StepUp Ministry expanding

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — StepUp Ministry, which was launched and is housed at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, is teaming up with downtown churches led by Christ Church to offer its life skills program starting this fall for graduates of its job training program.

StepUp also has named a new development director and hired a new manager for its life skills program as part of a reorganization that includes an expansion to Greensboro last year and possibly other cities in the next few years.

Over 600 people, typically ex-offenders, recovering addicts or those with out-of-date job skills, complete the five-day job training program StepUp offers 22 times a year, and the agency’s jobs counselors continue to work with graduates until they find a job.

StepUp helped 358 participants find jobs last year, for example, and since 2005 has placed over 1,500 people in jobs, with 81 percent remaining at their jobs for over a year.

And StepUp selects one in four job participants for the life skills program it offers on Tuesday evenings at White Memorial, where it has room for only 100 participants, says Linda Nunnallee, who is associate executive director of StepUp and on July 1 will become executive director of StepUp Raleigh under the reorganization.

For years, she says, that program has operate at maximum capacity of roughly 80 adults with 120 of their children.

A key to the program, she says, is matching each participant with a volunteer co-partner who works with the participant one-on-one during the entire course.

Adults and children follow similar curricula, spread in four phases over 48 weeks and designed to teach them to overcome obstacles to stability.

Starting in September, StepUp will offer its life skills program at Christ Church on Wednesday.

That new program will begin with 15 people per class, and in each quarter StepUp will add a new class, bringing the total number of participants at any given time to 60 adults and up to 80 children.

Among eight downtown churches involved in the coalition, six initially will provide financial support, volunteer mentors and connections to employers.

StepUp offers its job training program at a different location each day of the week, including First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street on Mondays; its own offices on Tuesdays; First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street on Wednesdays; White Memorial on Thursdays; and Edenton Street Methodist Church on Fridays.

StepUp also partnered with a coalition of Greensboro churches led by First Presbyterian Church to launch StepUp Greensboro last September, offering both the jobs and life skills programs.

StepUp now is assessing the results of that expansion as it considers expanding to other North Carolina cities over the next few years.

Steve Swayne, executive director of StepUp, will become CEO of the overall organization on July 1 and oversee its plans for growth, programming and curriculum to provide training designed to move participants to a “livable” wage of $15 an hour.

StepUp also has named Dileep Dadlani as its new development director.

Dadlani has served as development director for the North Carolina Community Health Center Association, raising money for nonprofit medical facilities in rural areas throughout the state.

Sarah Tencer, who recently received a master of social work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named program manager for StepUp’s life skills program.

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