January is almost here and that means another year has gone and past. As 2022 comes to a close and we welcome 2023, Step Forward like to take a moment to reflect on the success our agency has had over the last year. There is plenty to be proud of!
Throughout the last year, Step Forward has increased its focus on recruiting and retaining employees. The agency’s Human Resources department added a new sign-on and referral bonus program, allowing us to pay new hires up to $1,000 bonuses for full-time employees and up to $500 for those coming to work part-time. We added exercise rooms to the main office and Head Start locations as well as meditation rooms to focus on staff wellness. As we always have, Step Forward has also invested in professional development opportunities and leadership retreats. We look forward to organizing more such opportunities in the new year.
Step Forward has also significantly increased its social media presence. Our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages have more followers than ever before. Our Communications team has also strengthened our media partnership. Since August 1st, Step Forwarded has recorded more than 50 mentions across local television stations, newspapers and magazines. You may have noticed that Step Forward has expanded our advertising footprint across different platforms. The proof of performance shows on our website, with increased traffic and nearly 50,000 new visitors within just a few months’ time.
This month, the agency published its first-ever digitized version of an Annual Report. In it, we shared the positive outcomes we were able to record throughout the 2021 and 2022 years.
We congratulate Step Forward’s Community Services for continuing to help thousands of
clients through personal and professional development and emergency assistance. The agency moved and expanded its services into Euclid and Warrensville Heights with two new Neighborhood Opportunity Centers and continues to help more people than ever before. With high inflation, increased prices at the grocery store, gas pump and everywhere in between, Step Forward is seeing additional requests for assistance.
Throughout the year, Step Forward has continued to process applications for rental and mortgage assistance. Between September 2021 and August 2022, the agency distributed $25,406,936 in emergency rental and mortgage assistance. In November, we started accepting applications for a new round of COVID relief assistance. We have already received hundreds of requests from people needing help with their rental and internet payments. Home Energy Assistance Program continues to offer six programs to help those in need of utility assistance and maintenance. Between September 2021 and August 2022, HEAP distributed more than $13 million in utility assistance. Within the first three weeks of HEAP opening appointments for its Winter Crisis Program, it recorded a 60 percent increase in calls from people asking for help.
Last but not least, Step Forward’s Head Start team has remained dedicated to educating Cuyahoga County’s young children. The agency has partnered with Cuyahoga County agencies to build and open the Scholar House, a service-enriched housing for single college-student parents and their children. We anticipate it will open in 2023. In addition, our agency helped raise $7,000 during 2022’s Dollar Per Child campaign.
In October, Step Forward hosted a successful Friendship through Reading Fall Festival. Dozens of families attended.
Throughout the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, we have worked to maintain Early Head Start and Head Start enrollment across ten sites county-wide. Our teachers have been perfect role models for the bright, young students who attend our sites.
In 2023, Step Forward will continue to build our ongoing legacy in Cuyahoga County. We will explore options to expand services. We will continue to provide children with a quality education, regardless of their family’s income or status. And just like our mission says, in 2023, we will transform lives and strengthen communities.
And perhaps the best part, is that we get to do it together.
In 2023, Step Forward wishes everyone a happy new year full of opportunity and growth.