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Railroad Randy Remembered

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RandyDear Friends and Supporters,

Yesterday I learned the very sad news that one of our regular guests at the Sunday FOCUS Minnesota meal, known to us as Railroad Randy, was killed by a car while riding his bike.

Randy was on his way from the Twin Cities, by bicycle, to attend the Hobo Convention in Britt Iowa. Randy lived the life of a bona fide hobo for many years and for months shared with us his plans to go to the upcoming event and run for Hobo King.

 

On July 24th, his last dinner with us, we talked and he told me he was leaving that Tuesday morning to allow him enough time to get to Iowa, set up camp and begin campaigning before the convention commenced on August 12th. He was very excited that the time was finally here to make the trip and he had a fierce desire to be elected Hobo King, a title he would hold for the coming year.

 

This past winter Randy was especially proud of a photo display he was invited to display at the Walker Public Library on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, which chronicled a brief history--really Randy's history--of life as a hobo for the past 30 years. I asked him if he would bring the display to the center for all to see and he agreed. He was very protective of it and had to pick a good, clear day as he had to ride to the center with the display strapped to his bike.

 

He was quite the character, with his long white beard and a taste for bad jokes and silly puns. He rarely missed a Sunday with us. I think he was drawn to the fellowship and the connection he felt to our little village on Lake Street. I asked if I could take his picture the last time I saw him and he was happy to oblige.

 

Following the very short news item in the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, a later news item reported he was hit by a drunk driver. This is especially sad and ironic because Randy was an alcoholic for 30 years but was clean and sober now for another 15+. The newspaper lists his age as 60 though he told me he was 67. It doesn't matter. He was killed just north of Britt Iowa--he almost made it.

 

May his memory be eternal.

 

In Christ,

 

Vera Proctor, Local Director FOCUS Minneso


 

Men's Wearhouse Suit Drive to Benefit ReEngage

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NSD_logoStarting August 1, ReEngage, an education-based mentoring and life development ministry of FOCUS North America, is partnering with Men’s Wearhouse to help disadvantaged job seekers get a boost of self-confidence during the fourth annual National Suit Drive, the country’s largest collection of gently used business attire.

 

This is ReEngage’s first time joining Men’s Wearhouse and approximately 200 other charities to distribute the items collected at more than 900 Men’s Wearhouse locations. Items collected include men’s and women’s suits, shirts, jackets, ties, belts, and shoes. Residents of the greater Kansas City area may donate their gently used and cleaned items at any of the area Men’s Wearhouse locations.

 

“ReEngage, a ministry of FOCUS North America operating in partnership with Reconciliation Services-FOCUS KC, is excited and grateful to Men’s Wearhouse for being selected as a beneficiary of the annual national Suit Drive,” Rodney Knott, ReEngage Director, said. “Working with the men who participate in our Man Class has helped me understand the struggles they encounter as they try to reestablish their lives in this slow economy. The great thing about this opportunity is that it shows these men that there are people who still believe in them and are willing to give them a hand up when they are down.”

 

Knott said the suits will provide the men graduating from the Man Class with a fresh start and the ability to go into an interview feeling confident and well equipped to put into practice their new skills.

 

Although the recession has affected a broad spectrum of the American workforce, more than 70 percent of job losses have befallen men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, due to the economy’s particularly heavy impact on male-dominated industries such as construction and manufacturing. In Kansas City the unemployment rate was over 8 percent in June, proving that many are still struggling to find work.

 

“With nearly one out of ten working-age men unemployed in this country, the weak economic recovery has disproportionately hurt the male workforce,” said George Zimmer, Men’s Wearhouse founder and CEO. “By collecting and donating professional clothing, Men’s Wearhouse aims to help men ‘suit up’ for job interviews and give them an important boost of confidence that will help them reach their goals.”

 

Nationally, Men’s Wearhouse hopes to collect more than 100,000 articles of clothing to benefit charities like ReEngage.

 

To thank donors for their generosity, Men’s Wearhouse will reward them with 50% off a purchase at Men’s Wearhouse and will donate a tie for every suit received. What’s more is that for every “like” on Facebook, Men’s Wearhouse will donate $1 to the cause, up to $10,000.

 

For more information, visit www.nationalsuitdrive.com.

 

Learn more about what ReEngage does by clicking here! 

   

FOCUS San Diego Seeks Local Director

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FOCUS-SD-LOGOFOCUS North America is seeking a highly motivated, resourceful Orthodox Christian to become the director of our local FOCUS Center in San Diego, CA.  A Focus Center Director is responsible for raising up a Ministry Team that supports the work of the center, generating the financial and material resources needed to operate the center and enlisting and managing a team of volunteers. A local director typically has significant experience in social welfare and development.


DUTIES WILL INCLUDE:

  • Advocating for the delivering of the national suite of life recovery ministries in Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter through the building up of a national Orthodox Christian agency. 
  • In partnership with the national office, writing and executing the business plan and carrying out the Annual Development Strategy to sustain the ministries.
  • Recruiting, training and deploying volunteers in the delivery of services.
  • Providing a decidedly Orthodox Christian environment conducive to spiritual formation and personal development.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • An Orthodox Christian active in the worship, life and stewardship of his/her parish.
  • 3-5 years leadership experience in a social service agency.
  • Demonstrate excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Excel at presenting before groups.
  • A proven record of raising financial resources to support a project.
  • A proven record of recruiting, training, deploying and retaining volunteers.
  • Proficient in the use of social media for networking.
  • Familiar with Contact Management Software--experience working with a relational database preferred.
  • Bachelor's degree required--M.Div., MSW, or Counseling Degree preferred.

SALARY: $25K annually to start, with the potential to earn $50K annually as milestones are achieved. Relocation assistance is available.

Send cover letter, resume, and  three references, including that of your parish priest to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Application Deadline: July 17, 2011

   

Youth Use Summer Break to Serve Others

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Niko Touloumes was planning on using some of his summer break to do a service project, but he never thought the project would change his perspective on those in need.

 

Touloumes was one of 18 youth from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Christian Church in Pittsburgh who participated in the June Appalachia service trip, a ministry of FOCUS North America. The group of middle school and high school students were joined by six adult leaders.

 

The goal of these short term ministry trips is to build a sense of service and community by providing an opportunity for church groups to travel together, work together, serve together and grow together. Projects include home repair, landscaping, and various domestic projects for the poor living in the heart of the Appalachian region. In some parts of the Appalachian region of NC where the FOCUS NA teams serve there is an almost 20% unemployment rate.

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“I was expecting to come down and help people, not necessarily interact with them,” Touloumes said.  “But I came here and found out why they’re in these situations.”

 

The teens and their adult leaders worked hard and always had a great attitude as they worked on graveling a driveway, painting a garage, removing a rotting deck, painting the interior of a house, moving heavy furniture and various landscaping projects.

 

The working poor families served by these groups are always very grateful for the help, Niko Petrogeorge, FOCUS North America ministry team intern, said.

 

“We painted the inside of an elderly couple’s home,” Petrogeorge said. “Mr. Upright was very appreciative of our work and wanted to help us.


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We got him started on something he wouldn’t have been able to do on his own and provided the resources and materials for the project.”

 

The group ended its time on their service trip with prayer at the Quiet Reflections Retreat Center nearby lead by Fr. John Touloumes.

 

Petrogeorge said Fr. John Touloumes, priest at Holy Trinity and leader on the trip, already wants to bring a group back next summer to serve again.

 

The work done for needy families and the work done in the hearts of those who serve is always a welcome benefit.

 

“I feel like being on this mission trip has helped me grow as an Orthodox Christian,” said Georgia Gagianas, another teen participant on the trip. “There were times when things didn’t go as planned, but we realized that this trip wasn’t about us and we just needed to be patient and do what was necessary to help the people we came to serve.”

 

If your church group might be interested in serving together on a FOCUS North America Appalachia service trip contact Niko Petrogeorge at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 1-866-267-3083.

   

FOCUS Orange County Making Sure Families Don't Have to Choose Between Food OR Housing

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IMG_6788In one of the country’s most affluent counties, Orange County, CA, nearly half of public school kids rely on reduced or free school lunches for their major source of nutrition. Summer is particularly trying for families who depend on their children eating at school and many are faced to make hard choices between healthcare, housing or food.

 

Feeding the hungry is a challenge year round, but over the last decade, the number of children going to bed hungry on weekends and during the summer has increased 24% according to recent studies.

 

FOCUS Orange County’s Food Bank is striving to bridge the hunger gap for individuals and families who may not be able to make what little food they can afford to buy stretch until the next payday.

 

“Right now we are getting as much food as we can in order to supply our guests with what they need,” said Jacob Lee, FOCUS Orange County Local Director. “We open up the Food Bank once weekly at our free community meals at Valencia Hotel.”

 

Lee said FOCUS OC can get up to 3,000 pounds of food each week to distribute and they consistently give out 2,000 pounds every week. The food can be purchased at a drastically reduced rate from U.S. Food Bank suppliers and food is also collected from area churches.

 

“Right now we need about $500 each week to cover the cost of the food, transportation of supplies to the Valencia Hotel each week and the storage of food and other supplies,” Lee said.

 

Of the estimated 615,000 individuals struggling with hunger in Orange County, about 69% do not qualify for government food assistance programs and need to rely on food banks and emergency food assistance programs like FOCUS OC’s Food Bank.

 

Lee said many of the people that depend on the FOCUS OC Food Bank are trying hard to work and care for themselves. Many just simply do not make enough money to cover the high costs of living, healthcare and still have enough to feed themselves or their families.

 

“We don’t want people to have to choose between having food and having a place to sleep,” Lee said.

 

If you would like to help keep the shelves stocked at the FOCUS Orange County Food Bank or at any of the FOCUS North America food assistance programs nationwide PLEASE CLICK HERE!

 

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Men Learning to be Men

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"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." -  Clarence Budington Kelland

5979438.28Blessings to all the dads who provide their children with the love, support, and nurturing that all children need. As another Father’s Day goes by, I think it is important to recognize the true value of fathers in our lives.

Fathers have traditionally provided children with a safety net from which they have learned to explore, to take risks, and to expand our horizons as a society. Mothers have historically received the bulk of our attention and affection and rightfully so. Fathers have always been willing to accept their second-class status without much fuss, but imagine a world without fathers.

For too long we have had a one-sided conversation in America that men, in general, are optional and specifically the role of fathers in the lives of their children is overrated. Research has clearly shown that children do better with two engaged parents regardless of the race, finances, or education of the parents. Unfortunately, too many of our kids are being forced to grow up without the love, support and protection of their fathers and this is something we should not allow to happen.

Absentee fathers have become an American epidemic that reaches across racial, economic, and ethnic lines. This epidemic continues to grow with little or no media attention or action. Currently around 25% of our children are being raised without their fathers and for minority children the numbers are as high as 75%. This is a national tragedy that will lead to the suffering of millions of children in this country.

As I look back on my own life and think about all of the men that I came into contact with and how each one had a part in shaping who I am today, I wonder who the children of today will have to help shape their lives? You see I was fortunate enough to have a father in my home and also to have responsible men in my community who showed me each day the importance of being a responsible man.

We are created to be male and female, but we learn to become men and women. We learn by watching others, so in the absence of teachers how will we learn?

The mission of FOCUS North America’s ReEngage Program, the life-skills ministry of FOCUS NA, is to reconnect absentee fathers with their children and to reduce the number of absentee father homes by equipping and empowering men to fulfill their mission. What is that mission? To become the men that God created them to be.

Unfortunately, there are too many men today who are suffering from anger and frustration from the separation of their children. They have nowhere to turn for support, understanding and healing. Through the FOCUS NA ReEngage Program’s curriculum we provide an opportunity for these men to get the support, training and tools they need to begin the healing process. If we are to improve the lives of these men and their families, we should help facilitate this healing process so we can begin to break the cycle of absentee fathers and provide a stable, loving environment for all of our children.

Using our 12-session curriculum we create an atmosphere of healing for the men to be able to address the issues of anger, manhood, overcoming obstacles and breaking the cycles that have kept them from achieving their goals. We begin with the basics of “what is a man” and “what men do” and finish with each participant developing a personal improvement plan to use as they move forward. The men provide support for each other and help each other to create a place where all have value and are respected.

I hope that each and every father had a wonderful Father’s Day, but while we are celebrating fathers let us not forget there are many fathers and children whose hearts are filled with sorrow from separation, neglect, and pain.

The Holy Prophet Elijah prophesized in Malachi 4: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet. Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

We need your help to begin this process of healing. Would you consider making a gift to the FOCUS NA ReEngage Program in the name of your father or some man who made a difference in your life? 

Let us begin to give this epidemic the attention it deserves. If these children were suffering from some terrible disease or were the victims of some catastrophe we would stop at nothing to help them. Well, the epidemic of absentee fathers is just as devastating to our children, their futures, and our greater culture as well. All children deserve and need the spiritual, financial and emotional support of their fathers and today they need your help.

Thank you,
Rodney Knott
Director of FOCUS North America’s ReEngage Program

Donate Here!

   

FOCUS Gateway City using computers to teach skills and help guests find work and housing

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fgc-compWhen Mark was invited by a friend to attend the free community meal at FOCUS Gateway City, he ended up with much more than a full stomach. New to the St. Louis area, volunteers invited him to come to the computer lab and begin his search for work and housing.

 

“Now I’ve got a full-time job, a place to live and I am a full-time student,” Mark said.

 

The computer lab at the FOCUS Gateway City Center is available to guests who seek to find employment, housing, stay connected with family or develop necessary job skills.

 

“Many of the guests who come to use the computer lab are working on skill building,” said Eric Shanburn, Local Director of FOCUS Gateway City, said. “More than half of the people coming in need basic computer training, like using the Internet and email.”

 

Shanburn said that guests also work on resumes, search for jobs, and can check email for job leads and responses to applications. He wants people to come regularly so they can continue to build skills and see the job application process through.

 

“The guests will fill out five to ten applications each time they come in,” Shanburn said. “Once they get a response, we will coach them through their interactions with potential employers and work with them on their communication skills.”

 

Shanburn said he also will act as a reference if needed and make sure those who get work have adequate transportation or a means of getting to their new jobs.

 

“We have a few people who get jobs each month,” Shanburn said. “Mark’s is a real success story because he came to town with nothing and because of his own initiative and participating with our programs here, he has a place to live, a job and is even going to vocational school for more training.”

 

One challenge facing the homeless guests that frequent FOCUS Gateway City is the lack of consistent living conditions. Shanburn said that housing provides stability and without it, it is difficult for homeless men and women to find a job. He encourages the homeless guests to use the computer lab for finding housing.

 

Whether building skills, looking for jobs or doing housing searches, Shanburn said the computer lab is proving to be a valuable resource for FOCUS Gateway City guests in need.

   

A Summer of Service

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group_in_front_of_houseSummer plans are in full swing--days at the pool, sightseeing, and even vacations. Ever consider making one of your summer trips one of service?

 

FOCUS Appalachia, a domestic service center of FOCUS North America, offers church groups the opportunity to serve the working poor living in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina by coordinating home repair and work projects. Volunteer teams are assembled and sent between March and September to do short-term projects in the neediest parts of this region.

 

It’s not too late to gather a group and head to Appalachia. Church groups from Pittsburgh and Longwood, Florida, will be making trips this summer to help with everything from fixing leaky roofs to installing in-home, handicap accessible bathrooms.

 

There is much work to be done and FOCUS Appalachia will connect your group with the appropriate project for its skills and budget.

 

The service trips provide an accessible and inexpensive way for volunteers to explore their own spiritual growth through the service of others, through exploring the mountains and through times of teaching and personal reflection.

 

If you or your church wants to participate in a service trip with FOCUS Appalachia, please contact Niko Petrogeorge at 866-267-3083 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

Make this summer one of service!

 

Click here to see how one team was transformed by their service through FOCUS Appalachia! 

   

Getting Help-Giving Help

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shaking_hands"Michael had come a few times to our free community meals," Local Director of FOCUS Orange County, Jacob Lee, said. "He really wanted to change his life around."

Through the support and encouragement of FOCUS Orange County volunteers, Michael got a job and even his own apartment. 

"Michael showed up one day with a big box of supplies," Lee said. "He wanted to thank our volunteers and wanted to help others who were in his situation."

Lee said it is such a blessing when those FOCUS serves turn around and start serving others.

   

FOCUS Gateway City Community Garden Offers Produce and a Place of Peaceful Reflection

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Volunteers worked tirelessly last Saturday to build the raised beds that would hold FOCUS Gateway City’s community garden. Three beds were built and planted and one more will soon be complete as well.

 

“We put the community garden in a vacant lot adjacent to the center,” Eric Shanburn, Director of FOCUS Gateway City, said. “St. Michael’s parishioners and several FOCUS Gateway City volunteers all pitched in and set up the garden.”

 

Shanburn said he hopes this small initial garden will only be the first step in transforming much of the green space around St. Michael Orthodox Church, which houses FOCUS Gateway City, into a productive garden for the community to enjoy and use. Many planters and pots will also be used to grow the flowers, vegetables and herbs for the community garden.

 

“We want to be able to use this garden in several ways,” Shanburn said. “First, we want to be able to use the produce from the garden in our free Sunday community meals. We want the cherry tomatoes on our guests salads to come from our own garden.”

 

Produce will also be handed out during the center’s food pantry hours, so that guests can enjoy fresh vegetables right from the center’s garden. Shanburn said he hopes that as the garden expands, people in the neighborhood will be able to work their own small plot in the garden.

 

“As the garden grows, I hope to have space to encourage some of our homeless guests to grow their own food,” Shanburn said.

 

Shanburn said they also hope to add a flower garden for community members to come and sit and reflect on the beauty of God’s creation.

 

“I want our community garden to be a place where people can grow food and also find rest,” Shanburn said. “I want it to be a place where people can come and connect with God surrounded by peace and nature and beauty.”

 

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FOCUS ReEngage Director Rodney Knott challenges men to act like men

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listen-nowRodney Knott, FOCUS North America's Director of FOCUS ReEngage, a workforce development and fatherhood initiative, was recently interviewed by Jabalani Lafall for KCUR's Central Standard show. FOCUS ReEngage operates through FOCUS NA's pilot center FOCUS Kansas City-Reconciliation Services and furthers the Occupation and Understanding components of the ministries of FOCUS NA. Listen to Knott as he explains why working with men through education, character development and skills training can bring about the type of life transformation many men need.

 

Click here to listen to the full interview!

   

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