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Step Forward celebrates NOC grand opening

Dozens of people gathered in Warrensville Heights Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening and ribbon cutting of Step Forward’s newest Neighborhood Opportunity Center.

The NOC, located at 4834 Richmond Road, is the fourth NOC in Cuyahoga County. It replaces the NOC that was previously located in Maple Heights.

“This is designed to be a one-stop-shop,” Miriam Bridget, site coordinator, said. “You can come here for emergency services like food and clothing. We have a full workforce development department that helps people get jobs and very good paying jobs.”

Step Forward believes Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, like this one, are important to reach people in need. According to staff, the location in Warrensville Heights was strategic. In 2022, with help from The Center for Community Solutions, Step Forward published a Needs Assessment. The data indicated what services were most needed in the community and where.

“The information gathered showed us that Warrensville Heights was among the top 15 cities for poverty in Cuyahoga County, with about 21.9 percent of residents – and more than 33 percent of children six years of age and younger – living in poverty. Warrensville Heights was also among the ten cities that saw the highest increases in the number of people in poverty between 2014 and 2019,” Douglass Bennett, Step Forward’s Vice President of Community Services and External Affairs, explained.

Step Forward’s NOCs ensure that low-income individuals and families access important resources and services to address their immediate needs and that each of Step Forward’s clients build long-term skills and opportunities to transform their lives. Family Development Specialists can help eligible residents apply for personal and professional development programs, Step Forward’s Home Energy Assistance Program and emergency assistance such as clothing, food and rental assistance.

“They were just devoted, and they let me know they were there to help me,” Ashlee Huckabee, a Step Forward client, said. “It’s a great program.”

When she spoke with us about the new location, Huckabee was pregnant with her third child. She was relieved at how convenient and accessible the building was, given her other children attended school nearby.

“They call me frequently, check on me, ask about my doctor’s appointments and educate me on different things,” she said.

Huckabee shared her thoughts with Newschannel 5. You can watch the news story here:

On Tuesday morning, several leaders spoke about the importance of such services. Ohio Congresswoman Shontel Brown, County Executive Chris Ronayne, Warrensville Heights Mayor Bradley D. Sellers, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Meredith Turner and Warrensville Heights Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, Karen Johnson, all spoke.

“Organizations like this that know our people at a ground level, that open their doors to persons in need, to help them get on their feet, to matriculate in their lives toward and education, toward a job; first they need security in their lives to get there and that’s what you purposefully do,” Chris Ronayne, Cuyahoga County Executive, said.

Congresswoman Brown presented Step Forward with a proclamation.

“On behalf of all those who reside in the 11th Congressional District, I am pleased to extend congratulations on the grand opening of Step Forward in Warrensville Heights, Ohio,” she announced.

The new NOC will be open Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm.

You can watch the news coverage Step Forward received from Cleveland news channel 19 here:

For a list of other NOC locations, click here.

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