Focus Stories

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 FOCUS+Pittsburgh Free Health Center

fphc14Key Milestone Reached. . .

FPFHC reached a key milestone at the end of September.  The 100th patient successfully completed the screening process.  Caring for each patient involves multiple visits, testing, and examinations to ensure comprehensive health care management.  Each patient has close, ongoing contact with a clinician.  That clinician ensures the patient is referred to the appropriate specialists, as needed.

The mission of the Health Center is simply articulated in the following statement:  To promote the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the community and to foster the desire of the youth of the community to pursue a career in the health-related professions.  FPFHC maintains a “Culture of Caring” that recognizes the patient as a whole person, respects their dignity and treats each person with care–an intensive labor of love.. 

Volunteer. . .

There is an acute need for the kind of health care the Center provides across the region.  However, expanding Health Center care depends on recruiting qualified medical professionals to volunteer a few hours each month.  For more information on medical professional volunteer opportunities, click here You will be contacted by Kristina Elias, Clinic Administrator.  You can also call 412-502-5024.

UOC of USA:   High School Mission Trip

Renew my Spirit. . .

Final HMTUkrainian Orthodox Church of the USA High School Mission team visited FOCUS+Pittsburgh in August. The team led by Natalie Kapeluck Nixon, Archdiocesan Youth Director, spent several days working at the center. Paul Abernathy, Center Director, gave the team a first-hand look at Center programs and services and introduced them to the Free Health Care Center. The team formed several work teams: one group organized and inventoried health clinic supplies, another group sanitized and prepared the supply room for clinic operations the next day, and another worked outdoors. The team also organized and refurbished the clothing room, providing more space and thoroughly cleaned the building. Local residents attending the Sixth Hour prayer service and those in need visiting the Center enjoyed lunch provided by the team.  FOCUS Pittsburgh provides the opportunity for prayer and worship seven days a week and is currently supporting several catechumens in the local community.

FOCUS PDA Does it Again. . .

Congratulations to our most recent graduates

GraduatesOn August 13, 2014, the Professional Development Academy honored five more graduates with a special celebration (four of the graduates are pictured with Kristina Elias, Clinic Administrator and Paul Abernathy, Center Director).  The first class graduated on August 3, 2013.  And, in just one year, 41 students have successfully completed this vital program.  The academy gives participants the professional skills needed to get and keep a job and creates employment opportunities.  It also generates funding for FOCUS programs through the creation of small business partners.  Members of the class include: Terry Boyd, Andre Campell, Angelo Pitrell, Donna Lewis, and Terrha Gordon.

Celebration on the Hill. . .

A children’s story of life and love. . .

At the end of June, learning, fun, laughter, fellowship, food, music, and lots and lots of love uplifted spirits and brought together FOCUS families.  Click on the picture below to see the complete picture story of this four-day celebration at FOCUS+Pittsburgh headquarters.  It’s remarkable.  Nick Karafilis, of South Fayette (All Saints Church, Canonsburg, PA), created and planned the event for Hill District children to fulfill his Eagle Scout requirements.  The children sang and danced, interacted with Disney inspired characters, and participated in many learning activities. There was fun and food for all.  The Children’s Museum, National Aviary, Living Treasures Petting Zoo, 99.7 Wish, and Home Depot were among the many companies and organizations that sponsored activities designed to enrich each child and foster their aspirations.  (There is a complete list of sponsors in the presentation.)


Thy Staff Shall Comfort Me. . . 

Kristina Elias, Clinic Administrator

EliasLinking names with faces and letting everyone know “who” does “what” helps define “Fellowship.”  Selected in March for the position of Clinic Administrator, Kristina Elias has worked tirelessly to bring the Center online and manage complexities of Free Health Care Center programs.

Ms. Elias has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Community Leadership.  The former Development Associate (Special Events and Social Media Coordinator) for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh brings passion and enthusiasm to the FOCUS Ministry.

The Clinic Administrator oversees day-to-day operations, including, but certainly not limited to:  patient intake, scheduling, recruiting and training volunteers, purchasing, quality of care, maintaining patient records, patient privacy, etc. 


Churches at Work. . .

Fighting Hunger

Holy Trinity (North Hills Pittsburgh, PA) didn’t miss an opportunity to fight hunger.  A food drive held during their annual Greek Food Festival at the end of August was just-in-time to stock empty shelves–an innovative approach that involved  the North Hills community.   The on-going support of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral’s Philoptochos is particularly heartwarming–no task is too big or too small.  Each month during this year, they’re collecting much needed items:  clothing, food, linens, school supplies, etc.  Pictured below are members Denise Dougherty, Paul Abernathy (FOCUS+Pittsburgh’s Director), Michelle Kotsogrelos, Marty Peterson and Toula Peterson.  Also, pictured are the food bins stationed strategically at Holy Trinity’s Food Festival.

churchesatworkEvery other month St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks (celebrating their Centennial year) cooks and serves a FOCUS Wednesday Community Dinner. Their commitment and that of a growing number of churches including, All Saints (Canonsburg), Holy Cross (Mt. Lebanon), Holy Trinity (North Hills), St. George (Bridgeville), St. George (Oakland) and their member organizations are vital to building community by reaching out to the those in need.   FOCUS was particularly blessed when Nuns from the Nativity of Theotokos Monastery (Saxonburg, PA) visited and served dinner in September.  On Thursday evening, October 9, 2014, Holy Trinity’s (Ambridge, PA) FOCUS committee made bagged lunches. The evening was awesome. You can see the joy on the faces of the seventeen friends and kids who worked with the committee. That’s putting the fellowship into FOCUS. Everything for the lunches was donated (again!). Many thanks Holy Trinity.  See Special Feature “Sandwich Love” by Joanne Janis Cain below.

Sandwich LOVE. . .

It was a Sunday in early spring of this year and I was in church. As I rounded the corner from the pews, Alexa was holding her baby daughter and standing in the narthex.

“Joanne, I would like to talk to you about FOCUS.”

Of course I gave her my full attention. Alexa went on to say, “What is FOCUS? What do they do?”

 Having been a past ministry team member of FOCUS Pittsburgh, I knew those answers. And I did pick up the ball after speaking with her and say “Let’s start a FOCUS committee here at Holy Trinity Ambridge.” 

We invited Paul Abernathy to come and speak to us. There were only five or six people at that meeting but it didn’t matter. Paul encouraged us and brought us up to date on FOCUS initiatives and accomplishments.

The decision was made that participating in the Saturday bagged lunch program was a good way for us to get started. Our own Father Emmanuel accessed the list through The Brotherhood and we signed up for two dates- one in September, one in October.

Sandwich Love1We placed announcements in our monthly and weekly bulletins. For the first sandwich date, we approached local businesses and got almost everything donated- the bologna, bread, apples, snack bars. Some kind parishioners gave us monetary or real donations for ziploc and lunch bags, snack bars and bottled waters.

The second time we were to make sandwiches, I knew something had shifted. Parishioners came up to me beforehand and told me they were coming to help. Without asking, many donations came in for lunch meat, cheese, waters, snacks, and fruit. I had an idea and at the start of the new Sunday school year, I asked the heads of our JOY group and Sunday school to have the children decorate the lunch bags for the FOCUS center guests. They did a beautiful job of coloring crosses, words about Jesus, and many other happy symbols onto the bags.

Sandwich Love 2When we gathered last week to assemble 240 sandwiches and 120 bagged lunches, we had seventeen volunteers! We were done in one hour and there was such a wonderful Christian spirit among everyone. We had young to old doing something whether it was opening and setting up the bags, filling them each with mayo packets, or assembling the actual turkey and cheese sandwiches.

On delivery day, my son John and I arrived at Holy Trinity to fill our 1996 Chevy trunk full of those decorated and filled lunch bags. We headed to Pittsburgh and when we arrived, there were FOCUS friends waiting outside for us. They helped us unload the trunk and take everything inside. There, Paul said the Lord’s Prayer and blessed all the lunches.

I know the residents had a good lunch, humbly offered by Holy Trinity Ambridge. John and I got a tour of FOCUS Pittsburgh with Paul (and an update!) but really, we got so much more. The feeling we got inside our heart, that feeling you get when you do something for someone else, something nourishing, something soulful, just can’t be beat. I said Hello! and Bless You! to many of the FOCUS guests and I hope we made their day just a little bit better.

I encourage you to start a FOCUS committee at your church or sign up and make bagged lunches. It’s a great feeling! You can access the FOCUS sandwich list by emailing

By Joanne Jamis Cain, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Ambridge, PA — Joanne writes a Grace and Love blog at

Tell your FOCUS story. . .

On November 20, 2014, FOCUS+Pittsburgh’s annual fundraising event at Holy Trinity will kick-off at 6:00 PM.  Help us tell the FOCUS Story.  Be a part of the occasion.  Let us know how FOCUS has impacted the mission of your church, how it’s changed your ministry or changed your life, how it’s inspired you and/or your group, what it means to you.  Tell us your FOCUS story by clicking on Our/My FOCUS Story below.  Different media will be used to share stories at the event by FOCUS Pittsburgh Communications in Exhibits and presentations.

 Submit you FOCUS Story here.




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