I first met with Kareena at a library, in Seattle. At the time, she was eighteen years old, pregnant, and homeless. She was feeling overwhelmed, unsure of her future, and unprepared to become a mom. She was determined to keep her baby, but she needed help.
After over 21 years working as a Behavioral Health Specialist and a case manager with Step By Step, I have grown used to seeing and experiencing the huge barriers to hope and health that many of the women we work with are facing. I also oversee our housing program, so I work with some of the most vulnerable women and children we serve. I have learned that one of the most valuable things that I can do for the women I work with is to help them to see and recognize their strengths and potential.
As I sat in that library and listened to Kareena tell me about her story, it was easy to see her many strengths and huge potential.
When she was young, Kareena’s family home had burned down. Her single mother of seven was already in foreclosure on the house, and their situation quickly spiraled. She ended up living with and being raised by her grandmother, but the home environment was not a clean and safe place.
In spite of the challenges she faced growing up, Kareena made a lot of positive choices that put her on a path to success. She chose not to surround herself with people that would pressure her to make poor choices or handle stress in negative ways. She worked hard and focused on her education. In High School, she took the initiative to enroll herself in a Running Start program. By the time she turned eighteen, she had graduated with both her High School diploma and an Associate Degree, and she was working on her Bachelor Degree. She was on a fast track to success.
It was not long after that she found out she was pregnant.
She knew that she could not bring her baby home to the environment she was living in. About a month into her pregnancy, she took everything she owned and moved out. She started sleeping at friend’s houses or in her boyfriend’s car, but her living situation was volatile. She found out about Step By Step, when she went to a local WIC office. She saw a bunch of pamphlets with information about local resources, and she said she just started calling all the numbers, and one of them was for Step By Step.
Kareena later told me that one of the most impactful things about our time together was my reassurance that she could do it. At our first visit, she said I asked a million questions and that some of the things I asked her not even her closest friend knew the answers to. But, she recognized that I was there to help and went way out of her comfort zone. At our second visit, we talked about some housing options. At our third, I met with her and the father of her baby.
Just a few weeks after our meeting at the library, I was able to get her into Step By Step’s housing program. A local church that partners with our program owned an apartment, and they had offered it to us for use as a transitional housing option. Kareena was able to move in, and she was excited to finally have a safe and stable place of her own.
This little apartment allowed Kareena to stay focused and keep moving forward. She was working hard and in school full time. She was hopeful for her future and determined to be a good mom and provide well for her baby.
In August, she delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She said she felt an incredible amount of accomplishment, love, and a huge sense of peace. After having her baby, she said she felt like, if she could get through that, she could get through anything.
I am so proud of Kareena’s determination to stay committed to her goals. She continued going to college throughout her pregnancy. Then, just five weeks after she had her baby, she went back to finish her degree. She figured out how to commute over an hour to college both ways, and she even figured out how to keep breastfeeding her baby.
She continues to amaze me with her determination to go after resources and figure things out. For Kareena, the biggest thing she needed was just someone to help her fill in the gaps and address her barriers to success, so she could keep moving in the right direction.
When Kareena’s baby was just a few months old, the same church that had offered us use of their apartment approached us about a house they owned, wondering if we might be able to use it, as well, for our housing program. The rent the church needed to charge would have been too much for one of our moms to afford, and the home wasn’t laid out well for multiple families. It was also in need of quite a few repairs and renovations.
We began brainstorming the feasibility of fixing it up and establishing a small daycare facility, as part of a fledgling project to provide childcare for some of our working moms. One thing led to another, and Kareena stepped up to propose running the business. She and her family would live in the house and become a family home child care provider.
The next few months completely amazed me. Our Step By Step family of staff, volunteers, donors, and community partners rallied together to transform the house, to support Kareena’s family and goals. A donor fronted the cost for renovations and repairs. We had numerous work parties out at the house for demo days and cleaning. We had volunteers going over for a few hours on their evenings and weekends to clean out outbuildings, pull weeds, mow the lawn, and sweep, scrape, and scrub endless amounts of dust and dirt out of that house. Kareena helped pick out colors and paint rooms; and, in a short amount of time, the house was transformed into a welcoming home.
Kareena moved into the home on June 1st, and she is close to obtaining her business license. In the future, she will be one of our childcare partners and offer care for a few of the moms in our onsite job training program, which is just 2.5 miles from their location.
At Step By Step, we want to help support women in not only having healthy babies but also working to provide for those babies and reach a place of self-sufficiency and stability. We were excited to be able to help mobilize resources and community support, to help Kareena take this next step in her journey.
Kareena is now married and her baby girl is 10 months old. She is hoping to start her business in September. She credits her hard work, perseverance, and faith in God for giving her the strength to stay positive and reach her goals. In spite of all of her accomplishments, she said she is most proud of the fact that she has achieved the family she always wanted. Her baby girl has two parents in one home, something Kareena never had growing up, and her environment is positive, safe, and healthy. She says having her baby has been a huge blessing in her life.
In the future, Kareena and her husband want to be successful running their own business and to someday own their own home. I don’t know what her future will look like, but I do know two things. I know she can do it. And, I know her Step By Step family will be there to cheer her on and support her, every step of the way.
Clem O’Neal, Ron Lindgren, Kiwanis Scholarship Awarded
We are excited to introduce you to Kenia, this year’s recipient of our annual Clem O’Neal, Ron Lindgren, Kiwanis Scholarship!
Kenia is currently working to complete a Health Unit Certification course, at Clover Park Technical College. This scholarship will go to help cover a portion of her tuition fees, books, scrubs, and a gas card to assist her with transporation expenses.
Kenia says she wants her two sons to see firsthand that, no matter what life throws at you, with hard work and a good education you can still accomplish your goals.
We are proud of all that Kenia has accomplished so far, and we look forward to watching her continued success.
The Clem O’Neal, Ron Lindgren, Kiwanis Scholarship is given to a woman who has demonstrated tremendous perseverance and hard work to better her life and the life of her family.
New! Puyallup Kiwanis Foundation Scholarship 5 Year Grant Awarded
Step By Step is extremely grateful to the Puyallup Kiwanis Foundation, who recently provided our organization with funding to establish a new, annual Scholarship opportunity to support the educational goals and pursuits of the women we serve.
The new program will allow our organization to award an additional $6,000 in scholarships, each year, for the next five years.The Puyallup Kiwanis Foundation and its parent organization, the Puyallup Kiwanis Club, has a long history of providing scholarships and financial awards to graduating seniors from seven area high schools.
The Board of Directors of the foundation voted unanimously to move forward with the new educational grant program for Step By Step, earlier this year, and said they are excited to join with us to extend educational opportunities to the women we serve.
Scholarship funds can be used for GED programs, vocational and trade schools, certificated programs, internships and mentorships, associates degrees at a community college, and undergraduate or graduate degrees at a 4-year college or university.
Financial support can be designated for tuition, course fees, supplies, text books, tutorials, uniforms, transportation to attend school, and childcare expenses to attend class.
Step By Step is preparing to accept applications for the first round of scholarships.
Annual Mother's Day Weekend Celebration Event & Sale
Nearly 500 joined us for our 5th annual Mother’s Day weekend event and sale this year! We’d like to thank everyone who came out to celebrate with us and support Step By Step.
A special thank you to Roy L Sounds for donating his time and audio equipment, Loyalty Coffee Co for coming out and providing their amazing coffee service, the Daffodil Princesses who volunteered their time (worked hard and looked beautiful doing it!), and Katelyn Henke for playing the cello, during part of our afternoon!
Our onsite greenhouse was open, and we had specialty annual flowers and hanging baskets for sale. We also had unique cards and gifts made by local moms, cut flower bouquets, a free “Flower Photo Booth” station, Kids’ Activities, and an amazing Gourmet Bake Sale that was hosted by our culinary gifted volunteers!
We would also like to thank the many many many individuals who cleaned, planted, decorated, painted, baked, arranged, served, and volunteered countless hours to make this event happen! We love our Step By Step volunteer family, and we are so grateful. The day could not have been more beautiful. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
Celebrating Our First Season
Growing in the Step By Step Greenhouse
We had a wonderfully successful first season growing premium hanging flower baskets, in Step By Step’s new greenhouse!
After spending an incredibly cold, wet, and snowy winter, building this 4,320 square foot structure, it felt so good to see it filled with beautiful, vibrant flowers and plants.
Bill and Donna O’Ravez, owners of the former Edgewood Flower Farm, partnered with our volunteers to order, stack, cut, fill, plant, transport, and water 600 hanging baskets. They grew and cared for thousands of plants and flowers. We are so grateful for the selfless men and women who contributed their knowledge, skill, time, and effort. They all put their heart and soul into this flourishing season.
The greenhouse officially opened for business, two weeks before Mother’s Day. Over the next six weeks, the combined legacies of Step By Step, the former Van Lierop Bulb Farm, and the Edgewood Flower Farm were celebrated together, in this new venture.
We would like to thank everyone who volunteered, purchased flowers, shared memories, and just spent time enjoying this new venture with us. We are also incredibly thankful for the generous donor who purchased this greenhouse for our program and made all of this possible.
It has been so exciting to see a piece of our vision for the farm come to life. It feels fitting that the greenhouse has become our first successful symbol of growth.
In the future, the greenhouse will be incorporated into our job training and workforce development program and will help us grow not just flowers but also stronger families in our community.
Pre-Order Early for NEXT YEAR!
Most of this season’s moss baskets were pre-ordered, before we opened, and we quickly sold out. We will start taking pre-orders for the 2019 season in January.
To subscribe for news and updates about our greenhouse, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Main Office (253) 896 - 0903.
Volunteer Champions of the Month
April | Columbia Bank
We were honored to have been chosen for Columbia Bank’s volunteer day, as a part of a company-wide week of service, in recognition of their beloved former CEO Melanie Dressel.
Melanie was a mentor to Krista Linden, our Founder and Executive Director, for two years. Krista says “Melanie was clearly very intelligent, but she also had a unique combination of grace and strength. She was an exemplary leader, and to continue remembering her through giving back is perfect!”
Thank you, Columbia Bank employees, for planting our flower barrels, weeding and sweeping around the property, and donating diapers for our babies!
May | Keller Williams Red Day
On May 10th, the Keller Williams Realty Puyallup team arrived at Step By Step in force, as a small army of over 60 red-shirted volunteers!
They descended on our site and made quick work of a long “to-do” list, everything from landscape work, painting, assembling newsletters and brochures, tearing down a retired play set, removing some diseased trees, cleaning and sweeping in our onsite greenhouse, donating and tying up stacks of diapers, and lots more!
This crew of realtors and office staff were crazy hard workers and an absolute joy to be around. We love their “ Give Where You Live” motto! Thank you so much for all your hard work!
June | Dave Hanson
Dave Hanson joined our volunteer family, the day after he retired from Boeing. He has been a volunteer leader on many projects in our greenhouse. From planting tiny flowers, to lifting huge moss baskets, to experimenting with growing vegetables, Dave cheerfully does it all.
Several years ago, Dave discovered Step By Step, when he helped volunteer at our annual Christmas party. He told us, “While I was considering retiring, I knew I did not want to retire to ‘nothing’. I heard Step By Step had begun the process of purchasing the former Van Lierop Bulb Farm site. I have farmed and been an avid gardener for many years. When Krista shared her vision for the property, to provide jobs and job training to help mothers, God immediately laid it on my heart that this could be a perfect fit for me. Krista loves the idea of doing some mini-farming on the property, we now have a gorgeous greenhouse, and I am all in!”
And, we are so happy to have you on our team, Dave! Thank you!