Image by David Sager

OUR HISTORY

Step uP Chattanooga Non Profit

Step uP Chattanooga became a non-profit in December of 2014. At that time we had an Attire for Hire Boutique at the Emma Wheeler Housing Project to provide clients with job interview clothing. Affiliation with a beauty shop availed them to complete makeovers. When Step uP provided job interview attire to help Gang members, the ministry was featured in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

 

S. Stephanie Toombs, founder of Step uP, was certified for Work Life Curriculum in June 2016, and helped to bring the study to the Rapha ministry of First Presbyterian Church. Step uP board members, all involved, became Allies in both the Work Life and Faith & Finances classes held there. This engaged hands-on experience prior to launching Step uP's own Work Life class. The Rapha Ministry gave in-house space at that time for a new Attire for Hire Boutique which still functions there today.

Classes and Education

Spring of 2018, Step uP Chattanooga initiated Work Life classes at Chatt Inn. Again, all the board members were involved as Allies. 

 

Three Work Life classes were opened in the Reentry Program at Silverdale Detention Center prior to COVID 19. This culminated in a successful outreach event, ’Step uP and Overcome,’ which involved several churches and over twenty outside volunteers complete with a guest speaker, worship, food, goodie bags, and books for the library at the Detention Center. Many in the Reentry Program were drawn to recommit to Christ along with several new professions of faith.

 

In February of 2020 attention was given to class offerings for those outside the Detention Center while increasing the participant base to ministries and churches.

 

In August of that same difficult COVID year, Stephanie Toombs was Online Training Moderator for Faith & Finances. From that training, three individuals became certified in Faith & Finances curriculum. Nine others were committed to serve as Allies, including employees from The Bethlehem Center and Brainerd Baptist Church.  

 

One Zoom class was offered to Brainerd Baptist. More individuals became certified to facilitate Faith & Finances. Classes were also started at Hickory Valley Christian Church, and at the East Ridge campus of Brainerd Baptist (in spite of COVID). 

 

Ally Training, a significant preparation for each class, was offered at both church campuses.

Classes and Training

Step uP Chattanooga encourages its participants to join one of our group classes so they can benefit from connections as well as the education they receive at Step uP. 

Some of these classes include job training and interview skills, how-tos in budgeting and maintaining finances in a faith-oriented framework, support groups, and more. (Note: We partner for job training but we do not offer it ourselves. We also partner for employment opportunities.

 

We offer meals, Ally relationships throughout participants' learning process, community resources with guest speakers, contacts for training and other outside needs, and follow-up reunion groups. 

To anyone ready to change their course in life, we can help provide a step up towards a brighter future.

 

Overall, our classes offer more opportunities to be life-changing because of our Allies and church involvement. Allies, trained in and outside of the classroom to walk alongside and to assist in a mutually learning atmosphere and a group mentorship approach, provide the relationships which make the difference in the classroom, Classes are highly discussion-oriented, engaging, and encouraging our participants to grow towards Christ and each other.

2020 Annual Report

by Stephanie Toombs

 

January 29th: The year began with preparation for our third Work Life class for women at the Silverdale Detention Center. Allies were prepared, having been with us for previous classes: Cheryl, Kathryn, and Sharon.

February 1: Stephanie attended the annual volunteer training.

February Board Meeting: Ms. Shawanna Kendrick, our guest speaker at the Step uP Come to Jesus event held in November 2019, was introduced and voted into board membership, 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. 

February Board Planning: Plans for classes outside the prison began, almost as if we had a predictive word about the upcoming shutdown due to the pandemic. (We all had to adjust meeting via Zoom.)

March: Silverdale Detention Center shut down. 

March Board Meeting: 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 & Finances 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.

March Meeting 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, the Community Manager of Bayberry Apartments, is 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.

July: Bonita became part of our board.

July: We trained several more board members and a couple from The Bethlehem Center in Faith & Finances 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 & Finances, more than ten trained active allies, and one certified Work Life facilitator. (We began teaching classes in the spring of 2018 at Chatt Inn. As time went on we continued to work towards adding and expanding our classes. In the summer of 2019 classes started at the Silverdale Detention Center.)

August: 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.

October: We continued with new classes in in both Work Life for women, and Faith & Finances 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 & Finances 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 & Finances classes together. 

Our website was updated thanks to board member Martha Langley. Our board members have remained active.

Fall Planning for 2021: Work Life will be offered as follow-up classes in 2021 for all three Faith & Finances groups upon graduation. We will be offering new Faith & Finances 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 & Finances which is more readily available.

 

Summary: 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!

We are thankful for and past partnerships with First Presbyterian Church through Ralpha Ministries, Brainerd Baptist Church, and Silverdale St. Elmo.

 

Note: Due to COVID-19 we are currently engaging online classes via Zoom.