Step uP Chattanooga
2020 Annual Report: by Stephanie Toombs
The year began with preparation for our third Work Life class for women at the Silverdale Detention Center. Our first session began on January 29th. Allies were prepared as they had been with us for previous classes — Cheryl, Kathryn, and Sharon. Stephanie also attended the annual volunteer training on February 1.
At our first board meeting, we introduced and voted on Ms. Shawanna Kendrick, our guest speaker at the Step uP Come to Jesus event held in November 2019. Shawanna Kendrick is the first African-American female to serve as Community Organizer for the Office of District Attorney General, Neal Pinkston – 11th Judicial District. Since 2017, this role has afforded her the opportunity to partner with area entities and create programs for those most at risk of offending and re-offending.
In February, the board began making plans for classes outside the prison almost as if we had a predictive word about the upcoming shutdown due to the pandemic. We all had to adjust to meeting via Zoom in March. Then the shut down of Silverdale Detention Center in March.
One of the resulting decisions was to collaborate with Celebrate Recovery at the Brainerd Baptist East Ridge campus. Since many of our participants have addiction problems, we were impressed with the year-round, faith-based program and interested in finding a location in East Ridge. This opened the door for interest in our ministry. We trained three church members for Faith and Finance in August and began our first class in October. Our participants came from Celebrate Recovery as well as Transformation Project and Reach One Teach One.
In March we met with Bonita Broadnax. She was looking to find a Work Life ministry to study for her Master’s thesis on Community Organization as it relates to unemployment. Bonita is the Community Manager of Bayberry Apartments, recognized for her improvements to the quality of resident life due to property upgrades and onsite developmental and service programs which she has implemented for residents. In July Bonita became part of our board.
We trained several more board members and a couple from The Bethlehem Center in Faith and Finance plus the Brainerd Baptist participants, to begin a second class at Hickory Valley Christian Church. Don Hopkins, one of our board members, was facilitator. Those participants came from Room in the Inn, a ministry connected to Chattanooga Rescue Mission, and Silverdale Detention Center. In total, we now have six certified instructors in Faith and Finance, more than ten trained active allies, and one certified Work Life facilitator.
We were able to continue a Work Life correspondence class with a participant who could not finish the class due to the Covid shutdown at Silverdale Detention Center in August. We continued with new classes in October in both Work Life for women, and Faith and Finance for the men. Out of those classes, one woman wanted to join our program outside. Stephanie went to court for the first time to answer questions about Step uP, and the judge decided for Donna to join our Faith and Finance class at Hickory Valley Christian Church. We have also helped her in finding training for a job opportunity, provided her with clothing and other essentials, and one of our partners found her transitional housing with the entire household attending Faith and Finance classes together.
Our website has been updated thanks to our board member Martha Langley. Our board members have remained active. Work Life will be offered as follow up classes in 2021 for all three Faith and Finance groups upon graduation. We will be offering new Faith and Finance classes to the same churches, as well as new ones. We will be looking to certify more individuals in Work Life when that opportunity becomes available and will continue to train allies and facilitators in Faith and Finance which is more readily available.
All in all, 2020 was a productive year for us in spite of Covid. Our finances are stable although meager, and we are believing that the Lord will provide for all of our needs as He has done in the past. We continue to receive ongoing funding from Silverdale Baptist Church, Hickory Valley Christian Church, and Brainerd Baptist Church as well as several generous individuals, and one business partner. We are thankful for Him drawing the ministries, our volunteers, financial partners, churches, board members, allies, facilitators, team players, and participants together to serve this calling, understanding that for many ministries it was a time of standstill. Moving ahead, truly God’s good grace. To God be all the glory!
Step uP Chattanooga
2019 Annual Report: by Stephanie Toombs
Step uP Chattanooga began a new venture this past year with the Reentry program for women at the Silverdale Detention Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We offered two 14-week ‘Work Life’ classes meeting once weekly for two-hour sessions. Each participant was screened and selected by the Reentry Supervisor, Ms. Wendy Harris. Six women graduated from our first class and four from our second class.
‘Work LIfe,’ is a biblically integrated job preparedness curriculum designed specifically for people from backgrounds of generational poverty, and developed by The Chalmers Center, Chattanooga, TN. In addition to practical job skills, the curriculum empowers participants to recognize that God is at work in the world and that their jobs are a way of participating in that work.
Six classroom allies were trained to interact with the participants, forming relationships while providing guidance, prayer, and direction, as well as assistance with homework, and resumes.
In November we had our first ‘Come to Jesus’ event for the 50 women in the Reentry program with the theme of ‘Step uP and Overcome.’ Several women responded to an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. More women stepped forward to express their desire to realign their lives with God’s plans and purposes through repentance and prayer. There were 20 volunteers from the outside to play key roles including worship, pastor, interpretive dance, a speaker from the District Attorney’s office, communion, and prayer, as well as facilitators, set up/break down team, and food servants. We were able to provide Christian books and bibles adding to their library and offered Bible study correspondence through Christian Library International. We also provided food, snacks, and drinks that were all donated, and distributed goody bags collected from different churches to each woman.
2020 will bring two more ‘Work Life’ classes, and holding our second ‘Come to Jesus’ event, as well as provide resources for the outside. There is much to be done to help these women transition. We are praying for community resources, transitional housing and programs for them, and for board members (secretary, treasurer, lawyer), prayer partners, and churches to continue expansion of Step-uP outreaches.
Note to readers: We covet your prayers, and financial support. Step uP is only able to provide these services because of individual support from people like yourself.