As part of its journey through the season of the Great and Holy Fast this year, the parish of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania conducted its first “Donation Drive” to benefit the West Central Pennsylvania Chapter of Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (“FOCUS”). FOCUS is a pan-Orthodox organization that offers assistance and support to persons facing poverty in communities across the United States. The West Central Pennsylvania Chapter of FOCUS is hosted by St. John the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and provides a weekly backpack feeding program, hot breakfasts, and a food pantry for people in need in Beaver County and Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.
The idea for the donation drive came as a result of the St. Elijah parish’s “Night of Networking” events held in November 2018 and February 2019. These events brought together parishioners and friends of the parish from Generations X, Y, and Z to network and brainstorm about how they could become more active in the parish, and how the parish could grow its ministries in the community. Two representatives from the West Central Pennsylvania Chapter of FOCUS appeared at the November event and spoke of the organization’s work in the Beaver County area, and emphasized the significant need for more help. Several “Night of Networking” attendees indicated a desire to pursue opportunities to support FOCUS in its work.
With the blessing of Fr. Branislav Golic and the approval of the parish Executive Board, the weekend of April 12-14 was designated as the collection period for the donation drive. The project’s organizers assembled a flyer that identified areas of need – in particular, food, hygiene products, clothing – and distributed the flyer electronically and in hard copy for several weeks in advance of the drive. Collections were received in the church basement during periods scheduled around the Divine Services held at St. Elijah church on April 12, 13, and 14.
St. Elijah parishioners responded to the call for donations with great generosity and love. The donated items completely filled two trucks – one with food, and one with hygiene products and clothes. A separate collection of dental hygiene products was sent directly to FOCUS by a dental practice operated by two sons of the parish. Additionally, several parishioners made generous donations of cash and gifts cards. The items collected at the church were loaded into the delivery trucks after Divine Liturgy on April 14, and then were immediately delivered to the FOCUS office in Beaver Falls. Representatives from the FOCUS office were present to receive the donations, and expressed their sincere thanks.
Special recognition should be given to several people who were instrumental in planning and executing the FOCUS donation drive. Among them: Chenell Donadee Muha and Christine Vandervort, who led the effort to organize the project; and Heidi Chichester, Erin, Dustin, and Mila Chehovits, Noah and T.J. Sye, and Luka Kosanovich for assisting with collections, packing, and helping to deliver donations to the FOCUS office. The parish looks forward to building on this effort to support its neighbors and witness its stewardship of its community in the future.
Glory to God for all things!