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STEPS moves lives forward

Social distancing is a phrase we have come to know all too well through the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As good citizens, we practice it by waving from a distance rather than shaking hands or hugging as a greeting, not gathering in large numbers and holding personal interactions to a minimum.

Has this been a challenge? Yes, because we are social beings. We enjoy one another’s company, discussing current events, sharing memories and dreams. But intertwined with our very nature to connect with others is an innate feeling to stay safe and care for the welfare of those around us.

And it is because we care, we listen to the experts and remain in our homes and apartments, telecommute, Facetime, text and talk on the telephone rather than risk face-to-face contact.

Working together, we are doing our part to limit exposure to COVID-19 and keep ourselves and communities as safe as possible.

May is “Community Action Month” and, even as we, as a community, navigate through unprecedented challenges, we remain driven to help our neighbors. We are in this together. All of us.

STEPS is proud to be your community action agency. Community action agencies fill a tremendous need across the county, providing a helping hand to individuals and families in poverty.

Locally, in the last fiscal year alone, STEPS was able to impact the lives of more than 2,300 in a service area that covers 12 counties, reaching from Cumberland to Mecklenburg.

Partnering with you, STEPS continues to strive toward our goal to move lives forward, even in these extraordinary days. Our offices are closed to public traffic, but our staff remains hard at work to ensure citizens’ needs are being met.

We are—working within safety parameters—still helping folks through the Virginia Homeless Solutions Program and assisting seniors facing huge electrical service bills through Energy Share (a partnership with Dominion Energy).

Head Start workers are also distributing food and supplies to families in the Early Head Start and Head Start programs, the Workplace Support case manager is assisting clients in creating resumes, working on job readiness skills and applying for jobs. Our Family Navigator is busy enrolling families in the Whole Family Initiative to provide services to help pull multi-generational families out of poverty. And case managers working with seniors, youth and those with disabilities stay in touch with those they serve, connecting them with resources and providing assistance.

Our mission to help those in need overcome poverty barriers remains unchanged. If anything, the challenge of these times has fueled our desire to do more. In this light, we’ve added a new 24/7 COVID-19 resource referral hotline (1-877- 630-6458) to help those with great needs—such as housing, food or other critical items.

STEPS is proud to be part of such a wonderful community that provides the heartbeat to all that we do. We are thankful for local, state and federal partnerships and caring individuals that support our programs.

I also want to offer a special “thanks” to our volunteer board of directors. They have encouraged me personally and their unwavering support for our mission fuels us all here at STEPS.

In times of great challenges, we pull together—our board, staff and all of you. We will continue to help and support those in need to overcome poverty barriers. This is who we are. This is what we will continue to do.

May God continue to bless and keep us all safe as we navigate through these coming days.

SHARON HARRUP is the president & CEO of STEPS Inc. STEPS’ corporate offices are located at 225 Industrial Park Road in Farmville. STEPS’ footprint spans an 11-county area in Virginia. For more information on any program, call (434)315-5909.