28 Days of Summer Feeding

FOCUS Orange County’s Summer Feeding Program kicked off the first week in July! For 28 days, volunteers are working to combat summer food insecurity by preparing and serving meals for low income families that need help keeping food on the table.

Summer is a time of increased expenses, and on average families can expect their expenses to increase by about twenty percent during the summer months. One of the leading causes of this increase in expenses is child care (you can check out our blog post for more information on how summer impacts families).

In Orange County, local FOCUS Director Irene Basdakis is working with Orthodox parishes, local nonprofit partners, and the Orange County food bank to help provide meals that help families reduce their expenses and make ends meet. Serving a meal may seem like a simple act, but with the elevate cost of living in Southern California every dollar truly counts when trying to make rent, or fill the gas tank to get to work.

“The goal is to have many hands serve over 2,000 meals beginning July 8 and ending August 22,” says Irene.  In order to accomplish this, we need YOU to help us take action!

If you would like to get involved, here’s what you can do:
  1. Gather your church, organization, or family and encourage them to volunteer with you.
  2. Sign up online for the days you’d like to serve.
  3. Contact Irene if you are interested in preparing or purchasing food to distribute (food must be prepared in a certified kitchen).
  4. Continue to Pray, Give, and Serve with FOCUS Orange County.

If you would like to make a donation to FOCUS Orange County to support summer feeding, you can do so via our secure donation page.

In Minnesota, July is Focus on FOCUS Month!

FOCUS Minnesota has designated July as Focus on FOCUS month for the Twin Cities! This month of awareness and action is a great time to join the FOCUS community by getting involved in the many service opportunities we have for you. In the Twin Cities there are already a number of projects that have already been completed:

  • Mary’s Campers filled 100 backpacks with school supplies for FOCUS clients.
  • Friends of FOCUS are hosting a summer dance party on July 28th to raise funds and awareness for FOCUS Minnesota.
  • Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church is hosting a drive to collect food pantry items all month!

Do you have an idea on how you can support FOCUS Minnesota during Focus on FOCUS Month? Tell us what you’re doing and remember these three easy ways to get involved right here in the Twin Cities:

PRAY for FOCUS Minnesota in your July prayers and Liturgical petitions.

GIVE your time as a volunteer for our Clothes Closet, Food Pantry, or Sandwich Making ministries.

SERVE your community by stopping by our new FOCUS House to learn more about us!

If your parish is outside of the Twin Cities – you can still join FOCUS in our mission to serve the needs of our neighbors who are hungry, homeless, lonely, unemployed, under-served and often forgotten! Across the country, parishes can serve alongside FOCUS by joining one of our national initiatives like back to school backpacks.

Kenneth Kidd named Interim Executive Director of FOCUS North America

Executive Director Seraphim Danckaert Announces His Resignation

 

PITTSBURGH, PA, JULY 2019 — FOCUS North America announces the resignation of Seraphim Danckaert, who has served as Executive Director since June of 2017, and the appointment of Kenneth Kidd as the interim Executive Director.  Mr. Kidd has served as the Development Director for FOCUS North America for the last two years.  Brian Bullard, Chairman of the Board of Directors, stated, “Kenny has a diverse background of leadership roles in non-profit organizations and is well suited to guide FOCUS during this interim period.”

Dr. Danckaert has served for two years as the Executive Director of FOCUS.  He will be moving on to serve as Headmaster at St. Peter’s Classical School in Fort Worth, Texas. Mr. Bullard, stated, “Seraphim has made significant contributions to FOCUS over the past two years and positioned the organization for continued growth and success into the future.”  He further said, “We are grateful to the many contributions he has made to FOCUS and those we serve during his tenure.  We wish him and his family our best as they start a new chapter in their life.”

The Board of Directors has formed a search committee to find the next Executive Director. If you are interested in nominating a candidate or would like to be considered as a candidate, please forward the candidate’s name and resume to the attention of the Board’s Search Committee at JavaScript required to view address.

FOCUS North America is celebrating 10 years as 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 50 cities in the United States.

Pray. Give. Serve.

www.focusnorthamerica.org

Left to Right: Seraphim Danckaert, Justin Bosl, Kenneth Kidd

Men at St. Herman House are On the Move

Transitional House Room

This is one of twelve rooms at the St. Herman Transitional House in Cleveland, OH. The Transitional House is a safe and affordable place for men who are ready to take the next step out of the cycle of homelessness.

Greg came to St. Herman’s main house in late November last year. Shortly after arriving, he got a job as a chef, and in February he moved into this room in our transitional house. After living here for five months, he felt ready to take the next step. He got his own place and moved out earlier this month.

Meanwhile, someone else was ready to move in. Tim had been living at St. Herman’s since January. He has a steady income now and is ready to live on his own, so this room became his.

The transitional house is for men who are ready to take a step toward independent living. In order to qualify, a man has to have an income, six months of sobriety, and be working with a case manager on a long-term plan.  So far this year, 15 men have lived in the transitional house.

St. Herman’s supports men on the path from emergency shelter to transitional housing to permanent housing. Greg and Tim’s stories are the stories we hope for and work towards every day, with your help.

By: Chrysanthe Loizos

Subscribe to the St. Herman House newsletter for monthly updates!

Visit the St. Herman House website

 

Many Years To Eric Shanburn After 10 Years of Service at FOCUS!

Eric Shanburn Announces Departure As Director of FOCUS Detroit

“Christ tells us to love God and our neighbor. Eric shows us how to do that with all of our strength.”

These are the words of Elleni, a volunteer who worked first-hand with Eric Shanburn during his time as Director of FOCUS Detroit. Elleni alongside countless other community members who worked with Eric  can speak to the lasting impact his leadership and vision has had, and will continue to have, on the community.

Last week it was announced that Eric Shanburn will be leaving his position as Director of FOCUS Detroit and moving on to pursue his passion for Social Work at Concordia University. Eric was one of the first center directors of FOCUS North America, beginning his journey with FOCUS in St. Louis and then moving to Detroit in 2015 where he has mobilized hundreds of people towards serving the mission of “empowering children experiencing poverty to succeed in school.”

Eric has a special ability to motivate and mobilize groups toward a common cause. In Detroit, that cause has been childhood education. Eric saw early on that children from impoverished neighborhoods in Detroit did not have access to necessary educational resources or basic needs like food and clothing. In 2015 the city of Detroit was experiencing economic crisis and many schools did not have what they needed to provide an adequate education, some even shutting down completely.

Eric knew that something had to be done and wanted to engage his fellow Orthodox Community in finding a solution to the issues of poverty and education that affect virtually every school in Detroit.

During his time as director of FOCUS Detroit, Eric’s dedication and leadership helped Orthodox Christians throughout Detroit connect to their faith through practicing meaningful and compassionate service. Together, FOCUS Detroit and the local community provided thousands of meals, clothing items, textbooks, technology resources, and tutoring services to children.

When there were needs brought to Eric’s attention that fell outside of the regular programs that operated throughout the year, he still did not hesitate to rally the community to action. One Christmas, for example, Eric helped a young mother find an apartment and furniture for her family.

Those of you who have served with Eric in the past probably have your own story of how his vision has touched your own heart, and motivated you to take action.

“Eric serves with love and without judging” Shared Elleni, “He gives the Orthodox community a way to reach out to others with his vision and leadership. Eric embodies the mission of FOCUS.”

Any organization would be saddened to see such a talented leader move on to the next opportunity, and we at FOCUS are beyond thankful for the dedication, talent, and time Eric has invested in building a foundation for Orthodox outreach in Detroit.

The mission of FOCUS, and the vision that inspired Eric’s accomplishments during his time as a Director, is a mission and vision that all of us share as Orthodox Christians who strive to serve as Christ taught us. Now is the time to take advantage of the foundation Eric has created in Detroit, and engage in compassionately serving those in need with as much enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment that Eric has shown us over the years through his example.

Please join FOCUS in wishing Eric many more successful years as he begins the next step of his journey at Concordia University.

God Grant You Many Years!

 

Grand Opening of FOCUS House in Minnesota is the Foundation for a Future of Charity, Hope, and Hospitality

FOCUS House Front of Building and SignFOCUS Minnesota welcomed nearly 200 guests who all came together to give thanks and celebrate the official Blessing and Open House of their new building on June 1, 2019. FOCUS Minnesota is a local ministry of FOCUS North America that provides basic needs and compassionate service to people in the Twin Cities.

During the event, visitors from all of the Pan-Orthodox jurisdictions prayed, chanted, and sang together for the homeless, the lonely, the addicted, the imprisoned, the children who often silently suffer, and all clients of FOCUS Minnesota. Guests also enjoyed self-guided tours, refreshments, and words of perseverance, determination, and gratitude from Director Vera Proctor.

FOCUS Minnesota started as a simple community meal prepared and served by local Orthodox volunteers from a small basement kitchen for anyone who needed it. Today the ministry has transformed into a vibrant multi-program operation that offers dignity, hope, comfort, and Christ-inspired love to all who visit.

Thanks to the generosity and dedication of the community FOCUS has room to continue growing, now with the stability of a permanent home in the historic Capitol Rice District of St. Paul.

Volunteers who served prior to the move are excited to see that the new building is friendlier for visitors.

Kathy Schtowchan started volunteering before the move and shared what it was like before coming to the new building. Lake Street, she said, “was a small area, and it was in in a basement where we had steps to climb all the time.”

Now on Rice Street, FOCUS House is more accessible and visible to the community. “To get in here is just unbelievable,” said Kathy.

Director Vera and VolunteersThe Open House event on June 1st ushered in the start of programs at the new facility. The Clothes Closet offers free clothing, accessories, and household and hygiene products for men and women twice a week. The Food Shelf distributes needed food and pantry items twice a month to those in need. FOCUS Minnesota is also able to offer two new programs for the first time in their new space: Storytime for children and parents, as well as Resume and Cover Letter Writing workshops!

Moving from Minneapolis brings the opportunity to serve in new ways, and also a chance serve new neighbors living in St. Paul. At the open house event Denise Yellow-Solle, FOCUS House food shelf coordinator, shared her happiness and excitement “to meet our new families.”

Even though FOCUS Minnesota’s location has moved to St. Paul, the reach of FOCUS continues to extend throughout the Twin Cities. Senator Amy Klobuchar offered words in support of the work FOCUS does to serve people in need throughout the Twin Cities.

“FOCUS Minnesota’s mission,” Sen. Klobuchar said, “remains critical as we work to better the lives of all Minnesotans.”

Volunteers look forward to meeting new families at Rice Street, as well as serving old friends who have grown close to those at FOCUS throughout the life of the ministry.

As if a testament to the relationships FOCUS builds with those they serve, the first two customers who visited FOCUS after the official grand opening were friends who frequently visited the Lake Street location. Volunteers who served after the grand opening agreed it was wonderful to see them and help with some of their needs.

To FOCUS Minnesota Director, Vera Proctor, FOCUS House is the beginning of a story with a future “that firmly establishes an Orthodox Christian legacy of charity, hope, and hospitality here in the Twin Cities.”

“We have a future now,” Vera shares, “and it is secured.”

Glory be to God for the work that is being done in Minnesota, and for all those who pray, give, and serve in the Twin Cities!

Priest and Crowd Gather to Bless the New Building

Dedicate Your Birthday to FOCUS’ 10 Years!

It’s never been easier to transform your birthday into an opportunity to do good! In 2019, FOCUS is celebrating 10 years of meaningful service – and we’re inviting you to join! Here are THREE simple ideas for you to celebrate your next birthday with FOCUS!

  1. Create a Facebook Fundraiser
  2. Ask friends to bring donations (instead of gifts) to your birthday party! You can support Back to School or needed items for one of our center locations like Cleveland!
  3. Organize a sock drive drive to donate to your local homeless shelter – try to collect enough pairs to match how old you are turning!!

 

Pray For Summer Caregivers

School’s Out For Summer!

For many school children, whether public-, private-, or even home-school educated, summer is a season to take a break from the rigorous schedule of school, homework, tutoring, and extra curricular activities.

During summer break many people welcome a breath of fresh air, but for a lot of families summer schedules can also bring extra seasonal pressure when it sinks in that kids are out of school for eight or nine weeks…but most parents still need to show up to work to get the bills paid!

In the US today, both parents work full time in 46% of families. Add to that another 23% of households who have one full time working parent and one part time working parent and more than two out of every three families will likely require some sort of childcare assistance over the summer. Simply finding affordable childcare during the summer can be a HUGE challenge for working parents. The Center for American Progress published that families can expect to pay 20% of income on summer child care. For low income families and housing insecure families who regularly pay close to 50% of their monthly income on housing alone, there is little wiggle room in monthly budgets and this summer increase is a huge obstacle to overcome.

Summer camps are a popular option for parents looking for something fun and safe for their children to do while they’re at work. According to the American Camp Association, there are 2,400 ACA-accredited camps, employing more than 320,000+ camp staff and serving over 7.2 million children! Depending on which camp you have your eye on, the cost can be overwhelming especially for families with multiple children. However, if you find that camp doesn’t seem affordable – don’t forget to ask about financial aid! There are also some wonderful and well-known organizations such as the YMCA that offer free/affordable summer day camps options for the entire community.

Just as we pray during the school year for our teachers, it’s important to pray during the summer for all our camp counselors and child caregivers who are helping serve families and children from all walks of life! Whether you are a parent, single person, counselor or volunteer – take time to brainstorm ways you can serve parents, caregivers, and children this summer!

 

Prayer for Child Caregivers:

 

O Lord, our God and Creator, Thou hast honored us men with Thine own image, and didst teach Thy chosen disciples that the fear of Thee is the beginning of true wisdom; Grant wisdom and guidance today to all the caregivers, youth leaders, daycare employees, volunteers, and parents who are working and caring for children this summer at home, summer camps, child care facilities and church ministries; That they may help offer a safe and compassionate community for our children to explore, learn, and play while growing their faith and trust in You. Grant each caregiver the wisdom, strength, authority and grace that they need to serve the children in their care. According to Your Will, allow them to courageously embrace opportunities to reach out and share Your heavenly love with each child through their actions, attitudes, and speech; And, through Your Grace, keep any evil influences away that would seek to disrupt their loving care. Grant, O Lord, wisdom to our caregivers, not to conform to the ways of the world, but rather be an example of Your Heavenly Kingdom.  For Thou art God, the Author of truth and the Fountain of wisdom, and unto Thee we ascribe glory:  to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

 

Amen.

Summer Is Coming – Get Involved!

Your parish can participate in FOCUS’ national Back to School Backpack Program!

Help us serve children who, without you, would attend the first day of school without a backpack or adequate school supplies.

The reality is, that even if you live in an affluent area, there are children experiencing poverty in all kinds of neighborhoods across the US. Even beyond your immediate community, there are often an unnoticed, and therefore unmet, needs in poorer neighborhoods that are often adjacent to affluent ones.

Last summer, FOCUS worked with 56 parishes in over 50 US cities to serve 2,425 children and youth in need prepare for school. This year, help us reach our goal to provide back to school resources for 3,000 children through partnering with at least 60 parishes.

You can lead this program with your teen group, social outreach team, or even Summer Camps and Vacation Church Camps.

Contact National Programs Manager John Moxen at JavaScript required to view address

Links To Additional Resources

Printable Bulletin Insert (PDF)

Back to School Backpack Program FAQs (PDF)

Sample Elementary School Packing List (PDF)

Program Web Page

Considering St. Mary of Egypt’s Life of Repentance

Very little is known about the early life of St. Mary of Egypt, except that she was stripped of her innocence at the tender age of twelve. Over the next seventeen years, after having run away from her childhood home, she lived in a type of spiritual slavery to her physical passions, which led her to victimize many “young men,” likely in a similar fashion to how she was victimized when she was young.

Often times, persons who have been emotionally defrauded or physically abused early in life, will respond with similar destructive behavior toward others as a way of taking back the aspect of control that they were not afforded in their own lives.

The life that St. Mary lived during those years was one of separation from God and His assembly, and despite having indulged in such unhealthy pursuits, she still pined for a different kind of life; one that was void of such destructive proclivities.

St. Mary’s journey toward reconciliation is one that should be relatable to most, since her transformation did not take place in an instant. Rather, the process whereby she would become whole, would take many years and countless prayerful acts of repentance.

Today, psychologists and counselors might estimate that St. Mary suffered from a sexual addiction as a result of the trauma she endured as a child. Like many addictions, a person’s response to that which is perceived to control his behavior can often manifest negative habits. The results of these habits can be far-reaching and leave a trail of ruination. Often, through no fault of his own, a person may find himself living as a victim of someone else’s violent behavior, which can hinder his ability to pull himself up out of a desperate pit that has been created for him. But, just as a person can be victimized by the negative intentions of others, so too can he be healed by the positive actions of those who are looking to serve Christ in his brother.

At FOCUS North America, we look to ameliorate the plight of the poor because we realize that people are often suffering as a result of the choices that were thrust upon them without their consent. In an attempt to reverse the negative effects that have been forayed upon a person’s life, servant-leaders at FOCUS look to see Christ in, and be Christ for each person we serve. It is precisely because we understand the responsibility we have for our brothers and sisters that we act and respond with love toward people who may have been stripped of a fair shot at living a healthy and positive life—one that is oriented toward God.

Whether it is providing backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, to be distributed to home-insecure children and youth, so that they do not fall behind in school and in life, or providing families with toiletries and food, in order to help them avoid going into, or transition out of a shelter, FOCUS wants to be sure that we are doing everything we can to be a positive impact on the people we serve in communities across North America. Like St. Mary’s own journey, we understand that, for many, the process of becoming whole is often a slow and arduous one, but offering help along the way will ease the road of repentance for those who require it most.

During this Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, let us remember to see Christ and be Christ on our journey to Pascha.

John T. Moxen, Ph.D, National Programs Manager

FOCUS North America

***

This Lenten Season, join our journey through “40 days with FOCUS,” a special weekly blog series where you will hear Lenten reflections from different servant-leaders who work within our organization. We are excited to share wisdom from the men and women who lead our ministries across the country with love and live out the mission of FOCUS every day in their work and lives. Thank you for reading! Make FOCUS part of your Lenten Almsgiving Today