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History of FOCUS

IMG_3389 - Copy (2)Thirty years ago, an idea was born to minister to the “material, emotional and spiritual needs” of people of Harris County. Today, that idea has become a thriving commitment.

The evolution of the Fellowship of Christians United for Service (FOCUS) began Valentine’s Day 1984 with a letter signed by Sister Rosemary Sullivan of Christ the King Catholic Church and Lyall W. Scott of the Hamilton First United Methodist Church. The letter was mailed to churches across Harris County.

Two weeks later, representatives from a dozen churches met at the then Callaway Gardens Inn, now Mountain Creek Inn. FOCUS was born. Today, FOCUS administers to people across the county, providing food, emergency relief, home repairs and spiritual guidance, among other programs.

“Our mission makes it clear why we’re here,” said Bill Searcey, FOCUS executive director. “That’s to share Christian fellowship and to minister to the material, emotional and spiritual needs of the people of our county. It started that way and will continue.”
In 2013, FOCUS provided food assistance to more than 1,200 individuals and 3,000 families. Some 300 people were aided with payments for utilities and medical/pharmacy needs. Volunteers working through FOCUS also assisted with home repairs – mainly for elderly and disabled individuals – on 25 residences, from roof to floor repairs to building wheelchair ramps and more. And FOCUS puts on puppet shows at each Harris County elementary school with the theme “It’s all right to tell,” educating students on principles surrounding abuse and how not to keep silent.

FOCUS currently has more than 75 volunteers, a 15-member board of directors – also volunteers – and a thriving Thrift Shop, which provides the majority of FOCUS’ annual operating revenues. Donations and fund-raising events provide the remainder.

FOCUS prides itself on being multi-denominational. Its volunteers represent nearly all sectors of the Christian faith. And that’s the way it started 30 years ago when a coalition of churches met monthly. Early on, Sister Sullivan was one of the main drivers behind FOCUS’ success. When she left, Sister Philomena Fogarty, who had come to Christ the King in 1987, took up the FOCUS banner and raised it to new heights.

Early on, FOCUS also held an annual Peace Prayer Service each December on the square in Hamilton, FOCUS programs also included in the beginning an adult reading program and a pre-school program.

In 1986, FOCUS began its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, which provides enough food for one to two weeks for families in need. Also each year since 1999, Harris County High School’s art program and honor society work to raise funds for FOCUS through its Empty Bowl fund-raiser.

FOCUS’ reach also stretches to Harris County schools as well. The organization participates in Park Elementary School’s “Tiger Buddies,” a program aimed at establishing role models for “at risk” youth through tutoring and mentoring sessions. FOCUS also provides scholarship money to Harris County seniors seeking to attend college or technical school.

In addition, FOCUS provided the dollars for 20 Harris County children to attend Camp Joy. “Camp Joy is a ministry of Valley Rescue Mission that serves underprivileged youth who otherwise might never hope to attend a summer camp,” said Searcey. “For a week, these children get nutritious food, time outdoors and a spiritual message.”

In November 2014, and every year since, FOCUS honors its volunteers with a recognition dinner and wraps up its year of providing meals to needy families and individuals at Thanksgiving. We have just completed our 30th year.