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FOCUS Helps Bring Calm and Understanding to Ferguson, Missouri

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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

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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!

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 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

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 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.
   

Executive Director's Christmas Address

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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

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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

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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 inneed."

 

   

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

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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, www.focusna.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.

To learn more or to donate, visit www.focusna.org or visit us on Facebook and Twitter

For official rules and regulations visit, http://focusnorthamerica.org/files/RulesRegs4.pdf

 

   

FOCUS Receives BBB National Charity Seal

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FOCUS 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.  Learn more or donate at
www.focusnorthamerica.org.

   

Pittsburgh Grant

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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.

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 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 30 cities in the United States. To learn more or to donate, visit www.focusnorthamerica.org or visit us on Facebook and Twitter

   

FOCUS and OCF Offer Students a Real Break

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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.  To learn more or to donate, visit www.focusnorthamerica.org or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

   

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