I have experienced The Second Step as a volunteer, former board development chair, donor, and Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign that enabled The Second Step to purchase and refurbish a second residence to double the number of families they serve in their residential program. My experience with The Second Step and the Capital Campaign was probably the single most significant and moving volunteer experience I have had in my many years as a community volunteer. It gave me the opportunity to make a concrete and measurable difference in the lives of women and children.
As a donor and a board member, I have always been impressed by how committed The Second Step staff and board are and how hard they work together to achieve the best results for their clients.. I was most actively involved at a time when major transitions were taking place: the agency was increasing the size of its staff and programming, and the board was transitioning from a founding board to a board that would be dealing with the new challenges that expansion and the next stage of organizational development present. I was very impressed by the degree of professionalism and commitment exhibited by both the staff and the board. The goal was always to focus on the needs of the families served and to find solutions to the issues that survivors of domestic violence face. Not only was the focus on current issues, but also on how to best serve these families in the future.
During the Capital Campaign I was able to meet both the donors who support The Second Step and the families served by the agency. Because of its excellent track record and the fact that The Second Step has a goal oriented program, donors were happy to commit their financial support for this project. The results of the program are measurable. Currently, 94% of those served who report back to The Second Step are abuse free, 87% are living independently, and 80% are off public assistance. The total effects on the lives of the families served are immeasurable.
As part of the campaign, we held numerous house parties in the local area, and clients of The Second Step were often invited to share their stories with the guests. It was very moving for everyone to hear directly from a client what a major impact their donations could have in the lives of survivors and their children. All of the speakers talked about what a difference The Second Step had made in their lives, and many expressed the hope that they would someday be able to give back to the program.
Personally, I have been impressed by the range of services offered to survivors and the fact that rather than duplicate the services that already exist in the community, The Second Step staff empowers survivors to connect with these resources. At the same time, The Second Step offers educational programs and mentoring for the mothers and a therapeutic afterschool program for the children. This program enables the children to deal with the trauma they have suffered, to learn how to break out of the cycle of abuse, and to heal from the damaging effects of what they have experienced and witnessed. Unlike a crisis shelter, The Second Step gives parents and children the necessary time to grow and to heal. Also, after families leave the residences, The Second Step continues to follow them. The Second Step recognizes that recovery is a long and complicated process, and staff is ready to help those who may encounter setbacks or who just need a little extra TLC. Some clients require years of support, and The Second Step is there to provide it.
In addition, The Second Step continues to expand its community programs for families who do not need to live in a residential setting, but who face many of the same problems as their residential counterparts. Staff also advocate for these clients and provide help with educational resources, job and career counseling, financial literacy training, life and parenting skills, legal advocacy, permanent housing assistance and nurturing groups.