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OUR HISTORY

Step uP Chattanooga Non Profit

Step uP Chattanooga became a non-profit in December of 2014. At that time we worked with local non-profits providing interview preparation classes. Graduates of a Jobs for Life program were given interview attire. As word spread, clothing donations became prolific and the Attire for Hire Boutique was birthed. It was located at the Emma Wheeler Housing Project, providing clients, many sent from the Job Placement Center, with interview clothing. Affiliation with a beauty shop availed them to makeovers.

 

S. Stephanie Toombs, founder of Step uP, was certified for Work Life Curriculum in June 2016, and helped 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.

Toombs led workshops covering getting prepared for job interviews. She worked with two local professionals and participants to acquire attire for interviews and employment. 

Classes and Education

Spring of 2018, Step uP Chattanooga initiated Work Life classes at Chatt Inn with all the board members 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 serving as Allies, including employees from The Bethlehem Center and church members of 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.

Hickory Valley Christian Church continues to offer Work Life, Faith & Finances, and Ally Training since 2022. Their church partnership has been the most valuable asset.

Classes and Training

Step uP Chattanooga offers three classes:

Work is Good

Faith & Finances

Ally Training

 

Overall, our classes offer more opportunities to be life-changing because of our Allies, church connections, and community resource professionals. 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.

2021 Annual Report

2021 Wrap uP

Unprecedented seems to be the appropriate word to describe the last two years. In spite of COVID, Step uP Chattanooga has continued to grow.

January: Ten participants from our Faith & Finances class at Hickory Valley Christian Church graduated.

 February: Eight Faith & Finances class participants at Brainerd Baptist became graduates. We also conducted an Ally Training Class with eight new allies joining us.

March: Stephanie made a presentation to Brainerd Baptist’s Celebrate Recovery to promote our 14 sessions of Work Life. Four individuals joined the class. The class began in March with nine participants at Hickory Valley Christian Church. The church provided food and transportation. Five dedicated allies joined. A Work Life graduation was held in May, graduating eight. We celebrated with family and friends.

 

Expanding Resources: Many contacts were made in the business community in an effort to expand resources that we could offer to our participants and graduates. Monthly Reunion Groups: Four monthly reunion groups were held for graduates of our programs, each with allies and guest speakers also attending: Damon Stewart with the Tennessee Career Center, Stan Bembry of the Transformation Project, Jack Dyer, Pastor of Hickory Valley Christian Church, Deborah Gunn with Inspire, and Andrea Anderson with Vision Hospitality.

May: Both Stephanie and board member Don Hopkins attended volunteer training for Silverdale Detention Center. Our goal was to offer workshops to the Reentry participants. This, was in order to develop interest in taking Step-uP classes once they were released. Summer: Board member, Martha Langley, who has been part of Step uP since its inception, retired. She continues to post our prayer requests and edits our documents. We engaged Stories Marketing, excited to employ their re-creation of our website. New version is to be released in early 2022.

Fall: We were thankful to be given a home! Hickory Valley Christian Church granted us a physical address/mailing address, a place to meet with the board, a storage and meeting space, as well as classroom facilities. Stephanie and new board member Dutch Fayard attended training sessions with Mission Increase for End of Year Giving and Strategic Planning and joined the ministry.

November: Stephanie and Don attended a job fair at Silverdale Detention Center for Reentry. Two new board members joined: Dutch Fayard, Accounting Professor at UTC, and Andrea Anderson, General Manager of Vision Hospitality. December: Dutch Fayard conducted an Ally Training Class at Silverdale Baptist Church with ten new allies, the preparation for a new 12-week Faith & Finances class to begin in

 

January, 2022, at the Silverdale St. Elmo campus.

We are thankful to the Lord for His faithfulness and direction to our ministry, and the people He provides for us, praising God for over 60 prayer partners. Prayer requests, praises, and news are typically emailed every other Monday, and also updated on our website. To be added to our Prayer, Praise and Catch-uP! Please email us stepupchattanooga@gmail.com.

Praising God for His faithfulness. As part of the body of Christ, we always share the Gospel through our relationships and in our curriculum in personal and practical ways. We break bread together, provide clothing, food and essentials; meals in sickness, transportation, housing and employment; advise in financial matters, meet and assist family members.

 

Thanks be to God for our dedicated allies and board members. Our board members continue to meet monthly to provide wisdom and direction.

Step uP Board Members:

  • Don Hopkins

  • Robert Caldwell

  • Andrea Anderson

  • Bonita Broadnax

  • Dutch Fayard

  • Joe Toombs (Treasurer)

 Director: S. Stephanie Toombs

 

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 both Work Life for women and Faith & Finances for 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 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.

2020 Annual Report
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