Founder's Mission

In 2002, I founded Focus America and created a volunteer-run 501(c)3 non-profit after reading a disturbing article in the New York Times about a poor community in Pembroke, IL. It shocked me to know that people in remote sections of our country lacked running water or paved roads or food to eat.

Having grown up in an affluent region of the US, I knew that poverty existed in other countries. I have seen poverty first-hand during my numerous international excursions over the years, including the Shanty Towns in Venezuela, villages in Dominican Republic, and Indian Reservations in Alaska. When I realized that children were starving in our own country strictly because of limited resources, I knew that I had to help in some way. With the encouragement of my senior students at a local college, Focus America was founded.

As we prepare to celebrate our Five Year Anniversary, I'm terribly proud of the journey in which I have embarked. Focus America has morphed over the years, from a volunteer-run charity by my college students with a broad range of interests (and, therefore, projects) to a smaller, more focused organization with specific goals and projects that reflect my own personal interests:

  1. helping impoverished communities in Appalachia become self-sufficient and
  2. helping the underprivileged living in my community experience existing athletic opportunities that, due to financial reasons, would be unobtainable without our help.

People help us achieve our goals and mission every day...often not even knowing so. Assisting an elderly person with their groceries or holding a door open for a stranger at the store are simple ways we can make a difference. My hope is that everyone visiting this website will take the next step and help us help other people.

Focus America's mission includes:

  • Humanitarian (such as providing food, clothing, and other support)
  • Education (such as providing school supplies to children and schools)
  • Resource (such as providing information and referral services)

Focus America was founded based upon the following philanthropic objectives:

  1. To provide humanitarian relief to people living in impoverished communities; and
  2. To provide assistance with returning children to the classroom in order to complete their education; and
  3. To serve as a distribution point of information and referral service to help these communities connect with other resources; and
  4. To develop volunteer opportunities for high school students, college students, corporations and individuals who can manage their own projects to help individuals.

In order to achieve its Mission, Focus America provides the following services through its 100%volunteer network:

  • Collects and distributes school supplies to impoverished communities and foster children.
  • Collects and distributes food to improverished communities.
  • Collects and distributes food and gifts during the holidays to provide a day of cheer and hope for the children.
  • Collects and distributes winter clothing for impoverished communities living in northern regions.
  • Distributes information to these supported communities to assist them in rebuilding their future (such as providing links to jobs or other social services).
  • Solicits donations on a very limited basis with all contributions and gifts supporting the organization's Mission.

Focus America is an exempt organization pursuant section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations are therefore tax deductible.

The Butterfly Effect

Project Holiday

Please note that it is with deep regret that, as of November 2007, we are no longer offering holiday support to individuals or communities. If you need help, please contact your local Catholic Church for assistance.

During the holiday season, Focus America sponsors children from various agencies throughout the country. Volunteers match children up with donors who send educational items, clothing, and toys during the holiday seasons. We also collect bulk items to mail to several communities.

In 2006, we sponsored the Myra, KY community and shipped hundreds of pounds of coats, food, and toys to help the 800 families working with the Manna from Heaven mission. We also helped several individual families in New York, foster children in New Jersey, and children living on Indian reservations in the midwest.

Since we began this program in 2002, we have helped almost 5000 children during the holiday season.

  • In 2006, we sponsored 800 families.
  • In 2005, we sponsored over 1000 children.
  • In 2004, we sponsored over 1500 children.
  • In 2003, we sponsored almost 1200 children in seven states.
  • In 2002, we sponsored 75 children in Illinois and New Jersey.

Unfortunately, as our focus has shifted to provide on long-term community care (see Project Seeds), we simply do not have the funding nor volunteer-power to help individuals nor can we respond to individuals who contact us requesting gifts for their childrens.

Project Power

Sticking closer to our geographic home base, Focus America's newest program, Project Power, focuses on building and expanding the self-esteem, fitness and abilities of young children through the promotion of athletic programs. Focus America has partnered with two local organizations to provide children in need the opportunity to participate in programs that, otherwise, would be financially unobtainable.

EQUESTRIAN SKILLS: In conjunction with Seaton Hackney Stables, Focus America is sending underprivileged children to summer camp in Morristown as well as fall and spring troop riding programs. Together, Focus America and Seaton Hackney Stables are providing children with the athletic opportunities to build their minds, bodies, and confidence. The experience of horseback riding is life-changing to many of these children and makes a huge difference in their lives.

GYMNASTICS: In conjunction with Rettigs Gymnastics Team Parent Association (RGTPA), Focus America is providing funding to support the gymnastics training, coaching, competition expenses and travel fees as past of the Junior Olympics program. Based in Cedar Knolls, Rettig’s Gymnastics has been working with gymnasts for over 15 years. The Focus America sponsors provide these young girls, ages 7 to 18, much more then the intense skills of gymnastics. Gymnastics overall encourages discipline, self-esteem, physical fitness, and determination.

The gymnasts training hours are intense and can range from 8 to 20 hours a week. The gymnasts learn that their individual abilities and dedication to the team are the foundation to their success. These are all important attributes for any young woman to succeed in today's world. The expense of participating in the various gymnastic events is often too much for families to afford and, therefore, Focus America is pleased to be a part of this effort to find community-minded corporations to assist in providing financial assistance to fund this program

Project Pencils

As of 2008, we no longer provide assistance to individuals or communities for Project Pencils.
For five years, Focus America sent school supplies and uniforms for needy children who reside in improverished areas. Distribution is based upon supplies donated and the needs of applicants. Students and corporate volunteers work hard collecting as many school supplies as possible to properly equip and motivate the children in need when they return to school in the late summer.

Starting in 2002, we provided over 2000 backpacks and other school supplies to various communities in need throughout the United States including Illinois, South Dakota, and Kentucky. We also distributed supplies to children in Morris, Union, and Passaic County, NJ.

As always, we encourage corporate involvement in the collection of items for this very worthy project. Companies or individuals who wish to collect items in 2008 should donate them to their local DYFS office.

Items to be collected can include pens, pencils, backpacks, spiral notebooks, notepads, rulers, glue sticks, tape, construction paper, and other school supplies.

Project Seeds

Give a man a fish, he feeds his family one meal.
Teach the man to fish, he can feed his family forever.

Project Seeds was started in 2006 after a conversation with Manna from Heaven's pastor. A comment was made about growing their own food. A lightbulb went off and, after several clicks on the Internet, we shipped out hundreds of vegetable seed packages and ordered 250 live baby chicks.

Today, we are focusing on providing the former coal-mining community of Myra, KY with the tools to raise their own food for both consumption and sale. We continue to send, vegetable seeds, and gardening tools. So far, Focus America has raised enough money to send over 650 chickens which will produce meat and eggs for the entire community for generations to come. We are continue to send seed packages for the entire community to build family gardens for preserving food for the winter seasons.

We are looking for people to help us by collecting vegetable seeds packages or ordering gardening supplies and drop-shipping them directly to the community at to Focus America Seed Project c/o PO Box 43, Myra KY 41549.

Also, financial donations are being sought to send more chickens, purchase starter feed mix for the baby chicks (which cost $10/bag with at least five bags needed each week until the chicks are larger). We also want to ship 25 pigs to the community before the end of the summer since pigs have large litters and are easy to raise for meat and sale.

Affiliations & Partners

Affiliations, Agencies, and Supporting Partners: Focus America, a NJ Non-Profit Corporation, assists underserved and poverty-stricken communities throughout the USA. We are proud to list the following organizations as companies who have supported Focus America since our inception through sponsoring fund raisers, donated goods or services, collection drives, or community service for their employees.

New Jersey
Assumption Catholic School
Assumption Church
Belleville High School
Belleville Middle School
Birchwood Manor

C3i Inc.

Cascata Spa in Morristown
Chatham Design and Printing
Children on the Green
Children's Hopes and Dreams
Christmas is for Children
College of Saint Elizabeth
Daisy Girl Scout Troop #246
Degussa Corporation
Fact NJ
First Choice Women's Resource
Friends of Summit
First Morris Bank
Girl Scouts of USA, Lenni Lenape Council
Grace-The Church on the Mount
Joyful Noise Nursery School
Leathead Consulting
Madison Baptist Church
Market Street Mission Thrift Store
MCJ Foundation
Morristown Medical Group/Premier Medical
Morristown Presbyterian Church
New Community Corp.
Our Lady of Sorrow's Preschool
Panurgy, Inc.
Park Lake School
Passaic High School
Premier Medical Care
Princeton OnLine NonProfit Resource Center
Reproductive Medicine Associates of NJ
Riccardi Brothers
Sankyo Pharma
Sharyn Carroll Boutique
Swarthmore College
St. Thomas More Church
Tellurian Networks
Thomas Jefferson School
Weichert Realtors
Woodland School


Peace Memorial Church
Toys for Tots

New York:
Conquest Marketing

LiveOaks Productions

South Carolina:
ChainReaction for a Cure


Christmas is for Children

Washington DC:

If you'd like to become a partner or if we have inadvertantly omitted your organization from this list, please email

News & Media

Contact Us

Focus America
c/o Seaton Hackney Stables
440 South Street
Morristown, NJ 07960
Founder and Volunteer: Shelly Nice

Why a c/o address?
Since we are run by volunteers, we send our mail to a business (rather than our home address). However, if you wish to mail directly to one of our volunteers, please email or call 862.812.0548.

If you have a specific request to volunteer on a project, please email

Unfortunately, we cannot help individuals who contact us directly. For holiday support, please contact your local social service agency or church parish office.
We cannot accept clothing or furniture donations unless specifically requested for a particular project.

IRS Letter

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Please note that we are in the final stages of an advanced ruling and will post our updated IRS 501(c)3 as soon as it arrives. In the meantime, during as we approach our Five Year Anniversary, we take pride in our accomplishments:

  • Distributing holiday gifts to almost 5000 children
  • Distributing school supplies for 2500+ children
  • Distributing winter coats for over 1000 people across multiple states
  • Distributing food to the homeless in NJ and poor communities in KY
  • Empowering dozens of underprivilleged children in NJ through athletic programs
  • Shipping 1000s of lbs. of gently used clothing to Appalachia
  • Shipping 650 baby chicks to Appalachia to grow for food and commerce
  • Shipping gardening supplies to Appalachia including thousands of vegetable seeds to help them grow their own food

Most importantly, we did the majority of this through donations of goods and services, not money. Thanks to all of you for your support over the years!