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.”

 

Win a signed TROY POLAMALU jersey or signed football: Free to enter!

Theodora and Troy Polamalu are teaming up once again with FOCUS North America in their annual Tackle Poverty campaign. Enter to win a signed Polamalu jersey or signed football by re-sharing a post related to the jersey contest at FOCUS North America’s Facebook page, or Troy Polamalu’s Facebook page. Or earn up to 200 more entries by texting TROY to 91011. It’s free to text! Click for contest details, focusnorthamerica.myw2m.com. 

FOCUS North America is a faith-based national organization that works to transform the lives of the homeless and working poor in America.  FOCUS has operations and programs in 30 cities across the United States. All of FOCUS North America’s services are provided without discrimination of any kind and never require a faith commitment from anyone receiving assistance. What makes FOCUS different is a commitment to help people through the creation and development of community support networks.  FOCUS creates a comprehensive support system built around individuals and families that provides opportunities and support through all phases of the transition from lives of dependency to self-sufficiency. 

Theodora Polamalu is an advisory board member and strong supporter of the work and ministry of FOCUS.

Official rules and regulations can be viewed here.

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. 

Saving Ourselves by Helping Others: a 1 minute video

FOCUS North America brings people together – those who “have” and those who, by worldly standards, may not have as much.  But the paradox of giving is that when we gather together to serve those in need, we often receive more than we give.  FOCUS works here at home, in America, to help homeless and working poor families obtain sustainable jobs and permanent housing, so that they can live self-sufficient and God-pleasing lives.  FOCUS builds bridges among people from every walk of life – the young and old, rich and poor. It’s when these bridges are built, when we gather together to share our blessings that we come to know ourselves and understand our faith and purpose on a much deeper level. By helping others, we give them tools that they need to succeed in school and in life.  They, in turn, give us much more.

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!

FOCUS and OCF Offer Students a Real Break

A group of college students is embarking on a one-of-a-kind spring break this week, the result of a partnership between FOCUS’s Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). Rather than sun themselves on the beach, the students are participating in a Real Break—a service trip to Los Angeles’ Skid Row, a community known for its acute poverty and homelessness.

Working with two local organizations—the Fred Jordan Mission and Midnight Mission—the students will spend their spring break serving the poor and gaining a first-hand experience of the many faces of poverty. The students are being led by Father Apostolos Hill, Proistamenos of St George Greek Orthodox Church in Prescott, AZ. 

YES is a ministry of FOCUS North America that provides local parishes and youth workers with the resources to engage  high school students in community service and short-term missions projects. Its goal is to encourage youth to live out their faith in service to others.

“YES has been involved in service activities in Skid Row for years”, said Katrina Bitar, YES Program Director. “We are so pleased to be a part of the OCF Real Break to Los Angeles. We are looking forward to sharing this life-changing experience with the members of OCF.”

OCF began its Real Break program in 2000 to give college students an Orthodox Christian alternative to the “traditional” spring break. Since then, more than 1,000 students have participated in Real Breaks in more than a dozen locations, engaging in prayer, fellowship, witness, and service.

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. FOCUS has operations and youth volunteer experiences in more than 20 cities in the United States.