Expanding Campus Ministry: FOCUS Partners With OCF To Bring YES College Days

Thank you for your continued support of FOCUS. Through FOCUS’ youth service-learning program Youth Equipped to Serve (YES), your gifts have made a difference in training the next generation of servant leaders like Ella, a student from Norman, Oklahoma. Ella grew up attending YES weekend service trips in high school, helping her to grow as a servant leader.

The YES program brings together teenagers to not only engage in service projects, but also participate in a highly developed curriculum to educate and challenge students to see everyone they interact with as an icon of Christ.

"YES Expands far beyond what is experienced in a three day trip to an unfamiliar city, Ella said, YES seeps into my whole being, transforming my faith in every aspect - it continues to change my thoughts, it compels me to engage with others, and challenges me to embrace y community at large" - Ella, Oklahoma

Now a sophomore at Washington and Lee University, students like Ella want to continue utilizing the YES ethos and methods by bringing the program to the university setting. We are happy to share that YES has established a new College Days program for college students and young adults. YES College Days expose students to the reality of poverty and other social issues in their communities.

"I've now come to learn that YES truly aims to embody all it means to be a Christian in this world, but not of the world. YES, to me, is the action of spreading the Gospel through our actions of listening and loving. It shows that we are not to exclusively engage in these activities one weekend a year, but day in and day out - in constant pursuit of living out the gospel in every interaction" - Ella, Oklahoma

College Days provide countless opportunities to transform how participants relate with those in need. The experience is an opportunity for students to step out of their studies to refresh and rejuvenate by sharing in someone else’s reality. College students leave with the understanding that, regardless of social status or material wealth, we are deeply connected to all people.

"Participating in my first YES College Day in Ann Arbor was such a profound experience that fortified my appreciation for the love within all people. Not only did we seek to connect with those who are materially in need, but also those who appear outwardly content because all of us are in need of genuine human connection. Through multiple service projects, YES taught me to always look for Christ in everyone we encounter before making any judgement and assumptions."

Working in partnership with OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship), YES has now hosted College Days in 10 cities and the list is growing.

YES has been incredibly fruitful, touching the lives of so many of our young people by helping them to find meaning and purpose in their own lives. As a new school year comes around the corner, we hope you will prayerfully consider a gift to YES so that we can continue to encourage and shape our youth and young adults into engaged servants of the gospel.

Together, we can continue to serve the poor and inspire and build up the next generation of leaders.

Make a Gift Today!

Sharing Is Caring – And It’s Beautiful

Last week FOCUS traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to attend the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Convention. This year’s convention was packed full of prayer services, workshops, meetings, reflections, and of course – fellowship. It was a beautiful event to witness. Many were wondering: how did the community of St. Nicholas so flawlessly pull off hosting such an ordeal? Of course, those of us who are familiar with event planning know it was no simple feat…but there is one simple answer that can help sum up why everything came together in the end:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” –Philippians 4:13

Conveniently, this verse was the theme of the entire conference. Put into action, this verse is the reason why the conference (or anything we do for that matter) was a success. When we all seek strength from God and ask Him to help us share our unique talents for His glory, amazing things tend to happen!

“Not everyone has the same gifts and talents, but when we all offer our gifts and talents to God for His glory, something beautiful happens. This is what the Church is – many different members coming together in love and humility, laying aside our egos and own agendas to discover what God wants, and then to do what God is calling us to do.”


When the faithful at St. Nicholas in Grand Rapids were called to host the Archdiocese Convention, many different people came together and put their talents into action. What resulted was a conference that served as a beautiful witness to the Orthodox Church, shared with thousands of faithful Orthodox Christian clergy, laity, and seekers.

We all know the old saying “sharing is caring” – but how can we take this mantra beyond a simple reminder and apply it to our lives in a way that is pleasing to God?

First, we have to search our souls and ask God to reveal to us what our talents are. Then it often takes hard work, bravery, commitment, and vulnerability to use those talents towards sharing something with the world that matters. Most importantly, when we share our talents, we must do so in a way that offers glory back to God (not ourselves)!

Across the country from Grand Rapids in Orange County CA, Sophia, a young volunteer was serving meals this summer with her family. Passing out meals is a simple task that is easily accomplished by most people. But, for Sophia this task became an opportunity to serve through sharing her musical talents – bringing extra joy to those around her! (See video)

What talents do you have that you can use to glorify God and serve His creation? In what areas of your life can you put these talents to use? Instead of shying away, let’s all challenge ourselves to put our unique gifts to work by taking action, big or small. When we do, beautiful things will happen!

Volunteer with FOCUS Today!

405,000 Bees and a new Greenhouse – Just Another Day At St. Herman’s

Exciting times at the farm!

It has been a busy few months at our Spruce Island Farm in Trumbull County. We put up our first greenhouse, thanks to a very generous donor and many people who volunteered their labor. We’ll plant vegetables and flowers in the fall. The greenhouse will be a great opportunity for St. Herman residents to learn about agriculture. We hope that our products will also provide a source of revenue for our programs.

We also added 405,000 bees to our apiary! (We didn’t count them, but that’s a good estimate.) If you think that’s a lot, by the end of the season they will be in the millions! Did you know that bees are considered livestock?
We now have 40 beehives at the farm, and another 20 hives at three other locations, including an urban farm in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood and a women’s sober house in North Royalton. We’re excited about these partnerships and eager to see our honey production triple! Stay tuned for purchasing information in the fall.

Help us reach more people!

We’re excited about what’s happening at St. Herman’s and want to share our news. You can help us by sharing this blog post with a friend! You can also sign up for the St. Herman House newsletter.

Subscribe to the St. Herman House newsletter for monthly updates!
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By: Chrysanthe Loizos

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.

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

Men at St. Herman House are On the Move

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

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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!!