10 to Vasso Paliouras at 412-563-3577 or JavaScript required to view address.

For more information on FOCUS North America and to order tickets online, visit focusna.org (scroll down the home page to see information on the Pittsburgh-Polamalu event).