STEPS Named Community Action Agency

Published 12:42 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FARMVILLE — The Commonwealth of Virginia has taken STEPS to fill the area’s Community Action Agency void.

Governor McAuliffe designated STEPS Incorporated to perform those vital duties in the six county area that includes Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward.

STEPS received the news late Thursday afternoon.

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“While securing the designation was a rigorous process, the real work begins now,” STEPS’ executive director, Sharon Harrup, told The Herald.

The designation means STEPS will receive Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in the service area and to foster self-sufficiency in individuals and families.

In order to most effectively target those funds, STEPS will undertake a comprehensive community needs assessment. The results of that assessment “will serve as our strategic roadmap as we begin to coordinate, collaborate and operate programs to meet the most pressing needs identified in our communities,” she noted.

Citing the agency’s strong infrastructure and 30-plus year track record, Harrup said, “We are excited to bring those tangible results to more of our neighbors battling to escape from poverty.”

STEPS is already preparing an application in response to a Request for Proposal from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a regional Head Start provider.

“STEPS feels strongly that Head Start services should be delivered by a locally based organization that understands our region’s needs,” Harrup observed.

That local connection and understanding were key in the state’s Community Action Agency decision-making process.

STEPS had the support of all six counties’ boards of supervisors in a process that saw two other established Community Action Agencies also apply: the Lynchburg Community Action Group and the Tri-County Action Agency.

Fran Inge, Director of Community & Volunteer Services, with the Department of Social Services, told The Herald on Friday that the strong support of the local governments and local Departments of Social Services “was a critical component in the decision-making process.”

The capacity of an organization to deliver the variety of services needed across this wide geographic area was a main consideration during the review process, as well.

“Most importantly,” Inge noted, “the STEPS Board and Executive Director were very committed to serving this area, and to the principles of Community Action.”

Moving forward, she continued, it is crucial that STEPS has the support of the localities it serves, both as a formal requirement of the funding and as a practical element of success.

Now that STEPS has been designated, she wrote in an email replying to The Herald’s query, “we cannot stress enough how important it is that the support continues and expands into a collaborative and cooperative relationship that includes resources, information-sharing, and outreach to the community.”

STEPS is committed to such collaborations, Inge pointed out, in order to further develop its ability to deliver a variety of services.

The Virginia Department of Social Services, Inge is poised to “provide immediate Technical Assistance and Training to help STEPS, and other Community Action Agencies in the surrounding areas “have promised support as well.”