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Community: A Visit to StepUp Ministry

by Mary Catherine Benson / Carolina Hurricanes

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, I had the opportunity to visit StepUp Ministry, an organization that prepares "unemployable" adults for the workforce. Participants go through an interview crash-course and enter the 12-month Life Skills program. The Kids 'N Community Foundation supports StepUp's childrens program.

Mary Catherine Benson
The Life Skills program meets every Tuesday night, and adults discuss topics ranging from fiscal responsibility to relationship building. What I love the most about StepUp is that while the adults are discussing the night's specific topic, their children are also discussing the same topic on an age-appropriate level.

During my visit, Shantele and Trina, two participants in StepUp’s Life Skills program, invited me to sit at their table. They clearly realized that the quickest way to my heart was through my stomach and fed me the most amazing lasagna. Shantele explained the entire Life Skills program and had the keen ability (well, by the end of my heaping plate of lasagna) to anticipate what I was going to ask.

I spent some time with the adults, and I was able to offer Hurricanes tickets to the Nov. 25 game to any participant that could come. Richard asked for several tickets to the game. What I didn’t know was that exactly one year ago, Richard was homeless and without a job. He came to StepUp to get back on track. Triangle Catering hired him and gave him a chance.

With the tickets he received, Richard was able to show his appreciation to his supervisor, the owner of Triangle Catering and their families by giving them tickets to the Hurricanes game. “Can you imagine going from homeless to giving your boss tickets to an NHL hockey game? Can you imagine how much gratitude you would want to show the person who gave you a second change in life? Richard can. Richard did," read a letter sent to the Foundation.

When the adults broke out into their small groups, I went to hang out with their kids. The Kids ‘N Community Foundation supports StepUp's childrens program. Kiana graciously offered to talk to me about her experience here.

When asked what her favorite thing was about StepUp, she replied, “The first thing that really comes to mind is Teen Talk where we can talk about anything that is on your mind. They help us better our life in everything.” Pictured here is Kiani making a Thanksgiving card for her mom.

Kiana can talk a mile a minute, is sharp as a tack and was excited to share everything that was going on in her life. The conversation quickly veered towards what she was doing in school - not only is she an honor roll student, but she is a champion track & field athlete who has yet to lose a race; her favorite is the 100-yard dash. I’m cheering for her, along with her mentor, Macon Sykes.

Kiana will graduate from her StepUp 12-month program on Thursday armed with the life skills, a drive to be successful and a support system to hold her accountable. In full graduation regalia, Kiana will process down the aisle. She will see that Macon is there just for her, she'll know that Macon will be waiting to hug her and she will feel the love that Macon has for her on this day and everyday forward. Congratulations, Kiana!

To Richard, Kiana and all the December StepUp graduates, we are so proud of your overwhelming accomplishments and wish you the BEST of everything that matches the best in you.

For more information about the StepUp Ministry, visit their website.

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