Exploring Possibilities at Savannah Tech

June 29th, 2018 by

By: Edward Gresham, CAP Coordinator

In my role as Chatham Apprentice Program (CAP) coordinator, my job is to look for ways for participants to be exposed to resources and high wage earning career paths. When considering opportunities, I recalled attending school at Savannah Tech and learning about the many possibilities offered there. In fact, that experience led me to start my own company in the construction field. This was something that I believed would be of value to the CAP class.

CAP has always had a strong relationship with Savannah Technical College, partnering for forklift safety training and other hard skills training as well as ensuring that participants are able to enroll easily in educational opportunities. However, we noticed that many were still limited on exactly how many doors the college could open for them. So we scheduled a tour of Savannah Technical College to open our participant’s eyes to the resources and career paths available there.

The visit to Savannah Tech began with an orientation where participants received valuable information about admissions, readmissions, financial aid, transferring credits, and other administrative processes. They also provided a brief overview of the programs offered at the college.

Following the orientation, we toured the campus. Our participants had the opportunity to visit the paramedic facility – complete with an ambulance and everything you need to become a certified paramedic.  We ventured into the dental hygienist facility where we learned about the history of the program and viewed the clinical space where students perform dental work at a reduced cost to the community.

We toured the industrial technology facility where participants gained knowledge about the various HVAC, electrical, carpentry, construction, drafting, and solar programs the college provides.  Lastly, we made our way to the paint and auto body repair facility where class participants gained knowledge about the industry and the state of the art tools the program has to keep its students at the cutting edge of their field.

It was an amazing experience to watch the lightbulbs go off in the minds of our participants after being exposed to new possibilities for employment, lifelong careers, and business opportunities.  At CAP, we recognize that these are the types of experiences that our greater community needs to better help our citizens realize their full potential using the resources available to them.

Step Up is Hiring!

June 14th, 2018 by

Step Up Savannah seeks a Financial Security Director responsible for developing, implementing, monitoring and integrating its financial security programs and initiatives.

The position will support and work to expand and integrate key asset building community programs and initiatives such as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), benefits screening and enrollment (SNAP, PeachCare/Medicaid), Bank On Savannah and financial education. This position will be responsible for developing various initiatives that help low-income Savannahians access affordable and safe financial services.

Reporting to the executive director (ED), this position will have both internal and external facing responsibilities, ranging from client and project management (framing of key approaches and high-quality client delivery, written products) to research of innovative practices and funding opportunities. The Director will provide information to the ED to help chart Step Up’s future growth and strategic response to an ever-increasing demand for the organization’s services and will work in close coordination with other staff and community partners.

Essential Job Functions

  • Develop and maintain strategic partnerships with multiple external partners from the non-profit sector, faith-based community, private industry, and other agencies
  • Coordinate with the community partners and financial institutions for bringing tested and effective programs (established and pilot) to scale
  • Lead a targeted employer strategy with the goal of expanding direct deposit, free tax preparation, financial education and access to quality financial services for lower wage workers
  • Integrate and expand existing asset building efforts, i.e. free tax preparation, Bank On Savannah, financial education.
  • Conduct outreach to market existing financial security programs to lower-income neighborhoods and employers with lower-income workers
  • Develop/introduce new financial products that assist families to become more financially secure
  • Collaborate with Chatham Apprentice Program to integrate financial security services into the program
  • Work with staff on grant writing, events, and other duties as requested.

Minimum Qualifications

Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s degree preferred and five years in a management position with a nonprofit organization, foundation, or government agency.

The candidate must be a self-starter with strong organizational skills and comfortable managing multiple projects simultaneously. S\he must have experience coordinating programs or projects and a demonstrated ability to work with multiple stakeholders to accomplish a common goal. The ideal candidate has some experience working with the financial sector and has an understanding of the barriers faced by lower-income families/communities. S/he must be articulate and able to communicate well with both internal and external audiences.

Other Requirements

  • Experience developing, implementing and evaluating programs
  • Track record delivering superior results, commanding respect, and assuming leadership roles
  • Success in roles requiring execution of multiple tasks while responding to multiple priorities
  • Proven ability to work with efficiency, flexibility, and good humor
  • Demonstrated ability to build and maintain relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders from diverse backgrounds
  • Operates with excellence in mind in all matters, with the confidence to defend/debate ideas without ego interfering
  • Outstanding communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills are essential
  • Passionate about Step Up’s mission and impact
  • Ability to exercise tact and diplomacy in organizational settings
  • Transparent, direct, with substance
  • Self-starter, self-disciplined
  • Spark, imagination, creativity
  • Remain focused in the face of pressure, delivers against timelines, not intimidated by tasks/time limitations

Background investigation, including supervised drug screen, post-offer/pre-employment medical screen; and verification of education, certifications, and licenses required prior to employment.  The final score on this examination will consist of a rating of education and experience, plus veterans’ preference points, if eligible. The names of all competitors rated eligible for appointment will be placed on the proper register according to their final scores.

A Call for Collaboration: Savannah Votes

May 17th, 2018 by

A Call for Collaboration: Savannah Votes

At the center of Step Up’s work is the belief that all community members should be represented in community decision-making. Throughout history, systems have marginalized populations by reducing or preventing their participation in economic, social, and political life. Over the last ten years, the Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) at Savannah State University has been Step Up’s primary method of promoting civic engagement and grassroots community organizing within low-wealth communities. The NLA brings together established and emerging leaders from diverse segments of the community to enhance their leadership skills with a focus on advocacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Cierra Selby, Savannah Votes Coordinator

In 2017, Step Up’s “Savannah Votes” initiative was created by the NLA Alumni Network. The network consists of 119 alumni, each member representing their own circles of influence and neighborhoods. Step Up secured additional funding to support a part-time voter engagement coordinator and Cierra Selby was hired to fill this role.

As a non-partisan initiative, Savannah Votes wants to ensure all Chatham County residents have the opportunity to fully exercise their political power through voting. Savannah Votes builds on the success of community organizing and offers the public grassroots voter engagement and registration drives.

Savannah Votes will build upon Step Up’s model of collaboration as the foundation of its efforts.  At the nucleus of Savannah Votes is the volunteer. Collaborating with volunteers adds value, credibility and community buy-in to this kind of civic participation. In addition to the NLA Alumni Network volunteers, Savannah Votes will train community members to move the program towards its goal. Step Up will collaborate with its myriad of nonprofit and business partners at events, schools, faith communities, and businesses to meet unregistered residents where they are.

Step Up Savannah works to engage all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah, Chatham County and in order to be successful at this, all members of our community must be at the table. Step Up is excited to expand their civic engagement efforts, starting with one voter registration card at a time.

If you would like to volunteer with Step Up’s voter engagement project, call 912-232-6747 or email savannahvotes@stepupsavannah.org.

Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp’s Year of VISTA

April 25th, 2018 by

During a community planning internship, Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp’s architecture and design professor at the University at Buffalo shared her experience with AmeriCorps VISTA following college. Intrigued, Alexandra learned more about the national program and submitted applications for several positions. Although Alexandra had spent most of her life traveling, even living abroad for many years in Australia and Greece, she was excited to experience the South as it had always been somewhat mysterious to her. The images of moss-covered trees, warm winters and the rich history of Hostess City appealed to her. So after speaking with the staff at Step Up, Alexandra accepted the position of Fundraising & Outreach AmeriCorps VISTA.

While leaving support systems behind seemed daunting at first, Alexandra embraced the warmth of the Savannah community. She quickly established a network of AmeriCorps VISTAs, often organizing outings and trips to explore other cities. Working and living downtown allowed her to explore Savannah’s history while trying every single pizza place within the two-mile radius. She embraced the hospitality and duplicated it in every interaction she had with clients, colleagues, and other VISTAs.

Most of Alexandra’s work experience had been client-facing positions in the hospitality industry so at first working in an office felt foreign to her. But she quickly found her groove. She organized fundraisers, managed volunteers, wrote grants, and supported the staff in a multitude of ways. She oversaw Step Up’s social media presence, utilizing her interest in graphic design and her knack for storytelling. She stepped out of her comfort zone to speak publicly in front of community leaders. She interviewed and photographed countless Chatham Apprentice Program graduates, Medicaid recipients, and tax preparation clients as they shared about how programs in the Savannah helped them overcome obstacles to success. All the opportunities to explore various aspects of nonprofit work helped her to discover her strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

Alexandra describes AmeriCorps VISTA as “an incredible learning experience for people that are uncertain of what they want to do.” Through this experience, Alexandra was able to develop skills to will help her reach her personal and professional goals. But Step Up also benefited from her tireless commitment to the mission of the organization. Her creativity and initiative built capacity in fundraising, communications, event planning, and wealth building.

Although Alexandra will say that it was she who benefited from the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Step Up would argue that the greater impact was made within the organization and for the community. Her commitment and the commitment of AmeriCorps VISTAs like her contributes to Savannah’s growing and resourceful nonprofit community dedicated to creating pathways to prosperity for the 25 percent of residents living in poverty.

Luckily, Savannah will have Alexandra for a bit longer. Recognizing her ability to lead and create strong relationships, Alexandra was invited to return next year as an AmeriCorps VISTA leader. In this capacity, she will assist in the local management of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Savannah boasts eight AmeriCorps VISTAs placed at nonprofits and the Chatham Emergency Management Agency. Alexandra will continue to support the Step Up office while ensuring that all AmeriCorps VISTAs and their host agencies are supported and engaged.

Host Families Wanted

April 6th, 2018 by

This summer, Step Up Savannah is coordinating two summer volunteer programs – Yale University’s Go South and AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program. Interns from Yale University and from the AmeriCorps VISTA program will be in Savannah working with local non-profits to help build capacity with research projects or summer programs.

Volunteers will be in Savannah from June 1st to July 31st. We are looking for host families with a private room or guest house that would be willing to host a volunteer or two for their summer of service.

If you would be interested in hosting, please fill out the form below.

Yale interns and AmeriCorps VISTAs will be placed at the following non-profits:

Forsyth Farmers Market, Georgia Historical Society, Horizons Savannah, Performance Initiatives,  Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council, Step Up, Summer 500 (City of Savannah), and Wesley Community Center.

Now Hiring – Voter Engagement Coordinator

March 5th, 2018 by

Spend the 2018 election cycle running Savannah Votes, a grassroots voter engagement and registration drive!  This program will challenge you to grow as an individual, leader and community organizer as you amplify the voices of underrepresented communities throughout Chatham County, Georgia.

Step Up Savannah is seeking a Voter Engagement Coordinator to manage our grassroots voter registration campaign, recruit and train volunteers, and general outreach in Savannah and Chatham County.

Roles & Responsibilities

The Voter Engagement Coordinator will execute Savannah Votes including, but not limited to:

  • Manage organizing efforts with Step Up Savannah’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy Alumni group, Resident Team, and volunteers
  • Oversee the day-to-day management of voter registration volunteers in preparation for the 2018 election cycle
  • Coordinate with local and statewide partners to establish a Savannah Votes schedule of events
  • Work with statewide partner to oversee the implementation of quality control measures

As the Voter Engagement Coordinator, you won’t be tied to a desk for 20 hours a week. You will meet people from diverse backgrounds as you seek to be a change agent at the grassroots level.

Knowledge & Skills

We are seeking a candidate with leadership skills who is excited to help lead a pilot voter registration program in Savannah.

Other skills we are looking for include:

  • Proven & highly effective organizational and written/oral communication skills
  • Strong track record of setting and meeting goals
  • Ability to network and build strategic relationships
  • Efficient in meeting tight deadlines
  • Demonstrated ability in working in diverse and underrepresented communities
  • Willingness to work non-traditional hours and weekends
  • Willingness to work until all tasks are complete

Strong applicants will...

  • Understand and be committed to the mission of Step Up Savannah
  • Highly organized and productive
  • Creative, results-orientated self-starter who can work independently with limited direct day-to-day supervision
  • Experience with grassroots organizing or political or agency campaign experience
  • Prepared to travel county-wide with your own vehicle – mileage will be reimbursed
  • Fluency in Spanish a plus!


Salary commensurate with experience – up to $17.00/hour

This is a temporary, part-time (up to 30 hours a week) role that spans April 1 – October 8, 2018.

Application Process:

Submit a letter of interest, resume, three professional references and a writing sample

Attn: Jen Singeisen, Executive Director



Applications will be reviewed beginning March 7, 2018 and will be accepted until the position is filled.

Step Up Savannah is an equal opportunity employer.  We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, and disability.

Step Up Savannah engages all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah and Chatham County.

What We’re Reading

February 9th, 2018 by

Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp, AmeriCorps VISTA

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggle

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America’s greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality. Historian Kevin Boyle weaves the police investigation and courtroom drama of Sweet’s murder trial into an unforgettable tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile America of the 1920s and movingly re-creates the Sweet family’s journey from slavery through the Great Migration to the middle class. Ossian Sweet’s story, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era’s changing times.

Carole Fireall, NLA Coordinator & Office Administrator

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Edward Gresham, Chatham Apprentice Program Coordinator

Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race

The Destruction of Black Civilization took Chancellor Williams sixteen years of research and field study to compile. The book, which was to serve as a reinterpretation of the history of the African race, was intended to be “”a general rebellion against the subtle message from even the most ‘liberal’ white authors (and their Negro disciples): ‘You belong to a race of nobodies. You have no worthwhile history to point to with pride.'”” The book was written at a time when many black students, educators, and scholars were starting to piece together the connection between the way their history was taught and the way they were perceived by others and by themselves. They began to question assumptions made about their history and took it upon themselves to create a new body of historical research. The book is premised on the question: “If the Blacks were among the very first builders of civilization and their land the birthplace of civilization, what has happened to them that has left them since then, at the bottom of world society, precisely what happened? The Caucasian answer is simple and well-known: The Blacks have always been at the bottom.” Williams instead contends that many elements—nature, imperialism, and stolen legacies— have aided in the destruction of the black civilization. The Destruction of Black Civilization is revelatory and revolutionary because it offers a new approach to the research, teaching, and study of African history by shifting the main focus from the history of Arabs and Europeans in Africa to the Africans themselves, offering instead “a history of blacks that is a history of blacks. Because only from history can we learn what our strengths were and, especially, in what particular aspect we are weak and vulnerable. Our history can then become at once the foundation and guiding light for united efforts in serious[ly] planning what we should be about now.” It was part of the evolution of the black revolution that took place in the 1970s, as the focus shifted from politics to matters of the mind.

Isaac Felton, Chatham Apprentice Program Manager

If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules: Ten Rules for Being Human

In If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules, Chérie shares that there are no mistakes in life, only lessons that are repeated. In thoughtful, inspirational essays illustrated with encouraging personal anecdotes, she includes the lessons that can be learned from each of the Rules and offers insights on self-esteem, respect, acceptance, forgiveness, ethics, compassion, humility, gratitude, and courage. Best of all, Chérie shows that wisdom lies inside each one of us and that by putting the Ten Rules for Being Human into action we can create a more fulfilling life.

Jen Singeisen, Executive Director

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.”

The 10 Lenses: Your Guide to Living and Working in a Multicultural World

In this ground-breaking new book, acclaimed diversity expert Mark Williams offers ten “eye-opening” lenses to help you, your organization, and everyone in it, understand how cultural diversity affects the way we live and work. There’s the Assimilationist who believes that everyone should act like a true blue American, and the Culturalcentrist who believes that a person’s race or ethnicity is central to their personal and public identity; the Meritrocratist who is sure that if you have the abilities and work hard enough you can make your dreams come true regardless of race or culture, and the Victim/Caregiver who believes that because of bias they will never succeed. Learn more about these lenses, as well as six other lenses that Mark Williams has developed to respond to cultural diversity.

Kate Blair, Director of Development & Communications

Systems Change: A Guide To What It Is and How To Do It

Systems change: A guide to what it is and how to do it

Systems change has been attracting the attention of those in the social sector who want to deal with the root causes of problems, but, despite the buzz, much of what is written is abstract in tone. With the support of LankellyChase Foundation, we have produced this guide to plug a gap in the systems change literature—providing accessible material and recommendations for action.

Robyn Wainner, Director of Asset Building & Financial Empowerment

Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. While brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting. As the twelve days that comprise the novel’s framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel’s heart–motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce–pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bone is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh


Knowing the Stories

December 18th, 2017 by

Knowing the Stories

Pathways to Prosperity

30 Days 30 Stories

In 2017, Step Up Savannah highlighted 30 stories of individuals and groups of our clients, our partners and our community members. We shared testimonials, amazing work from our partners, and stories of local families and their pathway to prosperity. We shared one post a day, and for 30 days we got to share those amazing stories with you. Below are the stories from that campaign.

Step Up Savannah engages all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah, Chatham County.


Meet Callie, an AmeriCorps VISTA who volunteered a year of service with United Way. “Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a patriot. I always knew I wanted to make a sacrifice to my homeland. I’m grateful to have served my country to know that there is such a thing as “one paycheck away from homeless”. To give a helping hand, lend a voice, and protect the future, we have to live a life of empathy. AmeriCorps put my lens in focus to see what it means to live an intentional life for the good of your community.”



Tanisha is a Savannah native who participated in our Neighborhood Leadership Academy. “NLA afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the city that I grew up in. I was exposed to parts of this city and resources that I never knew existed. As one who left this city, a changing city at that, it was great to come back and be a part of a group that enabled me to learn my city again.” Currently, Tanisha is a program specialist with Educational Talent Search at Savannah State University. “I am working with young people, exposing them to higher education opportunities.”

Kareem is a Neighborhood Leader Academy graduate. He is currently working at Savannah State University in the Journalism and Mass Communications department. He is a producer, journalist, designer, performer, director, a community activist and more. He believes NLA is an opportunity for people to learn how to be engaged in their community and how to bring interests into becoming an effective leader, “If we’re able to reach people like myself and others who are interested in getting to know how to become a more effective leader, how to be more engage on the city political side. You can always take what you’ve already been doing in your community and connect the two”.


Located on W. 36th Street in the Cuyler-Brownville neighborhood, St. Mary’s sits in the heart of a census tract where 61% of its residents are living at or below the poverty level. Every day ten staff that work daily with low income families in the neighborhood. The former neighborhood school has been transformed into a vital hub of community services under the leadership of Sister Pat Baber. At St. Mary’s you can find a range of services, including financial literacy, job training services, computer lab and basic computer instruction, assistance for elderly, benefits enrollment, monthly eye clinic, and more. St. Mary’s collaborates with Step Up often. They host classrooms for our Chatham Apprentice Program, they host space for VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance with Neighborhood Improvement Association, and they are one of our SNAP and Healthy Kids enrollment sites.


DeAndre is a Summer 500 intern that worked in our very own office. He is a talented, creative and incredibly sweet young man. As a part of Summer 500, the students were encouraged to join a Step Up supported bank or credit union. As a part of this process, the students signed up for direct deposit. For most students, this was their very first paycheck and bank account. For DeAndre, that was also true. He is saving most of his wages but has occasionally treated himself to his favorite cup of coffee. In the future, he is planning on saving for a trip to Morocco and France.


Meet Moncello Stewart. Moncello is a graduate of our Neighborhood Leadership Academy. He recently reflected on his experiences with NLA, “I think it’s an excellent program. For anyone looking to get involved, I think it’s a premier organization in Savannah to get those resources from. You will not find anything else.” He found NLA to be a great opportunity to network and connect with other people in the community who share his interest and are facing similar struggles and endeavors. He said that the West Savannah Walk was one of the most inspiring classes and gave him valuable information and history about his community. Moncello is actively engaged in his community, working with Keep Savannah Beautiful, Citizen’s Advocacy Group and is the President of his Graduate Fraternity Chapter. In addition to working at Savannah State University, he is also focusing on his own organization, Project Focus, that includes is a youth mentoring program.


Samantha was a VISTA serving with Georgia Legal Services. She reflected on the importance of VISTAs at non-profits like GLSP to add capacity to their work, “A nonprofit like GLSP really benefits from having a VISTA in their Savannah regional office because they now have a staff member completely dedicated to fundraising and attending outreach events in the community. Our legal aid office is so important to the low income residents of Savannah who need legal assistance when it comes to government programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and social security. We also provide services for power of attorney, advanced directives, and wills.”


Since 1965, local non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area, Inc. (CCCS) has delivered money management solutions to individuals and families. They provide expert advice to help increase the financial knowledge of their clients while helping them solve financial problems and achieve their goals. Step Up and CCCS often partner together provide a comprehensive menu of financial education for employees at worksites, and even classes open to the public focused on understanding credit. Our next class is December 7th at the Hinesville Library at 6pm, and it is completely free.


Amy is an AmeriCorps VISTA with Union Mission, Inc. Her time is spent in a variety of capacities, from training volunteers and interns, to writing grants and fundraising, to coordinating different agencies and developing programs. For Amy, the best thing about working as a VISTA with Union Mission is seeing the transformation of her clients, and being a part of the transitional time in their lives. She is dedicated to helping others and is will be getting a Master’s Degree in Social Work in the future.


Our program, Bank On Savannah, works with local banking partners to provide individuals with access to safe and secure banking options. Having a bank account saves an average of $800 a year on cashing checks, money orders, and other fees. It keeps your money safe and insured. Jeffery McSwain, a banking customer with Wells Fargo, reflects on how a bank account can be incredibly helpful.


Angel was born premature, weighing only 1 pound, 13 ounces. She was in the hospital for 3 months after her birthday. Without Medicaid, her mother may not have been able to pay for her hospital pay. The incubator alone costs thousands of dollars a day. For 3 years, Angel visited physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Now, in third grade, Angel is at the top of her class and has an eighth grade reading level. She can often be found walking around the house reading a dictionary or an encyclopedia. Angel has many dreams for her future, including becoming the president, or a doctor, or an astronaut (or all three?!). Her mother, Petra, believes that Medicaid is an investment in a bright future for Angel, “She’s top of her class now, and so brilliant and so smart. It was definitely worth the investment for them. Because she is going to be somebody someday. She’s going to be a politician or something. It was an investment.”


Jonnie Massey is a Chatham Apprentice Program graduate. He was asked about the program after his completion. “Signing up for the program was one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. From the first day I recognized the benefits of the program and the outstanding opportunities it offered. I would and will tell anyone that can benefit from the program to apply and change their lives and discover the successful self that lies within.”


As a response to the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) recruited their first AmeriCorps VISTA. Eric Parks joined their team in May and dived right into his role. In his first month, he began taking hurricane preparedness courses alongside the other CEMA staff members. “Since then, the skills and knowledge fostered by the classes and workshops I participated in, have given me knowledge of how to prepare for such events as Irma” says Eric. He reflects on the importance of having organizations like CEMA, “These considerations and predications need to be decided by an organization whose sole purpose is the preparation for severe event occurrence. It is for this very situation outlined, that a need for an agency like CEMA is critically important”.


Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Safety Net) is a county-wide planning body of key stakeholders that collaborate to improve health outcomes in Chatham County. The organization works to strengthen the health care infrastructure for primary care, build capacity within our community’s safety net system, improve access to health care and link the uninsured and underinsured to a medical home. Step Up works most closely with Safety Net on the Campaign for Healthy Kids, a project which has helped to enroll over 4,000 children in the public health insurance programs. Safety Net was recently honored with the “Community Impact Award” from Georgians for Healthy Future.


Donald Gates was a graduate of our Chatham Apprentice Program. CAP offered him hard skills that made him more employable, and soft skills that made him more confident, “And confidence,” says Donald, “is the best thing I gained from the program. Honestly, before CAP I struggled to present myself as a responsible and respectable person. Now I feel proud of who I am.” A couple years after the program, Donald has started his own business. Gates Lawn Care is a thriving local small business. Today, Donald proudly says, “I feel like I’m setting a good example for my kids. Now they see that I’m able to make my own way and that I will turn around and give others the opportunities that I didn’t have.”


Meet Danielle, a graduate of CAP. She has reflected on the significance of the financial education she received in class, “All I can say is that it has been truly been a blessing. I’ve gotten so much information learning how to read my credit report, things you can do to improve it, learning about the different banking and credit unions, ways to save money, ways to cut costs in my household. These are things that I would not have thought of to help with basic living. In my home or school, none of these things were available, but now I have the right knowledge to pass it along to my children.”


The Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) is a community development corporation established in 1996 to promote positive change in distressed communities by improving physical, economic, and social conditions. NIA and its partners offer free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) to Chatham County and surrounding communities. They offer free VITA services year round, drop off services, and home buyer classes. VITA is affordable and safe. Every VITA volunteer is IRS certified. People who choose VITA receive their tax refund at the same time as others who pay costly fees to prepare their taxes. Don’t waste your money, keep all of your tax refund this year when you choose come to a VITA site.


Meet Jennifer. She is an active volunteer with the Neighborhood Improvement Association and Union Mission and a grandmother of thirteen. She believes in an expansion of the Georgia’s EITC program, because it helps her maintain a roof over her and her family. “All it takes is for us to lose a job. That’s all it takes. Because if you lose a job and you have no way to get right back on your feet, or no family, no friends. What do you think you’re going to do? You’re going to end up on the streets. And it’s even harder when you have children. Ask me, I know. This Earned Income Credit would be a blessing for everybody. You could pay your rent for a year. You could pay your bills to a zero balance and still be able to put a little something in the bank to help you out in case of a rainy day. And in case you lose your job, at least your rent is payed and you don’t have to worry about losing your house.”


Meet Samantha, a graduate of our Chatham Apprentice Program. She speaks about the value of the credit and budgeting workshop taught by CCCS. “It helped me to understand how to make a household budget based on what my current income is and manage it. I now understand the difference in banking systems, and what plan will work better for me. I had never actually looked this deep into my credit, and when I did I realized that corrections needed to be made in my favor. I never gave thought to the fact that potential employers were looking at this and that this could be what they are basing hiring decisions on.”


Meet Tommie West. Tommie is a graduate of our Neighborhood Leadership Program, a community organizer and an energy service rep withy Georgia Power. Every year, he helps to organize the “Ready, Set, Go Back to School” event, which directs low-income students to the resources they need to be successful at school. Through NLA, Tommie learned how to inspire others to work together to complete projects. He encourages others to apply for NLA, repeating often, “If you want to know more about your community and desire guidance to help you lead – this is where you need to go.”


As a local service provider, Union Mission of Savannah works to prevent and end homelessness by providing a pathway to self-sufficiency and independent living. They offer emergency shelters, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, employment and training services, mental and behavioral health counseling, psychiatric care and medicine subsidy/support, substance abuse counseling, and HIV/AIDS support services (from prevention education to post-diagnosis support). Union Mission is a part of Step Up Savannah’s Working Family Network.


Meet Blair Singleton, a graduate of the Chatham Apprentice Program. In 2016, Blair was released from prison after serving 16 years. At 34 years old, he had no work experience and limited options. After a suggestion from the transitional center, Blair gave CAP a try. Through CAP, Blair received forklift safety certification, learned how to build credit, budget, and talk to potential employers about his criminal background. However, Blair credits the networking as the most important thing at CAP. He met a banker who talked to him about starting his own trucking company, a staff member from Coastal Workforce Solutions who helped him get his CDL license, and a community leader who directed him to the Creative Coast. And when Metro Industrial Employment Agency came to talk to the class, he jumped at the chance to apply. He know now works in Port Wentworth and just applied for a raise at $16.20 an hour.


Meet RaMona. She is a Neighborhood Leadership Academy class participant, a student of the current class. She says that she applied to NLA because she wanted to “gather new skills and information to become more effective in my community and in this city.” She was one of 24 that was selected during this year’s application process, a record high amount of students in NLA. She adds “I intend on receiving all the basic and innovative ways to reach my neighborhoods to get more involved and feel included.”


Lutheran Services of Georgia applied for their first VISTA this year, and Mackenzie joined the team in July. She was brought on board to increase outreach programs including volunteers, grant applications, and programmatic developmental work around refugee services. Lutheran Services is the only place in Savannah that offers refugee services including resettlement, social adjustment, cultural orientation, and employment opportunities. As a VISTA, Mackenzie is helping to grow the organization’s community outreach. She says her role is integral to the longevity of this organization. Since she started at Lutheran Services, she says she has had a successful volunteer campaign and has already applied for a significant grant.


Meet Lee Smith. As the Chatham County Manager, Lee Smith has a variety of responsibilities. However, his passion for his community and serving that community is his driving force. He finds that connecting with others works best when we can share our own personal story, “everybody has value, everybody has a story”. He stays up-to-date with organizations like Step Up and our Chatham Apprentice Program, and Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Safety Net) because he believes in the power of this type of work. He understands poverty and has seen its effects first-hand, “we all attack the wrong thing. We typically attack crime. Now that is a symptom of another problem. The symptom of the problem is typically poverty, and defining that [is] underemployment, unemployment, lack of education, lack of training”. He strongly believes in education and workforce development programs and sees a brighter future in Savannah with these types of strategies, “I’ve seen it change communities. Workforce development and education, it changes everything. And I believe it.”


Meet Larry, a graduate of our Chatham Apprentice Program. During his time with us, Larry worked a full time job overnight and yet was always on time and never missed a single day of the 16 day program. In this photo, he is standing in front of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners with his clemency letter. He wanted to show them and the rest of the world how significant and powerful this letter is. It shows where he came from, and where he is going. Larry has proven that he deserved a second chance and he is embracing every opportunity to be the best man possible. Larry said that the Chatham Apprentice Program has helped him turn his life around.


Meet Frederic Green. Frederic is a current Neighborhood Leadership Academy participant. He applied because he believes NLA can refine his leadership skills while networking with other individuals from various backgrounds. He hopes that he can learn while gaining wisdom and knowledge that he can then apply to his community. Frederic is unique to Step Up because he is also a CAP graduate from 2007. Since then, he has been the Coordinator for the End Gun Violence: Step Forward initiative. Currently he is a clinical social worker and is running his own local business for commercial cleaning.


Moses Jackson Community Center works with Step Up in a variety of capacities. Our Chatham Apprentice Program often holds its 4-week classes there. MJAC opens their computer lab to the class so students can work on their resumes, cover letters, and job applications. Moses Jackson also is one of Step Up Savannah’s partners that offers public benefit screenings for SNAP, Medicaid, and PeachCare. The community center also hosts many activities for West Savannah, including youth groups, job fairs, exercise groups, resources fairs, and community meetings.


Meet Cheyenne. Cheyenne is serving her time as a VISTA at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market. She said she has always “been passionate about issues relating to food justice, the environment, and public health”. She’s interested in working within a sustainable system with local food and local farmers. At Forsyth Farmer’s Market she sees just that, plus an opportunity to grow that network with a larger community. FFM offers a program that allows people to double their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. In addition, the FFM Farm Truck travels around the city, often to places with less fresh food access. Cheyenne says she loves to see people actively seek more healthy food when the cost is less of a burden, and when it is more easily accessible.


Meet Keya Jest. Keya is the last story of our #30days30stories series our host at our 2017 Annual Meeting and Breakfast! Keya is a Chatham Apprentice Program graduate who came to the class when her criminal background became a barrier to finding a good paying job. Keya’s outgoing and sunny disposition helped her get many job offers, but once the employer completed a background check the offers were rescinded.

Keya has struggled with addiction, depression and a criminal background. Against these odds, she took a chance on CAP. Here she learned about record restriction, resume building, financial education, mock interviews and more. After the class, she says “I carried myself with confidence”. Once she graduated, she applied for a higher wage job and was able to approach employers in a more confident way.

Keya’s new normal includes being substance-free for three years, a good paying job with benefits that she loves, and being able to take care of her rescue dogs. Step Up introduced Keya to a pathway to prosperity and she has never looked back.

Client Success Story – Donald Gates

November 27th, 2017 by

Donald Gates struggled to find a job because of his criminal background. As a husband and father, the weight of providing for his family grew heavier by the day. When he heard that the Chatham Apprentice Program was offering their E3 (Education, Empower, Employ) class coupled with a forklift safety certification, he jumped at the chance to participate. Donald thought a certification would make him more appealing to employers, so he filled out an application and attended the first class of 2016.

At CAP, Donald learned new skills such as resume writing and interview techniques. He found the record restriction portion of the class, provided by Georgia Legal Services Program, to be especially beneficial. Now he better understands his criminal record and can confidently explain his past to potential employers.

“And confidence,” says Donald, “is the best thing I gained from the program. Honestly, before CAP I struggled to present myself as a responsible and respectable person. Now I feel proud of who I am.”

After graduation, Donald secured a job at a local warehouse at $10.00 an hour. However, he felt he could do more. So he started his own business, Gates Lawn Care. It wasn’t long before he could focus on his business full-time and Donald credits this success to CAP.

“With the help of CAP, I became aware of how a potential employer sees me. I learned how to answer questions and approach people with confidence.  Now I use those skills when I’m handing out my business cards or flyers. I can knock on a door and sell myself.”

Today, Donald proudly says, “I feel like I’m setting a good example for my kids. Now they see that I’m able to make my own way and that I will turn around and give others the opportunities that I didn’t have.”

And when he is ready to hire more employees, he knows the first place he will look – the Chatham Apprentice Program.

Learn more about the Chatham Apprentice Program at www.capsavannah.org.



Client Story – Keya Jest

November 17th, 2017 by

“Forget it, this is never going to work, I’m a convicted felon and nobody wants me!” 

This feeling of hopelessness haunted Keya Jest for years.  Substance abuse and addiction resulted in an extensive criminal background.  For many, this would have been the end of the road, but Keya overcame her addiction, and she looked forward to a new beginning. Regardless of being substance-free for two years, Keya’s criminal background was a barrier to finding a good paying job. Keya’s outgoing and sunny disposition helped get her many job offers, but once the employer completed a background check the offers were rescinded.

In 2016, she learned about Step Up’s Chatham Apprentice Program (CAP). At the time, she was working two part-time, low-paying hospitality jobs and barely making ends meet while pursuing a degree in business management at Savannah Tech. Despite her busy life, she made the time to attend the CAP classes, and now says it was one of the best decisions that she ever made.

CAP’s curriculum includes soft skill training, mock interviews, financial education, and legal assistance.  The mock interviews introduced Keya to the details that make a big difference when meeting a potential employer, such as poise and professionalism.

“During class, I was tired of doing all the interviews but once I walked into a real job interview, I was so thankful for the practice,” says Keya. “I carried myself with confidence.”

Keya also learned vital financial skills such as building credit, saving for the future, and choosing a bank account from the financial education provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Services. Keya started to dream again, envisioning a wedding and owning a home. But for Keya, meeting Nancy DeVetter of the Georgia Legal Services Program in CAP was a game changer. Nancy worked with Keya to identify eligible records on her background check that could be restricted from public view and explained how Keya could communicate these records with potential employers.

When Keya next applied for a higher wage job it was a different story. Keya explained her history to the employer and provided a character reference from CAP staff.  The employer decided to act outside of their regular course of action and brought Keya onboard.

Keya’s new normal includes being substance-free for three years, a good paying job with benefits that she loves, and being able to take care of her rescue dogs.  Step Up introduced Keya to a pathway to prosperity and she has never looked back.

On October 12, Keya hosted Step Up Savannah’s 12th Annual Meeting. She was spectacular! We are so proud to have her as both a CAP graduate and friend.

Do you want to see more people find their pathways to prosperity? Step Up needs your help to continue this important work. Please take a moment to donate today.