Nonprofit organization provides a ‘New Focus’

Published 4:38 am Thursday, July 15, 2010

Staff Writer

Local officials and executives with New Focus Human Services recently cut a ceremonial ribbon at a new office in the basement of Washington’s Metropolitan AME Zion Church.
The group needed a place to open shop, and the church was ready to lend a hand, shared the Rev. David L. Moore, pastor of Metropolitan.
“They needed some help at the time,” Moore said. “They didn’t have any money, and they needed some office space, so we wanted to help.”
Incorporated in September 2009, New Focus is a nonprofit entity that offers everything from job training to a range of counseling services — some of it in the form of pastoral counseling, some of it in the manner of sessions with certified counselors.
For now, this counseling is limited to people with mental disabilities, said Sheila Carraway, director of quality management.
In addition to counseling, New Focus also performs home modifications for elderly residents, and it spells long-term caregivers who need breaks to conduct personal or professional business.
“It prevents (clients) from going into an institution or into a group home and staying a length of time,” Carraway pointed out.
The nonprofit is ideally situated to draw clients from the ranks of people who frequent the church, Metropolitan Housing and Community Development Corp. or the neighboring Agape Clinic for low- to moderate-income patients, indicated Priscilla Denney, chief operating officer of New Focus.
“It’s open to everyone,” Denney said.
At the moment, New Focus is set up to serve Pitt, Beaufort and Washington counties, Carraway related.
One key component on the New Focus menu of services is a program designed to train area workers for “green” jobs.
Using a grant that’s expected to bring in a minimum of $50,000, the nonprofit will partner with an organization called Priska, which will train seven to 10 people to install environmentally friendly building materials.
“We would like to leverage this grant for other grants, and with our success we’ll be able to prove a track record of being able to train folks,” Denney commented.
At the end of their training, the participants will benefit from nationally recognized certification in weatherization and the installation of solar panels.
“It is specifically hands-on and also theory, so folks can learn the theory behind capturing solar energy,” said Denney, who is also chief executive officer of Priska.
New Focus hopes to train more workers after this initial round, she said.
During last week’s ribbon-cutting, Adrian Fisher, chief executive officer of New Focus, said the nonprofit wants to reach out to its community by going beyond the usual scope of services.
“We see other needs outside of mental health with the individuals we’re going to be interacting with,” Fisher stated.
Also speaking during the ceremony, Moore told the crowd, “I’m excited about what they’re getting ready to do.”
The ceremony was attended by numerous members of county officialdom, including Commissioners Jerry Langley and Ed Booth, Sheriff Alan Jordan, Washington Councilmen William Pitt and Doug Mercer and former Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette.