Middleburg Heights – Step Forward celebrated its Neighborhood Opportunity Center’s one-year Anniversary Friday, August 5th.
The event featured free food and beverages, games and raffles.
The NOC, located along Pearl Road, has served more than 178 clients since opening in 2021. The agency confirmed it has also provided 1,277 emergency services benefits including rental and mortgage payments, transportation, food vouchers, clothing assistance and more.
“It was slow in the beginning,” Herbert Williams, the site coordinator, said. “But we have steadily increased our outreach. We have seen numbers tick up over the past six to eight months.”
The biggest demand was for HEAP services. HEAP stands for the “Home Energy Assistance Program.” It offers financial assistance to pay for gas, utility and electric bills to those who qualify.
The NOC has also processed a lot of mortgage assistance applications.
“We have done mortgage assistance for a number of homeowners that had it not been for that assistance, they would have lost their homes, Williams said. “That’s a big impact. When someone loses their home, it’s a huge impact. For renters, that market is really stressful right now. So to keep somebody with family, with kids, in their home and in their rental unit, is huge.”
Williams reminded people while the NOC is located in Middleburg Heights, it also serves those in the surrounding suburbs including Parma, Parma Heights and Brooklyn.
“Everybody’s situation is different. I think what people assume is, ‘if I’m doing ok, my neighbor is doing ok.’ That is not always the case. Your neighbor may have lost a job during the COVID pandemic,” Williams pointed out.
Staff at the Middleburg Heights location hopes to reach even more clientele in the coming year. They are optimistic about that, given the state recently increased the threshold for assistance eligibility. It means more people meet the income guidelines.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do or what your background is,” Williams pressed. “We’re available to help anybody. Folks shouldn’t think, ‘they can’t meet my need,’ we have a number of different programs.”
Several clients attended the one-year celebration, including Brittany McKown. She reached out to Step Forward, formerly known as the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, in 2018.
“I was about four or five months pregnant,” she said.
McKown connected with Step Forward BAMS (Baby and Mommy Support) coach, Jessica Mallett.
“She mentored me and helped me through my pregnancy, even afterward,” McKown recalled.
McKown reconnected with Step Forward again in 2021. She got involved with family development and was connected with a therapist following a life-changing event.
“I have overcome so much. I have been able to get through life even with my PTSD,” she raved. “Your facility is so awesome! It’s only a 10-minute drive from my house. It’s so much more convenient for me!”
McKown described Step Forward as her family.
“Nothing is too big or too small with Step Forward. You could be going through life changing events that are very tragic that you don’t know how to handle it, or maybe you don’t have the support. You guys do an amazing job.”
For more information on Step Forward's programs and eligibility requirements, please reach out to your nearest NOC. You can find the contact information for a NOC near you here.