FOCUS expands to Cleveland, announces new board chairman

FOCUS Cleveland

FOCUS North America, 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, now owns and operates the Saint Herman House of Hospitality here.

The renamed Saint Herman’s House FOCUS Cleveland offers important feeding and shelter services to the homeless and working poor in and around the city.  It is open 365 days a year and provides three meals per day to anyone in need.  In addition, Saint Herman’s FOCUS Cleveland is an important point of service for Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.  The Center provides housing, clothing, and showers for homeless men, as well as grocery distributions for single mothers and families.

“The door is open and this ministry belongs to everyone,” FOCUS Cleveland Center Director Paul Finley said.  “We actively collaborate with area parishes and community organizations to transform lives.”

Last year, Saint Herman’s House FOCUS Cleveland provided sustainable housing for 100 homeless men while serving 66,728 meals to homeless and working poor families, making it the only organization in the area that serves three free meals every day of the year.

“The saying around here is that ‘Ohio City is the neighborhood that feeds itself,’” said Finley.  “But I take that a step further and say, ‘Ohio City is the neighborhood that feeds the poor — and the Orthodox Church is the major player in that.’”

Originally founded as a monastery over 30 years ago, Saint Herman’s House offers vital support to those in need through an Orthodox context.  A beautiful Orthodox chapel stands at the front of the facility, in which prayer services and Liturgies are offered regularly with the support of the Greater Cleveland Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood.

Finley spoke of a young man who regularly attends the 6:00 a.m. breakfast at the House.  “I asked him why he walks such a distance when there is food offered closer to where he lives,” Finley said.  “He told me that Saint Herman’s makes him feel like he’s at home eating with family.  It makes him feel like a human being.

“Another working father told us that eating at Saint Herman’s FOCUS Cleveland is the only reason he can afford his rent,” Finley said.  “His paycheck is stretched so thin each month, he can’t afford both rent and groceries.  Without Saint Herman’s FOCUS Cleveland, he and his family would be on the street.”

All of FOCUS’ operations and centers across America provide sustainable solutions to poverty in our communities – and it’s all done efficiently and effectively.  Ninety-four percent of all FOCUS funds go directly to programs helping the poor.  Saint Herman’s FOCUS Cleveland is no different.  “Because of the relationship we have with the neighboring grocery stores and food banks, we can provide these meals at a cost of mere pennies,” Finley said.  “This means that every donated dollar goes that much further.”

In related news, Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage and a well-known Orthodox philanthropist, has been named the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for FOCUS North America.  Gerich succeeds Charles Ajalat, who completed a four-year chairmanship in January 2013.

“FOCUS is a dynamic ministry and an expression of Christ’s love — offering jobs, housing, feeding programs, and other human services to the homeless and working poor of America,” said Gerich.  “FOCUS also plays a vital role in bringing Orthodox Christians into direct relationship with the poor, positively impacting their own lives while helping those in need.”

Under Ajalat’s leadership as founder and first board chairman, FOCUS grew into a vibrant and strong organization with eight flagship FOCUS centers across the US and a dedicated volunteer corps of more than 6,000 people.  In 2013, FOCUS has forecasted an annual budget of $10 million, with service outreach programs planned for 29 cities.

Gerich said he is humbled to succeed Ajalat.  “I have worked with Charles for over 25 years.  Charles is an amazing man whom God has blessed with many gifts and talents.  His commitment to serving the poor is amazing.”

“In just four short years, FOCUS has touched the lives of so many, and we’re growing daily,” said Executive Director Nicholas Chakos.  “It’s an exciting time in FOCUS’ history.”

Visit FOCUS’ web site at to learn more or to make a donation.