YOUR TURN — Community

Published 4:06 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

Sharon Harrup

Community: living in the same area, sharing, caring and helping one another in a time of need.

It is our vision at STEPS Inc. to help build a strong community because we value our most significant resource: people. And helping people overcome poverty barriers improves lives and builds a stronger “us.”

As your community action agency since 2014, this is what STEPS continues to do every day.

May was Community Action Month. Community action agencies across America change the trajectory of people’s lives, provide hope, improve communities and make our country a better place to live. This year marked the 58th year since the Community Action Network was established to help families and communities overcome obstacles to poverty.

Over 1,000 agencies across the U. S. work every day to create opportunities and transform lives to make communities stronger and families thrive.

STEPS’ mission is to lead, coordinate, create and deliver quality opportunities to impact self-sufficiency and reduce poverty throughout our region. With the help of a partnering community and the support of the STEPS board, this is what we do every day.

In the last fiscal year, STEPS was able to impact the lives of over 2,700 in a service area that covers 12 counties from Cumberland to Mecklenburg.

We helped individuals and families facing homelessness through the Virginia Homeless Solutions Program and those in crisis facing electrical service cutoffs through EnergyShare (a partnership with Dominion Energy). Last year, STEPS funded over 4,600 shelter nights and over 1,000 people received heating and cooling assistance.

We served 59 children in our Early Head Start and 136 in the Head Start programs — helping families gain a foothold in education to help break the poverty barrier. 

Our Workplace Supports case manager assisted clients in creating résumés, worked to improve their job readiness skills and helped apply for jobs. Our Whole Family Initiative provided services to help pull families out of poverty. And case managers worked with seniors through the Senior Community Service Employment Program and youth in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs to enhance job readiness skills.

Plus, we continue to employ folks with disabilities in our recycling operation. Last year, 315 tons of waste from Hampden-Sydney, Prince Edward County and the Town of Farmville that would have ended up in a landfill were recycled by our team. Additionally, the secure document destruction operation — which also employs folks with disabilities — has proven a valuable option for businesses and agencies to safely shred and recycle 256 tons of unwanted papers and documents.

All of this is possible because of our regional, state and federal partnerships, along with caring people who support our programs.

I want to say “thank you” to the counties, towns and people from this wonderful community who continue to invest in our mission. Our success is built upon that foundation, so thanks for sharing resources and your heart.

It is a true expression of brotherly (community) love.

Sharon Harrup serves as the President and CEO of STEPS Inc. STEPS’ corporate offices are located at 225 Industrial Park Road in Farmville. For more information on any program, contact STEPS at (434) 315-5909.