Staff Recommended Holiday Shopping List

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? The staff at Step Up wanted to help you  with this really great list of books that have helped to shape the way we do our work. Each staff member submitted one or two of their favorite books that helped to shape the way they do their work. To make it even easier, I added some hyperlinks and pictures. All you have to do is click!

Why not buy a copy for yourself and start a book club as one of your new year’s resolutions. There is no better time than the present to expand your mind and positively impact your community.

Kate Blair, Director of Development & Communication

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Talisha Crooks, Chatham Apprentice Program Coordinator

The Working Poor

As David K. Shipler makes clear in this powerful, humane study, the invisible poor are engaged in the activity most respected in American ideology—hard, honest work. But their version of the American Dream is a nightmare: low-paying, dead-end jobs; the profound failure of government to improve upon decaying housing, health care, and education; the failure of families to break the patterns of child abuse and substance abuse. Shipler exposes the interlocking problems by taking us into the sorrowful, infuriating, courageous lives of the poor—white and black, Asian and Latino, citizens and immigrants. We encounter them every day, for they do jobs essential to the American economy.

Rebecca Elias, AmeriCorps VISTA

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Matthew Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Isaac Felton, Chatham Apprentice Program Manager

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class

John Hope Bryant, successful self-made businessman and founder of the nonprofit Operation HOPE, says business and political leaders are ignoring the one force that could truly re-energize the stalled American economy: the poor. If we give poor communities the right tools, policies, and inspiration, he argues, they will be able to lift themselves up into the middle class and become a new generation of customers and entrepreneurs.

Bryant radically redefines the meaning of poverty and wealth. (It’s not just a question of finances; it’s values too.) He exposes why attempts to aid the poor so far have fallen short and offers a way forward: the HOPE Plan, a series of straightforward, actionable steps to build financial literacy and expand opportunity so that the poor can join the middle class.

Carole Fireall, Office Administrator & NLA Coordinator

The Essence of Leadership

The Essence of Leadership is book three in this image driven, inspirational, motivational series. In Mac’s first two books, the focus was on what it takes to obtain true success in life and how to achieve the right kind of attitude. Both previous books used inspirational stories and described the importance of how to achieve personal progress through character traits and godly living-all of this reinforced by the power of inspiring and striking imagery. In The Essence of Leadership, Mac takes a similar approach to direct readers to achieve personal success through integrity, ethics, loyalty, persistence, faith matters, and many more character traits that form the leader within a person.

Nate Saraceno, Graphic Designer

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.

Jen Singeisen, Executive Director

Teaching With Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It

In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, veteran educator and brain expert Eric Jensen takes an unflinching look at how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States and demonstrates how schools can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged students.

Jensen argues that although chronic exposure to poverty can result in detrimental changes to the brain, the brain’s very ability to adapt from experience means that poor children can also experience emotional, social, and academic success. A brain that is susceptible to adverse environmental effects is equally susceptible to the positive effects of rich, balanced learning environments and caring relationships that build students’ resilience, self-esteem, and character.

Robyn Wainner, Director of Wealth Building

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives 

In this provocative book based on cutting-edge research, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that scarcity creates a distinct psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money.

Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus, and Scarcity reveals not only how it leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.

My Journey to AmeriCorps

By: Rebecca Elias, Americorp VISTA for Step Up Savannah

South Bronx. Mott Haven. 1990s. At the time, this area was considered one of the worst places to live in NYC. At the time, I did not know that. Sometimes when I think about my childhood, I only have good memories; running through fire hydrants, babybeckyplaying tag, or jumping rope with my sister and our friends. Now I think of the hot metal slides, the scars on my knees from playing on gravel and asphalt and stern warning from my mom to not let other kids play with my toys. There’s danger, but I only have an abstract concept of it. This is my home and I love it here.

Growing up, I didn’t consider myself different from any of the other kids in my neighborhood. We all went to the same parks and the same school (and we all hated school.) School made me feel stupid. I didn’t understand things as quickly as the other students so I spent most of my time socializing, but it seemed like my older sister was made for school. The better she did, the worse I felt and by the time I graduated high school, I was completely done with school.

I wasn’t the only one. Going to college was an anomaly in my neighborhood. I moved in with a friend and started working full-time at a clothing store. My sister came home during vacation grownbeckyand immediately put a stop to my lifestyle. She decided that I was going to college. I was conflicted. I wasn’t exactly happy folding clothes all day, but I definitely did not get along with school. My sister shrugged and simply said, “You’re smart. You just learn differently than other people.”

She was right. I made it through community college then transferred to Buffalo State College. Buffalo State changed me. I saw that where I grew up has a major impact on how I did in school and the things I did not have access to. The schools I went to were too overcrowded for teachers to adjust their teaching methods for each and every student. I didn’t have access to tutors or after school activities. My sister only had access to certain programs because she was introduced to them via her best friend (and she grew up in a “better” neighborhood).

I realized I could use how I grew up to positively help families like mine to reach their full potentials while also reaching mine. After graduating college, I felt compelled to show anyone living in the same environment that I grew up in that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty. I have a desire to help lower- income families and neighborhoods grow and improve. I am only one person and I cannot save the world, but I am confident that my commitment to community service will a make an impressionRebecca on at least one person in any community. This is why I decided to join AmeriCorps. I want to make changes in different low income neighborhoods throughout the country. I served one year as an AmeriCorps member in Fresno, California and even small changes like a homework help center or family movie night made a difference in that community. Now I’m using my skills to help create opportunity in Savannah. I know from experience that all it takes is a small change to make a big impact in someone’s life and that’s what AmeriCorps VISTA allows me to do every day.

When my sister and I talk about our childhood now, we still mention the games and the fire hydrants but there’s a small hint of regret. Our mom did the best she could under the circumstances but sometimes we wish we were able to take dance classes or learn an instrument. The parks are better now; gravel and metal are replaced with soft padding and colorful plastic and the graffiti is mostly gone but the opportunities are still not there. One day (if someone doesn’t beat me to it) with all the experience and knowledge I gained from AmeriCorps, I’m going to go back and help enrich my childhood community.

 

NLA Post 2

This is the second in a five-part series introducing Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) graduates who have been awarded mini-grants to assist with their work in our community. 

2016 NLA Grant Recipient – Betty Jones

About Betty Jones

President of the Feiler Park Neighborhood Association, board member of Step Up Savannah, Associate Minister at Lifeway MBBetty Jones
Church, and coordinator of the Lifeway afterschool tutorial program, Betty Jones has been dedicated to service all her life.  She also worked in the Savannah-Chatham Public school system as a special education teacher and counselor for many years.

After completing the Neighborhood Leadership Academy (Class 4), Ms. Jones has become even more involved in her community. She is also involved in PACES, an organization which advocates for affordable housing. Through the NLA, Ms. Jones worked with two other classmates, Tithia Young and Tabatha Crawford-Roberts to start a Community 411 resource center.  They work to help people in the community get connected with resources that they may need.  Ms. Jones said that people don’t always know what resources are available to them; she hopes they will “pay it forward” and work to get the needs of others met too.

Of the training program, she said, “I have been able to become a better disciplined and organized person in my personal life and in the organizations I am a member of.”

What is Feiler Park Neighborhood Association?

The Feiler Park Neighborhood Association, Inc. mission is to work together with officials of the City of Savannah and Chatham County to upgrade and maintain services in the Feiler Park Community that will provide the residents with the quality residential life experience they deserve in their neighborhood.

How will the mini-grant help?

The Feiler Park Neighborhood Association Inc. seeks to provide a place in their community where residents of all ages can express themselves through gardening. A community garden will be open to individuals, families, and organizations in the to plant and harvest fresh nutritious foods. Gardeners will share the harvest with each other so that everyone will benefit.

The Feiler Park Neighborhood Association identified the need for better diet and nutrition for Feiler Park residents. The board feels that gardening would help in various ways, including providing the community with the skills necessary to improve the overall well-being of their families.

Are you interested in participating in Step Up’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy? Applications are currently being accepted, visit www.nlasavannah.org.

Neighborhood Leadership Academy Mini-Grant Program

This is the first in a two-part series introducing Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) graduates who have been awarded mini-grants to assist with their work in our community. 

2016 NLA Grant Recipient – Tina Browntina-brown

About Tina Brown
Award- Winning Journalist Tina A. Brown is president of TAB Brown Publishing, a multimedia professional services company. A journalist for over thirty years, Ms. Brown completed a contract with the VOICExperience Foundations’ Beautiful Voices Savannah opera training program as a Public Relations manager and media consultant. She is also an AIDS activist and the author of Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan, a book about one woman’s message of hope for those suffering with AIDS.

Ms. Brown worked in partnership with Savannah State University and the Moses Jackson Community Center to run a journalism and multimedia camp for high school students called SSU Media High. This matured during her participation in the Neighborhood Leadership Academy (Class 3). She credits NLA with having helped her develop her program and link it with another organization.

What is SSU Media High?
At SSU Media High, students experiment and interact with cutting-edge technology to build 21st century skills, while also learning the basics of journalism and mass communication. Up to 20 high school students will receive technology and media skills training during a two-week residential camp. By producing a daily digital “magazine,”teens acquire lifetime digital technology skills while also preparing for school media projects. The staff of the camp will consist of seasoned media professionals as instructors, and Savannah State mass communications majors serving as mentors. In addition, SSU Media High is recruits technology and Geek Squad talent to provide demonstrations and hands-on training of the latest technology.

How will the mini-grant help?
Step Up Savannah’s grant will assist SSU Media High in achieving its goals which are to: bridge the digital divide by enabling underserved and minority students to become innovators and creators of digital technology, provide underserved and minority teens with web and social media skills, enable students to develop multimedia packages and take home multimedia personal apps for their smartphones and multimedia packages, instruct students on how to create and use blogs, digital cameras, and mobile devices including smart phones and tablet, provide snacks for students between meal time, provide students with hands-on digital media learning opportunities and, provide meals.

Are you interested in participating in Step Up’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy? Applications are currently being accepted, visit www.nlasavannah.org.

For Immediate Release: No Affordable Housing Available in Savannah for Minimum Wage Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2016

Contact: Kate Blair   | 912.232.6747  |  kblair@stepupsavannah.org

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in Savannah, renters need to earn $17.25 per hour. This is Savannah’s 2016 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach 2016, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and Georgia ACT, a statewide membership organization of community development and housing counseling agencies.

Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the United States. The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.

“That the Savannah area is listed among the most expensive of Georgia’s rental markets comes as no real surprise,” said Suzanne Donovan, director of Step Up Savannah.  “The average rent of $897 for a two-bedroom here means families need to earn almost $36,000 a year to afford a place without being overly burdened. One of the toughest requests we’re faced with at Step Up is from families looking for housing. We’ve got thousands on long wait lists for public housing neighborhoods and housing vouchers in our community, and an aging housing stock that lacks proper weatherization, just to name a few problems. We regularly talk with mothers and fathers on the verge of eviction, already paying up to 50% of their income on housing.” Donovan points out that Savannah has a mechanism that can make a difference, a municipal Affordable Housing Fund, but it needs a dedicated revenue stream to keep up with the demand for construction or rehabilitation of housing that working families can afford.

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, generating debate and calls to raise the wage both at the state and federal level. In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40 hour work week afford a two-bedroom rental unit at the average Fair Market Rent. Working at the minimum wage of $7.25/hr. in Georgia, a family must have 2.2 wage earners working full-time, or one full-time earner working 90 hours at the minimum wage, to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

“The Out of Reach data reflect a grim reality across the nation. There is no place in the United States where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We as a nation must respond by investing in affordable housing for the lowest income households in America. The new national Housing Trust Fund is one solution, but it will require many more resources to address the need.”

For a look at the full report, visit: http://www.nlihc.org/oor

Why should Georgia have a state EITC?

In honor of #EITCAwarenessDay, learn how a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would positively impact our state and community.

 

How a state EITC would benefit families –

A state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would provide a bottom-up tax cut that would benefit more than a million Georgia families and put an estimated $270 million back into the pockets of working Georgians.County EITC Map Branded

More specifically it would benefit:

  • An estimated 770,000 working mothers and 410,000 working
  • An estimated 80,000 military veterans and their
  • An estimated 2 million children.
  • Over a million Georgia households representing 6 million Georgians.

Georgia should create a state Earned Income Tax Credit to help Georgians with jobs afford the basics and work their way into the middle class.

  • The tax credit lets low- and moderate-income working families keep more of what they earn to help meet basic needs and pay for things that allow them to keep working, such as child care and transportation.
  • This helps families as they get a toehold in the workforce or deal with temporary setbacks like having their hours or pay reduced or a family breadwinner laid off.
  • For families with very low wages, the credit increases with each dollar earned, which encourages them to work more hours. That additional experience in the workforce can lead to higher pay and better opportunities. The tax credit phases out after recipients reach a modest income level.
  • This tax credit offers working families a hand up by encouraging and supporting work and reducing use of public assistance. It’s a modest investment that can make a big difference in the lives of working families.
  • If someone doesn’t work and pay taxes, they can’t receive this help. It only goes to people who earn income through low-wage work, most of them raising children.

How a state EITC would benefit small businesses, local economies and Georgia’s future workforce.

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit boosts local economies across the state by helping low-wage workers keep more of their income, which they spend at local businesses to buy groceries, pay for car repairs, or afford child care.
  • And businesses like this tax credit because workers who can pay for basic necessities are more dependable employees because they can better afford reliable transportation to get to work and child care for their kids.
  • The EITC is a proven tool to strengthen tomorrow’s workforce because young people receive an outsized benefit. Research finds that children and young adults in families receiving the EITC do better in school, graduate high school and attend college and succeed in the workforce.

To view full report: the case for a state Earned Income Tax Credit

Download Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s State EITC Fact Sheet

ABOUT NATIONAL EITC AWARENESS DAY


EITC Awareness Day is a national grassroots effort to draw attention to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the enormous positive benefit it has on working families across the country.

 

Tax Time = Time to Save

Did you know that retirement is the only thing you can’t borrow money to do? Tax time provides a great opportunity for people
retirementto start saving for the future, which will be here before you know it. Even setting aside a small portion of your refund is a great start. For those who haven’t found an easy way to save, myRA (my Retirement Account) is a great place to start. This tax season, tax filers can get on the path to more secure retirements and, if eligible, take advantage of the Saver’s Tax Credit with myRA.

What is myRA?

myRA is a new starter retirement savings account developed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It may be a good savings option for many tax filers, especially for those who don’t have access to retirement savings plans at work — like small business employees, part-time and temporary workers, and the self-employed. myRA is a Roth IRA1 that was designed to remove common barriers to saving and make it easy to get started. Saving with myRA is simple, safe, and affordable:

  • No cost to open, no minimums, and no fees
  • No complicated investment options
  • No risk of losing money
  • Backed by the U.S. Treasury
  • Savers choose the amount to contribute1
  • Money deposited is available when it’s needed2

Tax filers can make the most of their federal tax refunds with just three simple steps:

  1. Open a myRA account before filing a tax return by visiting myRA.gov or calling 855-406-6972.
  2. Provide the appropriate myRA account and routing numbers (111925074) to your tax preparer and indicate the amount of the federal tax refund that should be directed to the myRA account. If depositing a refund into multiple accounts, Form 8888 will need to be completed.
  3. Ask your preparer if you are also eligible for the Saver’s Tax Credit. Individuals may be eligible if they contribute to certain types of retirement savings accounts, like myRA.

Need help getting your taxes prepared? Contact the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Neighborhood Improvement Association to find a free tax preparation site near you: 912.447.5577 or www.niacdc.org


1Annual and lifetime contribution limits and annual earned income limits apply, as do conditions for tax-free withdrawal of interest. To learn about key features of a Roth IRA and for other requirements and details, visit myRA.gov/roth-ira.

2Interest earned may be withdrawn without tax and penalty five years after your first contribution if you are over age 59 ½, or if you meet certain other conditions, such as using the funds for the purchase of your first home.

Farewell to Step Up Board Members

step up mugStep Up’s board meeting on December 15th marked the end of terms for eleven board members. We took a moment to honor their contributions to our organization by gifting a Step Up travel mug filled with chocolate (the Step Up staff’s favorite way to
show appreciation.)

Thank you to the following individuals for giving of their time and energy to support the mission of Step Up Savannah.

Earline Davis, Director of Housing Authority of Savannah

Bishop Willie Ferrell, Pastor of Royal Church of Christ

Dr. Alethea Frazier Raynor, Principal Associate of Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University

Cathy Hill, Vice President of Georgia Power – Coastal Region

Mayor Edna Jackson

Dr. Otis Johnson, Former Mayor

Rev. James Nelson, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church

Diane Pinckney, Savannah Metro Police Department & NLA Graduate

Trip Tollison, President & CEO of Savannah Economic Development Authority

John Wills, President of Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Farewell Board Members

Step Up engages all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah, Chatham County. Step Up is an independent 501(c)3 with a 39-member board of directors that counts 95 organizations as its partners. This network of business and government leaders, social service providers, neighborhood leaders and local volunteers form a nationally recognized partnership that seeks to engage the entire community in our mission.

Celebrating a Step Up Partner, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area, Inc.

CCCSSINCE 1965, local non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area, Inc. (CCCS) has delivered money management solutions to individuals and families. Their nationally certified counselors provide expert advice to help increase the financial knowledge of clients while helping them solve financial problems and achieve their goals.

CCCS consists of seven staff members committed to improving the financial health of members of the Savannah community. John Wills (right), executive director of CCCS, has served on Step Up’s Board of Directors and as the board chair in 2014. Richard Reeve (left) is the director of Financial Education for CCCS and works alongside Step Up in several different capacities.

How They Make a Difference

CCCS changes people’s lives by teaching them how to manage their debt, build their credit, prepare to buy a home, or avoid foreclosure through financial counseling and education. Find out more about CCCS  – www.cccssavannah.org

Workplace and Community Financial Education

Step Up Savannah and CCCS work together to provide a comprehensive menu of financial education for employees at worksites_RBC7498throughout Chatham County. They also offer workshops at public libraries and community-based workforce development
programs. Classes focus on applied learning, giving participants the opportunity to immediately use new knowledge and change behavior. For example, in a class about credit reports, participants pull their credit report, learn how to read and interpret it, and dispute any errors. In addition, workplace-based financial counseling means individuals can address critical financial concerns such as debt repayment, identity theft, foreclosure, or home purchase.

Using surveys and individual meetings with HR/program staff to identify the biggest needs and topics of interest to employees, Step Up and CCCS have offered popular classes such as “Improving Your Credit Score,” “Spending Plans,” and “Grow Your Savings.” They rely on an independently developed unbiased curricula called Smart Cents, the FDIC’s Money Smart program and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation’s modules for classroom education.

Step Up and CCCS were recognized for their employer-based work by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) in its Platforms for Prosperity national contest in 2014.

Life Line Loan

_RBC7552In the spring of 2015, Georgia Heritage Federal Credit Union (GHFCU) partnered with Step Up and CCCS on the new Life Line
Loan, an employer-based loan program. Life Line is an affordable small-dollar loan ($300-$1500) available through employers that sign up with Georgia Heritage. The program is coupled with on-site financial education to ensure employees develop a better understanding of how to manage credit and debt. Loan payments are made through payroll deduction, and GHFCU reports loan payments to the credit bureaus to establish a positive credit history. Once the loan is paid in full, the loan payment amount continues to be withdrawn from payroll and deposited into the employee’s savings account until they opt out, allowing employees to build an emergency savings fund.

Five employers have signed up for the program– Chatham County, Chatham Area Transit, Goose Feathers Café, Hospice Savannah and Senior Citizens, Inc.– but it’s open to any employer.

Chatham Apprentice Program (CAP) Financial Education

Richard holds three 90 minute presentations that cover budgeting, creating financial goals, maximizing income, priortizing expenses, and understanding credit for each CAP class. In addition, he provides individual on-site credit review.

“Through partnerships and collaborative efforts,” Richard says about CCCS’ relationship with Step Up, “we can have a deeper and more meaningful impact in our community. Our relationship has allowed us to market and network our agency better, connected us with other national agencies and funders, and gotten us linked with policy work.”


Do you want to make a difference in your community? We can help you. Fill out our Commit to Action form here and together we will create opportunity in Savannah.

Images courtesy of Blake Crosby Photography.

Celebrating a Resident Team Leader, Gianna Nelson


_RBC7283GIANNA NELSON
, originally from New York, moved to Savannah in 1999 after serving as the circulation director of Morris Communications in Augusta, GA. She joined the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department in 2003 as a crime analyst. She took a one-year leave of absence from the SCMPD to serve as interim director for Crime Stoppers, then returned to the department as the principal crime analyst with the violent crimes unit and assistant director of SCMPD’s Citizen’s Police Academy.

Gianna and Step Up’s Residents Team

As a result of this effort, she started regularly attending Residents Team meetings and was eventually asked to become the Residents Team Co-Chair with Dr. Betty Jones.

Her experience with the Residents Team has given her a new perspective. “I do not come from a low-income background,” Gianna said. “I wanted to better understand poverty and how it impacts everyday life, especially in regards to law enforcement.” She has been taken aback by the extent of Savannah’s poverty, and the challenges faced by individuals who want to move out of poverty. While there are many community resources, she says she has been surprised by how many low-income families don’t know where or how to find help.

Gianna also found her own unique place in the Residents Team, drawing upon her expertise in crime analysis and policing. She said she’s able to bring the perspective of the police department to community discussions in a non-threatening way. “While not everything with crime is related to poverty, a lot of it is,” Gianna said. “I can bring my knowledge to the team in a way that maybe they didn’t have before.”

After she was introduced to the Residents Team, Gianna attended a poverty simulation. “It was an eye opener from the moment I walked in the door,” she explains, “I had never personally experienced anything like it. It was eye opening to see how to navigate the system and how difficult it is to make things better for a family.”

Today, Gianna has a broader network that helps her to connect others with the resources available to them. This network has given her the credibility and confidence as a police department employee to talk to community members and invite them to participate in the Citizens Police Academy.

“More people need to know about Step Up. It provides a well-rounded network of resources, including transportation, education, and banking” she says.

About our Residents Team

The Residents Team was created to offer a place where neighborhood leaders from throughout the city could meet regularly to discuss concerns and decide upon actions to take. Understanding that the complexity and intersection of issues that contribute to high poverty rates require a community-wide approach, the Resident Team invites dialogue among neighbors and neighborhoods. The team successfully advocated for the Chatham Area Transit system to re-instate free bus transfers so riders no longer have to pay for each leg of their trip.


Do you want to make a difference in your community? We can help you. Fill out our Commit to Action form here and together we will create opportunity in Savannah.

Images courtesy of Blake Crosby Photography.