As the holiday season approaches, the spirit of giving becomes more prevalent. Among the myriad of causes and organizations vying for support, we believe Step Forward stands out for its impact and commitment to positive change in Cuyahoga County.
On this Giving Tuesday, the agency asks that you consider channeling your generosity toward its mission and contributing to a cause that is dedicated to empowering lives and fostering lasting change in our local community.
Through Step Forward’s programs and initiatives, the agency strives to uplift those in need, providing individuals and families with the tools and resources necessary to overcome challenges and build brighter futures.
The need is greater than ever before.
In 2022, Step Forward partnered with The Center for Community Solutions to survey low-income individuals and families across Cuyahoga County. The data revealed nearly one in five Cuyahoga County residents were living at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Out of the 89,93 children under the age of six who lived in Cuyahoga County, more than 20 percent of them were living below the poverty level. Nearly 40 percent of the people surveyed admitted that they, at least once, had to choose whether to buy food, pay utility bills, or pay for medicine/medical care.
Fast forward to 2023, The Center for Community Solutions was able to follow up with a similar survey. The findings confirmed the need for services has risen dramatically over the past two years, with some of the largest spikes in food, clothing and household items.
Among the most notable findings from 2023:
· At least 40 percent of Cuyahoga County residents surveyed with incomes below $30,000 said they are worse off financially now than they were prior to COVID.
· At least 60 percent of the people surveyed said it is more difficult to get out of poverty now than it was pre-COVID.
· Overall, respondents said they most needed assistance with extra cash, paying utility bills, car repairs, clothing and household items, and debt management.
Step Forward confirmed the significant demand for assistance, noting that two programs in particular have experienced a steady influx of applications. To date, the agency’s emergency rental assistance program has distributed $9,956,202 to individuals and families needing rental assistance and assistance paying security deposits. Step Forward’s Home Energy Assistance Program recorded an unprecedented number of applications in 2023. Throughout HEAP’s Summer Crisis Program, representatives approved 1,997 applications and distributed $1,009,701 in utility assistance. HEAP’s Winter Crisis program launched on November 1, 2023.
Step Forward is committed to its missing of propelling educational attainment and economic self-sufficiency for multiple generations. Now, we’re asking supporters and community partners to join us in building an ongoing legacy to help as many individuals and families as possible.
1. You’re helping provide a quality Early Childhood Education to income-eligible children
Step Forward offers Early Head Start and Head Start. Early Head Start serves pregnant mothers and children ages six weeks through three-years old. Early Head Start centers provide coaching, nutritional counseling, childbirth education, newborn and parenting classes as well as a nurturing and developmentally enriching environment for young children. The sites also provide necessary baby and toddler items like formula and diapers.
When the child turns three, they are eligible for Head Start. The program promotes kindergarten readiness through a love for learning. The children follow a curriculum and receive individualized assessments.
Step Forward operates ten facilities located throughout Cuyahoga County. We also offer “Home Base Head Start,’ in which a qualified home visitor goes to the family. The visitor meets with the parent and child for 90 minutes per week. It is a parent-driven curriculum so families can prepare their child for kindergarten without having to go anywhere. Home Base Head Start performs ongoing assessments to track the child’s development throughout the school year.
The agency is always accepting new students. To enroll, click here.
2. You’re supporting the personal development of Cuyahoga County individuals
Step Forward offers a Baby and Mommy Support Program, where expectant mothers are connected with resources and services, and they learn how to cope with stress, breastfeeding, and postpartum depression.
Step Forward also offers income tax support. In early 2022, 93 percent of clients who turned to our agency for personal tax income help qualified for an income tax refund.
The agency provides counseling, family development, parenting groups, anger management and domestic violence assistance. In fact, from September 2021 to August 2022, records show 91 percent of clients who enrolled in Step Forward’s counseling services completed individual service plans.
For more information, individuals can visit of our four Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, which are located in Middleburg Heights, Warrensville Heights, South Euclid, and downtown Cleveland.
3. You’re helping adults learn and get connected with employers
Step Forward is proud to offer job training and employment opportunities to adults. The agency provides customer service training, Microsoft Office software training and digital literacy certifications, a “How to think like a CEO” workshop and more.
Between September 2021 and August 2022, 74 percent of Step Forward Global Support Services Training graduates continued to follow an educational pathway to obtaining their dream job. Throughout the same time period, Step Forward’s monthly job fairs connected more than 600 job seekers with actively hiring agencies.
Those interested in making an intake appointment can call 216-357-2621.
4. You’re helping to provide emergency assistance to people who need it most
Step Forward recognizes it is nearly impossible to set long-term goals when facing immediate needs. That is why our agency offers help with rental, utility and internet payments, clothing and food insecurity, transportation barriers, childcare payments, car repairs, and more.
Those who are looking for emergency assistance can contact our Neighborhood Opportunity Centers to make an appointment with Step Forward’s Family Development Program. Family Development Specialists will complete an intake and assessment to identify barriers and create a plan to support the individual or family.
Your gift matters! You can help make a difference in people’s lives right here at home in Cuyahoga County.