Ionian Village participates in the FOCUS Backpack Program to provide 500 backpacks to Homeless Children in Orlando.

With over 2 million homeless children in the United States, childhood poverty continues to be a focal point of FOCUS’ national programs. With the blessings that many of us have inherited from our youth, there is little question that children living without the proper equipment to receive an education need to be provided the resources, in order to break the cycle of poverty we see in many American communities.

Last week, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Ionian Village held their annual summer camp reunion in Orlando, Florida and chose to include an aspect of service in the schedule, participating in the FOCUS Backpack Program. Officially launched in 2014, this program engages our volunteers throughout the United States by asking churches and groups to fill brand-new backpacks that are provided by us with school supplies. Through FOCUS partnerships, these backpacks are then donated to local children who are unable to afford these things on their own.

Campers from the Ionian Village program took time to learn about child homelessness in the Orlando area, and then filled 500 backpacks with school supplies. The backpacks were donated to the Homeless Education Department of the Orange County Public Schools, which serves the greater area of Orlando, Florida. This department works with homeless children in their district to provide them with the educational, social, and physical resources they need to perform academically, while often living in traumatic circumstances.

According to an article published in the Orlando Sentinel in March, 2015, “Nearly one-fifth of all homeless public-school students across the state now live in Orange, Osceola or Seminole counties…With only a tenth of the state’s total population, the tri-county area identified more than 13,700 homeless students last year — including families doubled up with relatives, living in motels, staying in shelters, sleeping in cars and camping in the woods.”

We thank all of our partners as we to work together to combat the ever-flowing tide of childhood poverty in our nation.

If your church or group is interested in participating in the Backpack Program please contact our office at 866-267-3083 or email JavaScript required to view address.

 

IV Backpack Assmebling Orlando 1 IV Backpack Orlando 2

 

New video release from FOCUS’ partner charity: Renovation Angel

We are proud to be the 2016 charitable partner of Renovation Angel!

Renovation Angel is a 501(c)3 non-profit which states their charitable mission as:

a) Creating Jobs – The white-glove removal, transportation, and resale of these items creates numerous construction, logistics, and retail jobs as these items are prepared for re-purposing.

b) Protecting the Earth – Recycling luxury kitchens, bath fixtures, home furnishings, and architectural elements diverts millions of pounds from landfills.

c) Supporting high quality non-profit outreach programs – Proceeds earned from selling recycled luxury creates support for innovative and life-changing outreach programs in the areas of: at-risk youth, addiction recovery, job creation, and social entrepreneurship.

source: http://renovationangel.org/about-us/

Check out this new video to get a better idea Renovation Angel does, and how they are partnering with FOCUS North America to move individuals from lives of dependency to self-sufficiency!

 

 

Phoenix Summer Feeding Kick-Off!

FOCUS North America to Serve 16,000 Meals to At-Risk Children in Phoenix

June 18, 2015

In Phoenix, Arizona, a city with a rapidly increasing child hunger problem, FOCUS North America has launched a program that will provide more than 16,000 free meals to underserved children.

“Feeding hungry children and their families is a core component of FOCUS’ programs and this new initiative in Phoenix will allow us to help children during the summer months, when they do not have access to free or reduced price meals through school,” said FOCUS North America Executive Director Nicholas Chakos.

Children need healthy food all year long. During the school year, 21 million children receive free and reduced-price meals through National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs. However, when school lets out, only 3.8 million participate in summer feeding programs, leaving millions of children at risk for hunger. Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Lack of nutrition during the summer months sets a cycle for poor performance once school begins again and makes children more prone to illness and other health issues. FOCUS’ summer feeding program is designed to fill that nutrition gap and make sure children get the nutritious meals they need.

Working with The Sodexo Foundation and local branches of the YMCA, FOCUS will provide breakfast and lunch to approximately 200 children every weekday during the summer. Meals are prepared by Sodexo at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and distributed to children who participate in Phoenix-area YMCA day camp programs. Approximately 16,750 meals will be served through August 7. This Phoenix initiative with FOCUS is part of Sodexo’s Feeding our Future initiative, a national program that has provided more than 4 million free meals to children in 24 cities across America.

Facilitating the health and education of children, through programs such as summer meal service, is a key activity of FOCUS. For the past six years, FOCUS has helped more than 252,000 disadvantaged children with educational support services while assisting their parents through vocational training, job placement and housing services. Each summer, in addition to summer meal service, FOCUS helps families in need get ready to go back-to-school by providing children with medical and dental checkups, school supplies, new backpacks and new athletic shoes so that they can attend school ready to learn and succeed.

 

FOCUS Continues to Serve in Ferguson

Ferguson, MO

As racial and community tensions flare in Ferguson, Missouri following the publication of the recent Department of Justice report, FOCUS North America continues to serve those in need and work to bring the divided community together.

FOCUS has supported local business and community leaders by hosting community events, raising funds for damaged and destroyed businesses as well as supporting Ferguson families and children in need.  “A key component of FOCUS’ work is bringing people and communities together, uniting them through understanding,” says FOCUS Gateway City Director Clayton Parks.  “It’s what the U in FOCUS stands for and we’re happy that we can help.”

While the local officials have been forming plans to move the community forward in a positive manner, FOCUS Gateway City has made significant contributions on the ground.

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FOCUS North America Participates in White House Forum on Ending Child Hunger in the USA

 

FOCUS North America recently participated in a forum to expand food security and child nutrition programs aimed at ending child hunger in the United States. Held at the White House, FOCUS Executive Director Nicholas Chakos joined leaders from 25 domestic charities in a pledge to become champions of feeding the millions of American children who are hungry through no fault of their own.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to expand FOCUS’ existing feeding programs, which has provided over 450,000 meals to hungry children and their families over the past three years and to engage Orthodox Christian parishes in feeding hungry children in their own communities,” Chakos said.

Feeding hungry children and their families is a core component of FOCUS’ programs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 15 million children lack access to enough nutritious food to provide them with a healthy life. Through no fault of their own, these children often go hungry during critical years of growth and learning.

While child nutrition safety nets are in place at schools to provide children at risk of hunger with free or reduced-price meals through school lunch and breakfast programs, many children do not eat adequately outside of school hours, over weekends or during the summer when schools are closed.

Working with 250 school districts in 30 cities nationwide, FOCUS has provided important food and educational support programs that help kids when they are away from school.

Now, FOCUS plans on expanding our feeding programs to engage Orthodox parishes and feed hungry children during summer months when children often suffer from hunger.

“Feeding children during the summer is critically important,” says FOCUS’ Chakos. Our evening and weekend feeding programs have shown us the importance of keeping kids fed, healthy and ready to learn all week long. But why should our work stop at the end of the school year? Children have even less access to nutritious food over the summer and FOCUS’ feeding programs should continue to help end children’s hunger all year long.”

Together with FOCUS, Orthodox parishes, youth groups or women’s groups nationwide can feed hungry children during the summer months when child hunger is at its peak. FOCUS will work with you to provide all the necessary resources, information and support so that you can engage your friends and family in an important that will engage your parish in active outreach and provide hungry children in your community with the access to healthy and nutritious food that they need.

Contact FOCUS via phone (toll-free 1-866-267-3083) or email ( JavaScript required to view address ) for more information on how to get involved with this important program to help end hunger in the United States.

 

 

FOCUS Helps Bring Calm and Understanding to Ferguson, Missouri

FOCUS has been featured on multiple TV stations in Ferguson, Missouri, where our St. Louis Center and our Director, Eric Shanburn, have been actively working to embody the “U” in FOCUS, which stands for “United” and “Understanding”. Eric and his team of Orthodox volunteers have spent time in Ferguson to promote discussion and understanding between the police and protesters.

This past Saturday, FOCUS hosted a community cookout that brought local shop owners (many of whom were victims of looting), protesters and authorities together. In the past few nights, protests have been peaceful and there have been no arrests. Police and protestors alike have expressed their gratitude to FOCUS and Orthodox Christians for their role in reducing tensions.

FOCUS hosted the meal at this time to act as a turning point, sending a message of peace at a time of unrest. FOCUS in St. Louis has always been deeply active in building community and relationships through our many programs that create jobs, provide housing and help homeless and disadvantaged children stay in school.

YES Celebrates 10 Years of Service

FOCUS North America is pleased to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its YES Program–Youth Equipped to Serve. Since its founding in 2004, YES has introduced more than 1,000 Orthodox teens and families to life-changing service opportunities in cities across the United States and Canada.

YES exposes junior high and high school students to the realities of poverty, engages them in weekend service opportunities, and equips them to become leaders in their church, school and community. YES seeks to raise up a generation of Orthodox Christians who live out the true mission of the Church–to love and serve our most needy neighbors–and who lead others to do the same.

“Through YES, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but that's just the beginning. We learn how to build relationships with everyone in our society, just like Jesus built relationships with tax collectors and sinners.”–Maria, age 17 

“My experience with YES has given me the courage to see people with new eyes and to treat them, regardless of who they are, without preconceived notions, and to love them for their humanity.” – Panayiotis, age 19

Watch this short video to see how YES is transforming the lives of young Orthodox Christians.

You can join us in celebrating YES' 10th anniversary by giving a $10 donation to YES. Simply text the word FOCUS to 52000 from your mobile phone. Your donation helps ensure that this vital ministry continues for years to come.

Executive Director’s Christmas Address

Each week, FOCUS puts families into affordable and permanent housing. We help the unemployed and the underemployed get jobs. We provide healthcare to those who don’t have insurance. We help kids stay in school to get the education they need to break the generational cycle of poverty. We feed hungry families every single day of the year. This year alone, FOCUS will serve more than 120,000 meals to working poor families and the homeless – and that number doesn’t even count the lunches and meals that we deliver to shut-ins and school children through our backpack feeding program.

The Orthodox faith uses the command to “stand” repeatedly. Our faith calls us to stand together – not just in words and in prayers – but to stand as an action, in active service to others. We are challenged each day to stand and let God’s grace flow through us so that our hands are merely the tools through which God can work His miracles.

Let us stand together to Tackle Poverty here in America and to help those in need. Let us offer unconditional love and support to our neighbors so that they can cross the bridge from despair to hope.

Join FOCUS North America, a national movement that brings opportunity, help and hope – and together we will transform the lives of the homeless and working poor, moving them from lives of dependency to self-sufficiency.

Theodora and Troy Polamalu Join FOCUS to Feed Hungry Children

This year, FOCUS North America provided back-to-school support and nutritious meals to more than 193,000 homeless and disadvantaged children in 28 cities across the nation.  FOCUS Advisory Board member Theodora Polamalu and her husband Troy know how important healthy nutrition is for children.  “Troy, being a professional athlete, understands how diet can affect optimal results both on a physical level and on a mental level,” says Mrs. Polamalu.  “We recognize how important nutrition is, especially in the life of a child who is growing and developing.  If our children were to go hungry it would significantly impact them in a way that would be very detrimental to their future and their behavior.”

FOCUS works in conjunction with public school districts nationwide to identify and support children who often go home to empty cupboards. Through our backpack feeding program, FOCUS provides meals to children who would otherwise go hungry.   There are thousands of families living paycheck-to-paycheck who often struggle to feed their children.  The recent cut in the federal food stamp program has only made matters worse. 

“It’s not just handing out food to those who need it most,” says FOCUS Executive Director Nicholas Chakos. “We are building relationships and facilitating a support network that enables children and families to be successful in school and in life.”