Make It Happen

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”

-Michael Jordan

Making it happen is exactly what John Converse, a participant in the jobs program did, when it came to his opportunity for employment. John came through the program this summer, searching for an opportunity to grow both personally, and professionally. Once completing the employment week, he faced a few challenges with getting employed, but did not let those issues stop him.

John Converse - Picture.jpg

About a month ago, John decided to join our culinary training program, developed through our partnership with N.C. State University. John stayed committed to the four-week training, and upon completing his training was offered a position in the university dining hall.

Most individuals would not have seen the big picture of giving four weeks of your time in order to get to an opportunity, but John did. He saw the opportunity, wanted the opportunity, and he made it happen.

StepUp Spotlight: Johanna Catedral-Arias

Johanna Catedral-Arias is a native of Puerto Rico. When she came to StepUp she was seeking an opportunity to improve her life by making necessary changes that would positively impact her family. She is a mother to three wonderful boys Ramsesses, Hector and Zahid.

Johanna began her journey with StepUp on November 13, 2017, where she completed the Employment Workshop. She is currently enrolled in Phase IV of the Life Skills program. Since her involvement with StepUp, she has gained full-time employment with the Hyatt House at North Hills, moved into her own two-bedroom apartment, and was able to secure furnishing with the Green Chair Project.

We are so proud of all of Johanna’s accomplishments and can’t wait to see where her journey will lead.

Growth and Volunteering in the Nursery

StepUp Ministry’s youngest participants have had a lot of excitement in the past few months!  Without our volunteers, we would not be able to create a special environment for them to learn and grow. The children love seeing familiar faces each week, and two of those familiar faces are Jacob Swanger and Diann Kearney. Read their stories below…

Jacob Swanger: 

“I can honestly say volunteering in the nursery at StepUp is one of the most rewarding things I do with my time. I was aimlessly looking at different volunteer opportunities for a while before I found my perfect match at StepUp. The staff, participants, and their kids are all amazing. Being a part of peoples’ lives while they go through such profound change and growth is incredible. 

You should join the nursery volunteers if (1) you have a passion for positively impacting people’s lives, or (2) you like fostering a fun, nurturing, educational, and lighthearted environment for little ones. An added bonus is you will never leave that place without a smile. I could be having the hardest day at work but it goes away with the kids’ laughter and fun. 

I have been volunteering for about a year now, and my favorite memory is playing hide and go seek in the nursery. All the kids hid in the same place including one little girl that didn’t usually play with the others. When I turned the corner and surprised them they all went crazy with laughter… made my week!”


Diann Kearney: 

“After retiring from a 30-year career in public education, I was looking for ways to continue to support our community, and StepUp Ministry has allowed me to do so as a volunteer in the nursery. I have been inspired by the StepUp participants and their level of enthusiasm for the program. It has been a joy to spend Tuesday evenings with their children while they seek to gain life skills and ultimately, stable careers. Through focused programming and the use of highly skilled staff and eager volunteers, StepUp Ministry is making a real difference in the lives of these participants and our community.”


I am not a procrastinator. But, this letter was supposed to be completed a week ago. 

My heart is sad. After three years at StepUp, I am leaving. 

My 1,195 days have been eventful. 

  • We raised $4,661,883 (but who is counting?) 

  • We served 625 children and young adults who learned a lot of important life skills but who were also simply fed a warm meal, given a big ‘ol hug and told that they were loved and special every week for a whole year by StepUp staff.

  • My son started a new daycare and Art Ross put me back together after an emotional drop off.

  • 1,000 people got jobs…and 97% of them were still working six months later. 

  • I had an emergency appendectomy and Facetimed with my StepUp family from the operating room…(Truth)

  • Judy Bright taught us the importance of teamwork, philanthropy, how to clap!!- and so much more…

  • My husband and I had a daughter and Linda Nunnallee brought us dinner on our first night home from the hospital.

My heart aches with gratitude for what I have learned and what I have been given at StepUp Ministry. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this mission.

I cannot wait to be a volunteer. 


Mary Allison

A Heart to Serve

The month of September has been filled with unexpected blessings.  StepUp Volunteer and Local registered nurse, Erica Saunders coordinated a toiletry drive to support StepUp families for her birthday.  Erica shared “ …this year I wanted to do something different, so instead of receiving gifts I asked for toiletries and donations so that I could gift others.”

Local business owner, Reggie Winston visited our Life Skills program and donated 10 gift certificates for individuals to receive complimentary services at the Bar Ber Shop located at 4551 New Bern Avenue. Reggie stated that “he loves the program and wanted to be a blessing to StepUp.”  We love our volunteers and donors!  We could not do the job that we do without community support!  Thank you, Erica and Reggie for stepping up in service.

More than a Job

Employment is much more than a job at StepUp. It’s the smile on our participant’s face and the joy of knowing that we are working towards success together. Not too long ago I myself walked through StepUp’s doors seeking employment. But what I found was so much more. I found a community of support and encouragement; additional tools and resources that helped push me further into my destiny.  I not only found a job but am fulfilling my passion. As an Employment Counselor, it brings me joy to help others achieve success. Now that’s worth smiling for!

EmploymentStepUp Ministry
Nursery Volunteers Needed

Volunteer to care for and inspire children from newborn to age four. Activities may include:

  • Playing on the playground

  • Games to learn colors, shapes, and numbers, and

  • Other age-appropriate ways to provide structured time for the children.

The minimum age for this role is 16-years-old if you are volunteering with a parent, or 18-years-old without a parent. 

Volunteers are needed Tuesday nights from 5:45 to 8:30 at White Memorial Presbyterian Church. 

If you are interested, please contact Cynthia Walker, Volunteer Recruiter, at 919-781-0156 ext. 111 or

VolunteersStepUp Ministry
Creative Reflection in Real World

On September 11, the Real World took time to reflect on the events that took place 17 years earlier on September 11, 2001. The group had some deep conversations on what they knew and how they felt about such a hard time in our country. Nathiel Key, who has done workshops with both The Real World and the Children’s program in the past, lead this conversation while teaching the young adults some painting techniques. They had the opportunity to put their own spin on a patriotic picture of New York City when the Twin towers were still standing. Though the topic of the night was heavy it was a fun evening!

Circle of Life

At StepUp's ENER-G workshops, held every other Wednesday at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, the Community Circle is formed. This is impactful because it forms a continuous ring of support that StepUp offers, symbolically and in practice, for our participants.

Individuals enter the circle where they answer a prompted question and are also given an opportunity to relate to, and with, each other and their Employment Counselors. Additionally, resources and shared and employers are scheduled to meet job-seekers and share opportunities with them. 

It does, proverbially speaking, take a village, and StepUp is that village for our participants. May the circle be unbroken!


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Come Celebrate with Us!

It's graduation time again, and we want you to join us Wednesday, September 12, as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and all those who have walked with them on this journey.

The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. on September 12 at Christ Church. We hope to see you there!


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Stage Talent? We've got it.

...well, our StepUp kids do at least.

After an exciting summer of fun for our StepUp children, they are getting back into the swing of the school year with acting classes taught by NC Theatre Conservatory. The Children’s and Real World programs invited NC Theatre Conservatory to come and work with our children on acting skills.

We have so many talented young people in our program, so it was not hard for any of our children to come out of their box! We are so excited to have NC Theatre Conservatory come and teach our children and we cannot wait to see what else they have in store for us this month!  


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Alumni in the Digital Age
Kramden Digital Literacy Class

Alumni parents and teens were part of an exciting Digital Literacy Class which they attended for six weeks. Upon completion of the program, each family received two computers for their home. Topics covered included: basic use of computers, internet security, software and hardware, and financial freedom (taught by Coastal Federal Credit Union).

This program was sponsored by a grant through Coastal Federal Credit Union. This grant was made possible through our community partnership with Kramden Institute. 

In addition, our StepUp Speakers Circle elected new offices for the 2018-2019 Club Year.

The Club recently received a Smedley Ribbon for its efforts to recruit and retain members. 

Club Officers:

President: Maxine Terry

VP Education: Tyshone Peterson

VP Membership: Mercedes Ortiz

VP Public Relations: Hind Laraj

Secretary/Treasurer: Elaine Bryant-Donigan

Sergeant at Arms: Joe Ortiz


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Just Do It

Bill Wenner has been volunteering for 20 years. A year ago, his company, Wells Fargo, moved Bill to Raleigh to oversee their auto division.  

In the single year that Bill has lived in Raleigh, he has spent 120 hours volunteering at 10 non-profit organizations in the Triangle. 

StepUp has long received generous support from Wells Fargo. This year, Bill sat on the Wells Fargo committee that reviewed StepUp’s grant application. 

Bill was intrigued with StepUp’s work and reached out to see how he could get involved. Today, Bill is a co-partner in StepUp’s Life Skills program. In this role, Bill works one on one with a mentee and helps him budget, set goals, and plan for the future. Additionally, Bill will be supporting the We Step Up campaign beginning in September 2018.

In his leadership role, he also encourages his 500 employees to get out and volunteer! His team alone has volunteered over 1,000 hours since opening in Raleigh in April 2017.

When asked why he volunteers, Bill sees it as a mental reset, “You can’t have a bad day when you help and think about someone else.” 


Interested in joining Bill as a StepUp volunteer? We need you! Email to learn more.


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Welcome Aboard

With the start of a new fiscal year on July 1, 2018, StepUp welcomed six new members to our Board of Directors. We are excited to welcome Jack Clayton, Maeve Gardner, George Ramsay, Libby Stubbs, John Chapman, and Cameron Rosenow to the board.

When asked why he chose to serve on StepUp’s board of directors, Jack Clayton, a retired Wells Fargo Executive, said, “StepUp does such wonderful work in not only helping individuals find jobs but also teaching them the skills needed to make a job a career and to build a good family life.”

StepUp’s Board of Directors, led by Board Chair, Katherine Anne Hamlin, is vital to the organization’s success. The board assists staff in fundraising, advocacy, and by volunteering in our programs. 

Even new board members know that the people we serve are always the focus of the work we do. Cameron Rosenow said, “I know managing personal finances can be time-consuming and overwhelming, and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned in my line of work to help StepUp participants take control of their financial lives.” Libby Stubbs says she hopes to bring her financial experience to the board and to our life skills participants as well. 

We are glad to have them on board, and look forward to working with the Board to make this year the best one yet for our StepUp family. 

We are grateful for the faithful service of Colleen Camaione-Edmonston, Jimmy Glover, Jimmy Goodmon, John Martin, John Matthews, Anne Ramsay, Michael Story, Anne Underwood, Edmund Waddill, and Jackie Whittenburg, as their board terms ended on June 30. 

 Top (left to right): Jack Clayton, George Ramsay, John Chapman  Bottom (left to right): Cameron Rosenow, Maeve Gardner, Libby Stubbs

Top (left to right): Jack Clayton, George Ramsay, John Chapman

Bottom (left to right): Cameron Rosenow, Maeve Gardner, Libby Stubbs

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Giving Back to Those Who Give to Us
Hope Reins.jpg

This past Thursday, we had another great field trip with our children’s team! We had almost twenty kids currently in the program and from Alumni join us for an all-day outing to Durham. We started our day by visiting the Diaper Bank of North Carolina. There, we got to see how the diapers that are donated to our families are packaged, sorted, and delivered. We even got to join in and help out with packaging boxes and boxes of diapers. It was all hands on deck, and everyone joined in with a little competition to see who could get through their stack the fastest! We can’t thank the Diaper Bank enough for showing us how the warehouse works, and for letting our kids jump in and help. We appreciate all that you do for us, and are so thankful for the support you give our families through diapers and wipes.

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We refueled our energy with lunch, and headed for our afternoon at Hope Reins. Hope Reins is a wonderful equine facility that serves children and families in Wake County and surrounding areas that need support and comfort during difficult times. They have partnered with StepUp for over 5 years now to host us for an afternoon of fun each summer. The kids got to learn about the horses, go fishing, play games, and enjoy snow cones. Thank you, Hope Reins, for having us. We had a lot of happy but tired kids at the end of the day!


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DHIC says, "A Home is a Catalyst"

At StepUp, we depend on our community partners, because we know that we can’t do it all on our own. One of StepUp’s oldest community partners is the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation (DHIC). 

 Katrina Lyons, a participant turned co-partner turned board member, sits in front of her very first apartment, which she was able to get with the help of DHIC. She is now a home owner!

Katrina Lyons, a participant turned co-partner turned board member, sits in front of her very first apartment, which she was able to get with the help of DHIC. She is now a home owner!

Their mission is to support individuals, families, and seniors by providing homes and opportunities that promote the financial, physical, and mental well-being of people and communities. According to DHIC, “a home is a catalyst for opportunity, independence, and resilience.” 

We know that stable housing is key to the success of our Life Skills participants. Even as they are working in their job, learning how to budget, and making smart financial decisions, our participants are still left looking for stable, safe, affordable housing. 

Some individuals, like James Ivy, are ready for prepare for home ownership, while others may prefer to rent. James said, “I feel so blessed that my wife and I are now well informed and able to purchase a home. We will finally have a place to call home…it’s ours.” Our partnership with DHIC allows them to do whichever is best for their personal needs. 

Katrina Lyons has been working with DHIC since they helped her get her first apartment. She has continued to work hard and has now been able to purchase her own home for the first time. She said, “I am living proof that with hard-work and dedication, you can achieve anything you want, but sometimes you may need a little help and encouragement along the way. DHIC took a chance on me, when no one would. I will forever be grateful to DHIC for helping me become self-sufficient and resilient.”


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StepUp Spotlight: Jacquetta Boone

Jacquetta started with StepUp in July of 2017 as a participant in the Employment Program. Jacquetta was referred to us by Myra Bradley of Catholic Charities. After working hard to complete the Employment Training Workshop, Jacquetta was offered a temporary position with the NCDMV and she accepted.

She continues to work as an employee with NCDMV. In March of 2018 Jacquetta started the Life Skills Program, with aspirations of learning more about handling her finances and about herself. She is currently in Phase Two of the Life Skills program and is doing a fantastic job! When you see Ms. Boone around StepUp, say hello and encourage her as she continues to reach her goals.


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StepUp Spotlight: Teresa

Teresa first entered StepUp doors in August 2017.  She completed the Employment Workshop and began Life Skills on September 20, 2017.  Teresa is currently employed at Carroll’s Kitchen and is in the process of being trained to become a manager. She recently completed the Servsafe certification through her employer and is currently in phase IV of the Life Skills program.  

When you see Teresa please help us in congratulating her for her dedication and achievements.  


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StepUp Ministry
Full bellies, happy kids

Each summer we have the opportunity to spend extended amounts of times with our youth and young adults who are engaged in our Life Skills Children’s Program. We truly enjoy our full day adventures and the great educational opportunities for our young people.


In addition to all the great education, the kids have the most fun when it is time to EAT!!! Because of one of our great Children’s Program volunteers and her connections we are able to eat at North Carolina State University Clark Dinning hall during our Thursday Outings.

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Ms. Liza Shelton for her dedication to our StepUp Ministry Children’s Program. I speak for all of us on staff and the children when I say thank you for making sure that our bellies are full!


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StepUp Ministry
Great Minds

What happens when you put staff from StepUp Raleigh, Durham and Wilmington in one room for 2 days? Great things!

This past March several of our StepUp staff joined together for 2 days of brainstorming and information sharing. We love our staff and the great work that their doing to ensure StepUp remains current in our ever-changing world and relevant to the people we serve.


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