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

TNT-FAM-PHOTO
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).

FOCUS St. Louis Gives Christmas Presents to Those in Need

DSCN5587Earlier this year, George’s house burned down. While his wife and three kids now share a two-bedroom house with another family, George chooses to stay at a shelter to provide more room for his family and so he doesn’t burden their hosts. Working odd jobs helps pay for some of his families needs, but it isn’t enough to move them into their own apartment.

He likes going to the Sunday night meals at FOCUS Gateway City (St. Louis, MO) because, “people actually sit down and talk to me,” he says. FOCUS Gateway City serves all its meals “family style” so the volunteers sit with guests and everyone is served from the same bowl at the table. For volunteers it may seem like a small thing, but to people like George it provides a sense of “family” when one may be scarce.

Last Sunday’s Christmas party and dinner was no different. Families, single men and women, homeless individuals and those who work but still cannot pay for enough food to get them through the week … All sat together and enjoyed a hot meal, Christmas carols, and even presents. And George’s family was there too!

All Saints of North America Antiochian Church and Assumption Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos chapter collected Christmas gifts for the children and adults attending the party. Together they collected over 100 presents!

Volunteers from All Saints and St. Basil Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia served food, sat and fellowshipped with guests, led partygoers in Christmas carols and handed out the gifts. In addition to the many toys, books and other children’s gifts, adults received scarves, blankets and gloves.

A group of three men were particularly happy about getting blankets, said FOCUS Gateway City Director Eric Shanburn. “These three guys are regulars,” explained Shanburn. “They don’t like to stay at the shelters because their stuff gets taken, there are too many fights, and it doesn’t ever seem to work out well for them.”

Shanburn said that a couple weeks ago when the temperature was in the teens, the guys told him they almost had all four walls completed on their makeshift shack. “They needed blankets and we didn’t have any,” Shanburn said. “They didn’t even have any hats on.”

Well at Sunday’s Christmas party and dinner, the three men got some blankets and hats to help keep them warm as they continue to struggle with life on the street. Additionally, Shanburn and local FOCUS Gateway City volunteers are working with these any many others to find safe housing and life-recovery.

Shanburn said he was most impressed by a six-year-old boy named Isaiah. “I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks and had been sending cookies home with neighbors to give to him,” he said. Isaiah lives near the church where FOCUS Gateway City serves meals and Shanburn said the boy had been looking forward to his Christmas gift for three months.

Isaiah showed up late and announced to Shanburn, “I’m here! Do you have a Christmas gift for me?” Shanburn gave him his gift and Isaiah was so grateful for his one new thing. “So may of the kids and families were interested in having more and Isaiah was content with his one thing and never asked for anything else.”

gallery/FOCUS-GC

FOCUS Board of Directors Meets in Minneapolis

[Kansas City, MO] The Board of Directors of FOCUS North America convened their fall meeting in Minneapolis, MN at the new FOCUS Minnesota ministry center. In attendance were 5 standing members of the national board which include: Chairman Mr. Charles Ajalat, Vice Chairman Mr. William Hoeft, Secretary Dr. Julie Papatheofanis, Mrs. Lory Barsdate Easton, Mr. Brian Gerich, Fr. Tom Avramis and Ms. Georgia Kazakis. FOCUS Executive Director, Fr. Justin Mathews, and local and national staff were present as well. The Board of Directors was especially pleased to welcome Mr. Wendell Maddox and Dr. Nick Pandelides, its two newest members of the Board of Directors, to their first meeting.

The Board took note with satisfaction, the 2009-10 performances of the various FOCUS ministry centers throughout the US established in the past year for having accomplished most of the planned activities within limited budgets. A highlight of this meeting was the ability to connect for free to the various FOCUS centers of operation nationally via Skype. Each FOCUS center was able to be present at the meeting to report back on ministry activities in their own area and to engage in a lively Q&A with board members. In only the last five months it was noted that over 500 Orthodox Christian volunteers from all jurisdictions volunteered literally thousands of hours with FOCUS NA to help provide food and care for their needy neighbors through the six new FOCUS Centers.

Attendees of this meeting also had the opportunity to work closely alongside the local Advisory Council and volunteers of FOCUS Minnesota to serve a meal to the hungry on Friday night. Nearly 90 meals were provided to those in need served by 42 volunteers representing 9 Orthodox parishes. As a result of a shoe drive in the local parishes, free shoes and boots were also handed out to the guests as they left.

In addition to serving the poor by establishing operational FOCUS centers and supplying parishes with needed resources, especially through the YES (Youth Equipped to Serve) Program that grew tremendously in 2010, a key part of the mission of FOCUS North America is to support existing Orthodox ministries facilitating or working directly with those most in need. Grants were awarded to new FOCUS Partner Ministries including St. George Food Pantry (OCA, TX), St. Michael’s Community Meal (Romanian, MA), Open Door Meal Ministry and St. Brigid’s Pantry (Bulgarian, MA), St. Gregory of Nyssa hot lunch program (OCA, OH). In all FOCUS North America donors helped distribute over $50,000 in partner ministry grants in 2010.

“In our challenging work to bring help and hope to our brothers and sisters in need here at home our National Board provide strong Christian vision and direction, and an example of philanthropic love that undergirds our work and our ability to serve Christ through love for our neighbors,” said Fr. Justin Mathews, Executive Director.

FOCUS Orange County Provides Food and Hope for Working Poor

focus-OC-groupWhile some families are trying to decide between a visit to Grandma’s on Christmas, or how much turkey to cook for their guests, others are trying to make the difficult decision between shelter or food this holiday season.

November marked the beginning of FOCUS Orange County’s weekly ministry to the area’s working poor. Sunday nights at the Valencia Inn an average of 35 FOCUS Orange County volunteers serve over 100 hot meals and give away free clothing to working poor families living in area motels.

Motel owners know that many families will be moving off the streets during this holiday time to try and provide the gift of a warm bed and running water for their families. In order to afford the motel room, many will sacrifice money they would have spent on food. In an effort to make sure these families do not have to choose between shelter and food, FOCUS Orange County is partnering with area Orthodox churches to collect food to stock the El Dorado motel’s food pantry, which also services those living at the Valencia motel.

charles-meal

In the month of November, FOCUS Orange county also partnered with the City of Anaheim to provide food for people attending the city’s vaccine drive for the working poor. Through the generosity of St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos chapter, food and supplies were purchased for the event. Volunteers from St. Mark Antiochian Orthodox Church, St. John the Theologian Antiochian Orthodox Church, St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church, St. Marina Coptic Orthodox Church and St. Mary and St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church helped with the event and served 100

hot dogs and 150 hamburgers to families who were waiting for their vaccinations. FOCUS volunteers also ran a kid’s fishing game booth at the event.

Through the prayers and financial support of faithful people, FOCUS Orange County continues to work hard to assist the working poor in its area.

FOCUS North America Awards $45,000 in Grants, Largest Given to Project Mexico

[Kansas City, MO] In addition to serving the poor by establishing operational ministries and supplying parishes with needed resources for ministry a key part of the missions of FOCUS North America is to support existing Orthodox ministries facilitating or working directly with those most in need. This year FOCUS North America through the generosity of the Orthodox Vision Foundation, made grants to several ministries. The largest was awarded to Project Mexico which received $15,000 for its tremendous work. FOCUS North America gave away a total of $45,000 in grants to new and existing FOCUS Partner Ministries. (Go online for a complete list of FOCUS Partners.)

Mr. Geoff Bray, Executive Director of Project Mexico said, “Project Mexico and FOCUS North America are two Orthodox ministries engaged in service to the poor. The beauty of the cooperation between the two is that Americans or Canadians can come to Project Mexico, become inspired through their experience to continue to do God’s work, and then work with FOCUS North America in their home countries to channel that ongoing desire to serve. The connection between short term foreign missions even overseas and domestic ministry with the poor in the Orthodox Church has never been stronger! We thank FOCUS North America for their support of Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage.”

Fr. Justin Mathews, Executive Director of FOCUS NA said, “FOCUS North America is pleased to award these grants and is extremely thankful for the generosity of the Orthodox Vision Foundation. FOCUS North America has great respect for all our partners and especially our newest partner Project Mexico. We applaud the ministry over these many years accomplished under the Yovas’ leadership and join with them in celebration as they welcome Geoff Bray as the new Executive Director. FOCUS North America is humbled to work alongside Project Mexico in our common mission to serve the Lord by caring for the ‘least of these’ and enabling Orthodox Christians to do so consistently.”