StepUP Ministry expanding path to jobs

StepUP Ministry
StepUP Ministry

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — StepUP Ministry in Raleigh expects this year to serve about 700 unemployed, low-income and homeless individuals and families, including 125 veterans, up from a total of 600 clients in 2010.

Making that increase possible will be a new Job Center the interfaith nonprofit opened Oct. 10 at its offices at 1701 Oberlin Road in space donated by White Memorial Presbyterian Church.

But that expansion represents only part of the agency’s plans to help provide more people with the tools they need to become employed and “move toward a stable life for themselves and their families,” says Linda Nunnallee, the group’s development director.

StepUP also is developing plans to brand or franchise its three-step process that provides clients and their families with job training and placement, vocational training and life-skills development.

And starting a year from now, it hopes to double the number of clients it serves.

Steve Swayne, executive director at StepUP, says the group already has the “infrastructure in place” to expand, including technology and experienced staff.

Launched in 1988, StepUP operates with a staff of 24 people, five of whom are graduates of its programs, and andannual budget of $1.4 million, which it expects to grow to $1.7 million in 2012.

Of the 600 people it served in 2010, 99 percent live at or below poverty level, nearly 80 percent have criminal records, 44 percent were in recovery from substance abuse, 38 percent were homeless, 92 percent lacked the equivalent of a high-school diploma, 83 percent are African American and 44 percent are women.

When they first go to StepUP, clients spend a week in a workshop that provides job-readiness training, leading to an evaluation of their professional appearance, verbal and non-verbal behavior, and interviewing skills.

Once they have completed the class, StepUP counselors work with them to find jobs, with separate StepUP employment recruiters networking with companies that may have job openings.

Once clients are employed, those who are ready begin a year-long life-skills curriculum with their children.

“We believe that the only way to break the generational cycle of poverty is to empower both adults and children to develop life-sustaining skills,” says Nunnallee.

This year, StepUP expects to place over 300 people in jobs, up from 225 in 2010, and provide life-skills development to 100 adults and 150 children.

StepUP uses web-based software developed by Salesforce to manage its relationships with clients and employers, and it equips its staff with iPads to make communications and data collection easy and seamless.

The new Job Center, housed in the 1,500-square-foot renovated basement in StepUP’s building, brings its total space to 4,000 square feet.

The renovation was financed with a $42,500 grant from the Goodwill Community Foundation, $30,000 from StepUP’s reserves, and a $20,000 gift from the estate of Michael Hart Mittenzwei, a long-time StepUP volunteer who died last December shortly after retiring as senior supportive housing development officer at the N.C. Housing Finance agency.

To double the number of clients it serves, StepUP will need to raise an additional $300,000 a year, a total it expects to generate initially with proceeds from a gala in December celebrating the 25th anniversary of the John William Pope Foundation.

StepUP receives roughly 70 percent of its budget through private support from churches, individuals, corporations and foundations such as the Pope Foundation and A.J. Fletcher Foundation, and 30 percent from city, county and federal governments.

Prompted by more than a year of exchanging information with First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, which wants to develop a program based on StepUP’s three-step process, a committee at StepUP later this month will present its board with a recommendation on whether to franchise that process or simply make it available to groups in other communities.

“In preparation, we’ve spent the last year looking very closely at the programs and process we offer,” Nunnallee says, “to make sure we’re doing it as well as as we can do it.”

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