Orthodox Christians across the United States are mobilizing to help address the COVID-19 crisis, and one of the important ways in which they are responding is through offering thousands of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items to those serving on the front lines and/or residing in vulnerable situations, including priests, medical professionals, grocery employees and those in homeless shelters. They are making this offering through FOCUS North America, a domestic humanitarian agency of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. FOCUS stands for both the initiating group (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve) as well as the services they offer (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding, and Shelter). See www.focusna.org.
FOCUS is distributing over 18,000 items of PPE to front-line professionals through their local FOCUS Centers and other FOCUS outlets, inclusive of close to 1000 Orthodox priests in the United States in 13 major metropolitan areas. Many Orthodox priests have contracted and are fighting the COVID-19 virus. As with much of the rest of the country, FOCUS is working to stem this tide of the spread of this disease.
Priests are “front-liners” in the spiritual arena, visiting hospitals where allowed, conducting funerals, spiritual counseling, and much more, as well as they or their wives needing to go to the grocery store. As the society begins to return to “normalcy”, albeit with continued use of facial masks and shields, the need for these items will continue over a much longer period.
FOCUS included priests in its list of front-line service providers because if a priest, the leader of one of the 2000 spiritual communities of Orthodox Christians in this country, dies, the impact is great. It not only is a tragic loss for the priest’s family, but for an entire community. Many of the larger churches serve more than a 1000 people in their parishes.
FOCUS North America is 10 years old and has, over that period, produced over $43,000,000 of revenue to support its work in distributing to those in need, including meals, clothing, pantry items, household goods, personal hygiene items, employment training, shelter, housing support, healthcare, tutoring and educational support. Through its YES (Youth Equipped to Serve) program for teens and college students and its local centers and outlets across the United States, FOCUS volunteers have logged many tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of hours in doing the work efficiently. The initial PPE effort is costing approximately $50,000 for the PPE delivered. Increasing FOCUS’ overall resources through donations will help it to do more in this and other areas for those in need.
To find out more about FOCUS North America, as well as support these vital community efforts with your time and financial gifts, visit www.focusna.org.