What’s New at FOCUS

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In this post, read about

Moving forward with “FOCUS” – Where are we going? How will we get there?, GOYA Going for it – Holy Trinity GOYA Hosts FOCUS Valentine’s Day Breakfast, 2015 Scheduled Events, Churches at work: A Sing-ular Moment Benefiting FOCUS Pittsburgh, What’s in a name: kindness, compassion, love, generosity, faith and a FOCUS Christmas, How to talk about FOCUS – Keep it Simple, Food. . .Glorious Food. . .FOCUS’ Emergency Food Pantry Handbook

Moving forward with “FOCUS”

dinner3Where are we going?  How will we get there?

In 2014 FOCUS+Pittsburgh achieved significant milestones in its programs and services, including:

Expanding the Backpack Feeding program to reach 600 students in three different Pittsburgh neighborhoods + Bringing online FOCUS Pittsburgh’s Free Health Center + Taking critical first steps to initiate trauma-informed community development + Continuing to expand efforts to train and find employment for the unemployed + Serving and distributing thousands of meals, clothes, and food pantry items.  All made possible by the support of Orthodox Christians, foundations, universities, and the surrounding community.

On Saturday, November 2, 2014, FOCUS+Pittsburgh’s Advisory Board met to discuss the future of FOCUS+Pittsburgh, review Advisory Board structure and the Center’s operating systems, revisit and refine FOCUS Pittsburgh’s strategic plan, and calibrate measurable goals (metrics) to monitor progress and continuous improvement.  On January 8, 2015, the Board met to continue the dialogue and map activities and goals for its management teams. 

The Board has affirmed and chartered eight strategic management teams, including:  Communications (Education), Finance (Fund-raising), Governance, Orthodox Engagement, Facilities, Workforce Development and Social Enterprise, Trauma-informed Community Development, and Health Center.  Current Advisory Board members, include:  Paul Abernathy, Rocco Adams, MD, James Arthur, Marianne S. Carmack, Galin Griener, Kathleen Hazeem, Mark Opacic, Cathy Pandelidis, Pharm.D., Eric Paljug, Ph.D., and Michael Sider-Rose, Ph.D.  The advisory board is designed to bring cross-cultural and cross-professional skills and knowledge to build capacity and serve FOCUS’ ministry.

GOYA – Going for it

Holy Trinity GOYA Hosts FOCUS Valentine’s Day Breakfast.  .  .

Many warm hearts braved the frigid weather on Sunday, February 15th, 2015, to attend Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and stay afterwards for a breakfast fundraiser. The proceeds of the brunch, sponsored by the McCandless parish’s chapter of the Greek Orthodox Youth Association (GOYA), were donated to FOCUS Pittsburgh. Fr. John Touloumes, the parish priest, said, “We are blessed to have FOCUS Pittsburgh to fulfill the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially on this Sunday of the Last Judgment.”

About 150 parishioners filled half of the banquet hall at Holy Trinity despite the sub-zero temperatures. GOYA advisor Jim Balouris traded his coach’s whistle for a chef’s hat, and supervised the kitchen crew to produce a delicious meal of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, waffles, fruit, juice and coffee.

During their Valentine's Day Brunch to raise funds for FOCUS Pittsburgh, Holy Trinity Goyans celebrate Basketball Tournament Awards
During their Valentine’s Day Brunch to raise funds for FOCUS Pittsburgh, Holy Trinity Goyans celebrate Basketball Tournament Awards

Holy Trinity GOYA President Becca Georgiadis demonstrated her leadership qualities, saying, “Not only is FOCUS a great cause, but, by showing how our youth help others, it sets an example for others to follow. We are grateful for what we have, so we are happy to share our blessings.”  The group’s treasurer, Melina Georgiades, described spending time the previous two weeks at the FOCUS Pittsburgh Center and the profound effect that it had upon her. “I was able to speak to some of the people at the center served by FOCUS Pittsburgh and learned how FOCUS has helped them. It is nice to be able to help out people who are suffering,” said Georgiades.

The Holy Trinity Valentine’s Day Brunch raised $1,300 for the ministries of FOCUS Pittsburgh.   Article submitted by Theophilus

2015 Scheduled Events

March 1 – 31, 2015
FOCUS + Pittsburgh 25/100 Campaign

Saturday, April 4, 2015
Lazarus Saturday Children’s Day (Lunch and Easter Egg Hunt)

Saturday, June 13, 2015
FOCUS Pittsburgh Communications Workshop

Friday, June 26, 2015
SS. Peter and Paul Family Day Celebration

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Orthodox Day at PNC Park (Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants)
Pan-Orthodox Choir sings our National Anthem (Proceeds benefit FOCUS)

Friday, August 28, 2015
St. Moses the Black Celebration

Thursday, November 19, 2015
FOCUS Pittsburgh Annual Benefit Gala

Thursday, December 10, 2105
Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

December 18 and 19, 2015
Christmas at FOCUS

Churches at work

A Sing-ular Moment. . .Benefiting FOCUS Pittsburgh. . .

Choir ConcertOn Sunday, December 14, 2014, Orthodox Choirs from the Greater Pittsburgh area gathered at Holy Cross Church in Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh, PA) to make a joyful” noise.  The following choirs (directors) filled the holy space with music celebrating the Nativity:  The Greek Choir of Pittsburgh (Steve Andrews), Carica Milica Choir (Snezana Lazich), Tsar Lazar Male Choir (Marco Trbovich), The Saint Nicholas Choir of Homestead (Andrew Talarovich), St. George Antiochian Cathedral Byzantine Choir of Pittsburgh (Stephen A. Esper), with Bill Jesin, Organist.  In addition to the beautiful hymns and choral works performed by the choirs, the audience participated in singing many carols with the choirs.  The evening concluded with a resounding and triumphant rendition of George Fredric Handel’s, “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by the combined choirs and audience.  Many thanks to the choirs, the host parish Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church and Philoptochos, Mike Orfanopoulos, Snezana Lazich, and Theanne Gagianas.

Pictured clockwise: Kristina Elias, Clinic Administrator; Paul Abernathy, Center Director; Fr. Michael Kallaur, Presbyter, Holy Cross; Elaine Sofis, Holy Cross Philoptochus Preisdent; Nick Chakos, FOCUS NA Director; Larissa Hatch, FOCUS NA Development Officer; Nuns from the Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery; Combined Choir members

What’s in a name:   kindness, compassion, love, generosity, faith.  .  .

Kochis 2
Father Michael Kochis, St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ambridge (Beaver County), prepared lunches with his youngest Altar Servers.

The Pittsburgh Clergy Brotherhood’s Bag Lunch Program continues to be one of the cornerstones of FOCUS+Pittsburgh Food Ministry.  Thanks to these churches, organizations and individuals thousands of lunches were served to the homeless and hungry during 2014:  All Saints, Canonsburg – Phyllis DeRienzo + Dormition of Theotokos, Oakmont – St. Barbara Society – Judy Contes + Holy CrossPittsburgh – Rebecca Babb, Cindy Heddaeus, GOYA, Maria Paul, and the Gidas Family +  Holy Trinity, Ambridge – Joanne Janis Cain + Holy Trinity, Pittsburgh –  GOYA, Chris Balouris; St. Lydia’s Women’s Group; Stacy Dickos; Mike and Julie Kritiotis; Penny Balouris Tomalski; Zikos Family; Jeremy Tracik; Tacy McCann + St. George, New Kensington – GOYA, Joseph Shaheen; St. Nicholas Philoptochos, Pittsburgh – Michelle Kotsagrelos + St. Vladimir, Ambridge – Fr. Michael Kochis.

 A FOCUS Christmas. . .

Christmas TiltThere was much anticipation as FOCUS+Pittsburgh prepared for its Annual Christmas Celebration.  Each year Churches, Ambassadors, and Site Volunteers welcome with a warm and loving embrace our Senior Citizens and children.

The joyous activities included rousing Christmas carols sung by all, delicious food and, of course, a visit from St. Nicholas (Santa Claus).  All made possible this year by the following churches:  Holy Dormition Greek Orthodox Church (Oakmont), All Saints Greek Orthodox Church (Canonsburg), Holy Cross and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Churches (Pittsburgh), St. George (Bridgeville) and St George (South Oakland) Antiochian Orthodox Churches, St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church (Northside, Pittsburgh), SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church and St. Matrona Society (Carnegie).  The Ambassador Team, led by Jim Arthur, once again did an outstanding job of organizing the event.  Truly all brought the love of Christ and His Joy to the world.

How to talk about FOCUS

Paul Abernathy, Pittsburgh Center Director
Paul Abernathy, Pittsburgh Center Director

Keep it simple. . .

This year FOCUS Pittsburgh will launch a Communications Education Program.  The first workshop is designed to equip those who have a passion for FOCUS’ ministry with the skills needed to become storytellers and advocates for FOCUS.  Our message is simple, but powerful.

The following was published in October 2014 on WESA Blog “90.5 Celebrates People who Make a Difference.”  It’s really about you– what you’re doing to make a difference and it’s simple.  The story and photo by Debbi Casini Klein

“What looks like an ordinary thrift shop on Centre Avenue in the Hill District is so much more. It’s called FOCUS, the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve.

It also stands for Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter, which are many things the people of this community need desperately.

When Paul Abernathy graduated from the seminary four years ago, he knew where he needed to be and who needed his help: the people living in the Hill District. He moved there, spent countless hours raising money to open FOCUS, which under his tutelage, serves the community in a multitude of ways.

“We have clothing and food for families that need clothing and food and all of it is free. We don’t charge for anything,” Paul said. “We have employment counseling here three days a week. We have a professional development academy that’s an eight-week program that helps prepare people for work. We have a backpack feeding program and feed hundreds of children every weekend, and we give them five meals to get through the weekend. And we have a free health center that gives primary and free behavioral health care for people that don’t have any health insurance.

“The median income is $18,000 a year. Seventy percent are single households, and all of the statistics we can go through, but beyond the statistics, I really believe the story is around the human person … Our hope and our prayer is that the Hill District becomes known for first and foremost as a community that loves one another. This is the goal.”

Food. . .Glorious Food. . .

FOCUS’ Emergency Food Pantry


Hosting a food drive for FOCUS’ pantry is a great way for you or your organization to become involved in FOCUS+Pittsburgh’s ministry to those in need in the Greater Pittsburgh community. We can help you promote your drive and arrange to pick-up donations, if necessary.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a Food Drive, please review our Food Drive publication.  There’s information on organizing, planning and promoting your Food Drive.  Even if you’ve held one before, you might get some new ideas.  We can also provide someone to help plan and/or attend a kick- off event, give a presentation on FOCUS+Pittsburgh highlighting what we do and our urgent needs.

Your church’s FOCUS Ambassador will work with you and support your efforts. Don’t have an Ambassador: FOCUS will send an Ambassador from another Church to work with you, and also help find one for your church.

Click here to view the Handbook



2 thoughts on “What’s New at FOCUS

    Joanne Jamis Cain said:
    March 1, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Marianne, as usual you have done a wonderful job of keeping us updated on FOCUS! Thank you for your devotion to this newsletter. You are appreciated! xo Joanne

      linkcommunications responded:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Thanks Joanne. In order to the Newsletter one has to be inspired by people like you. Your enthusiasm and passion for FOCUS is most welcome.


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