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.” 

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.”

 

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. 

Pittsburgh Grant

Thanks to you, FOCUS Pittsburgh won a $20,000 grant from the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together Program. Walmart awarded the top 40 organizations with a $20,000 grant. FOCUS placed 12th tallying in with 3,534 votes respectively.

100% of the funds from the grant will go directly to purchasing nutritious meals for school children who don’t have enough to eat through the weekend. These children are supplemented through the school week with feeding programs in their schools but FOCUS fills the gap, providing support when other resources are not available.

Thanks to You

The mission of the BackPack Feeding Program is to meet the needs of hungry children by providing them with healthy and easy-to-prepare food to take home on weekends and school vacations. FOCUS Pittsburgh’s BackPack Program works in partnership with the Pittsburgh Community Food Banks and currently serves children in the Hill District Community of Pittsburgh. The grant will help sustain and expand the program.

Research has shown that food insecurity and hunger are serious threats to children’s health, growth and development. The nation’s economic growth depends on the well being of our children. As such, the existence of childhood hunger in the United States threatens future American prosperity.

Thank you for your ongoing support for this and all the other vital ministries throughout FOCUS North America. Because of you children are supported each and every day. Thanks again.

Christ is Risen!