Operation LaceUp Serves Underserved Children in Upstate NY

This story was featured in the Finger Lakes Times in February,  but shoe distribution continues daily in Geneva City School District.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.41.23 PM

GENEVA — Thanks in part to one Geneva alumnus, over 100 children in the district will now have brand-new sneakers.

Adam Murphy, who graduated from Geneva High School in 2009, now lives in Pennsylvania and works for FOCUS North America, an Orthodox Christian fellowship dedicated to serving homeless and working poor throughout the nation. However rewarding his work on a national scale is, there was one location that weighed particularly heavily on Murphy’s mind: Geneva.

Photo By Spencer Tullis

Photo By Spencer Tullis. New shoes Geneva Head Start nurse Kristine Echols helps children try on new sneakers.

While in Geneva, Murphy was an active volunteer, having served with the Festival of Nations, and his parents still live and work in the city. Consequently, he knows all too well the challenges many of Geneva’s economically disadvantaged face.

“I asked my mom what could be done in Geneva because I’ve always wanted to give back to the community,” he said.

Murphy’s mother, Suzanne Murphy, is a music teacher in the district. His father, the Rev. Gregory Murphy, is pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Geneva.

“I know that Geneva oftentimes gets overlooked in terms of projects that go on,” Adam Murphy said, noting larger cities tend to receive more philanthropic aid.

One program at FOCUS seemed perfectly suited to Geneva. It was Operation: Lace Up. This FOCUS program, through a partnership with Toms Shoes, provides footwear to children in need throughout the nation.

Murphy proposed the project to his employer and was able to secure approximately 120 pairs of shoes for Geneva, which are slated to be divided between Head Start and West Street School based on available shoe sizes.

“The sneakers that were provided for Head Start will serve about 25 percent of our families,” said Head Start nurse Kristine Echols, who is in charge of distribution. “Especially this time of year, it really helps that our families won’t have to buy new shoes. I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to partner with FOCUS.”

“We are so grateful to Adam and to FOCUS North America,” Geneva school Superintendent Trina Newton said. “Many children in Geneva face huge economic hurdles. As educators, this immediately makes us worry about the impact on their academics. But more than that, it makes us worry about their daily lives. Shoes are a basic need and Adam’s dedication means many of our children now have one less basic need going unmet.”

GHS grad takes step to provide new shoes for needy kids – Finger Lakes Times: Home

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.32.20 PM

by Nick Chakos

The tech giant Google recently reported that 93 million “selfies” are taken each and every single day. On many days, I think that my 15-year-old daughter is single-handedly responsible for a sizeable percentage of that number. From the time that the first Kodak camera was sold in 1888 through 1950, it’s estimated that a few bil- lion photographs were taken worldwide.

That’s seemingly less than what my other kids, ages 11, 9 and 7, snap, tweet, post and vine in one week. It’s easy to think that young people these days are so hooked on technology, so absorbed in self-promotion through their social networks, that they can’t see past their device’s screens and don’t care for anyone other than themselves, their “friends” and “followers.”

But to dismiss our young people’s social networks as frivolous or downright bad is to ignore the trend of how young people are using their phones, computers and virtual networks to inspire action and activity in the real world. While we do need to be protective of what our young people are viewing and sharing across cyberspace, we also must understand that our children value these networks and connections immensely and that they are not going away any time soon…

Read Full Article Here 

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.32.33 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 9.45.28 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-12 at 9.46.22 AM

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.

Bay Area Runners Show Support for FOCUS

SF Race

Athletes and FOCUS enthusiasts alike recently gathered to participate in the inaugural San Francisco Bay Area Run for FOCUS. Hosted by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco and organized by local volunteers, the event featured 1 mile, 5K, and 10K races. Awards were given to competitive runners, while other participants enjoyed walking the course.

“I’m glad we had a very good turnout and I’m glad it benefits FOCUS,” said local event coordinator Alina Astilean. “This was the first time for a lot of these people to do a 5K and it was the cause that got them out. It’s great that FOCUS can promote physical fitness while gaining local support!”

“We were blessed with perfect weather, it was fun, and everyone had a great time being active and meeting people from other parishes in the area,” said George Pettis of San Jose, one of the runners.

Many participants are hoping to make it an annual event based on the success of this first race. “It would be incredible to see this model grow for next year and spread throughout the country!” said volunteer Johanna Duterte.

Proceeds from the race will go to benefit Operation Lace Up and other FOCUS programs.

If you or your parish is interested in hosting a FOCUS event, please contact our national office.

Spread the Word!

Everyone knows that FOCUS helps people and families in need, right here in America.  But what many people don’t realize is that through helping others, it’s often our own lives that are transformed the most.

FOCUS has produced a series of short films, directed by award-winning filmmaker Kevin Bryce, that showcase our powerful work and the life-changing effect it has on all involved.

Watch a 2-minute video about a successful businessman who lost it all and became homeless.  His inspiring story is a powerful testament to God’s limitless love. 

Share this link on Facebook or by forwarding this email to your friends and family and look for more videos from FOCUS soon!< FOCUS North America’s philanthropic activities continue to be an outgrowth of the love and mercy that naturally emanate from our Orthodox communities throughout the United States. We provide practical opportunities for Orthodox faithful to come and put their faith into action.  Through our Centers, our “day of service” activities for families, the YES program and our nationwide on-the-ground volunteer network, FOCUS engages tens of thousands of people in almost 30 cities across America to come and witness God’s limitless love and to provide help and hope to the poor and homeless. This Lenten season, remember FOCUS as one of the many tools available to you in your Paschal journey. By uniting to help others, we are drawn closer together as a community, a people, a nation – so that together we may draw nearer to Christ.

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.