Most low-income, anti-poverty services offered by STEP, Inc. will continue to be offered through its Rocky Mount, Stuart, and Martinsville offices despite the current and anticipated local impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the exception of our Senior Cafés (congregate meals) in our Senior Services program, all of our programs will continue,” said STEP Executive Director Marc Crouse. “The delivery may look a little different, but the services will still be provided.”
STEP, which stands for Solutions That Empower People, is a community action agency providing early childhood education (Head Start and Early Head Start); Meals on Wheels and other senior services; homelessness and re-entry services; rental assistance and weatherization; youth services (LIFES Academy, an alternative private day school and Project Discovery); and VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance).
Head Start/Early Head Start, LIFES Academy, and Project Discovery will follow the local school systems in Franklin and Patrick counties, which have been closed for at least two weeks by order of the Governor of Virginia. While the students are out, lessons and activities will continue to be delivered to them either remotely via computer or on paper. The students will also continue to receive food during the school day.
The VITA program will continue to help local taxpayers prepare their returns, however on-site preparation will not be scheduled. Taxpayers are encouraged to pick up tax forms at either the Stuart or Rocky Mount office and then drop them back by STEP with supporting paperwork after they have filled out what they can. Volunteers will then prepare the returns and notify people when they are ready. Those who have already scheduled a time for their taxes to be prepared will receive a phone call notifying them to drop off their information.
Meals on Wheels (home-delivered meals) will still be delivered to senior citizens who qualify in Franklin and Patrick counties. STEP works with the Southern Area Agency on Aging to provide this service. The meals are a combination of prepared hot or frozen meals and bagged groceries that are delivered to home-bound seniors throughout the week.
STEP’s other services, homelessness services, re-entry, rental assistance, and weatherization will also continue to be offered. Clients are encouraged to reach out via phone and email if their needs can be addressed that way.
In all cases, STEP employees will practice good hygiene through frequent hand-washing and social distancing, and encourage clients to do the same.
“Times like these are why STEP exists,” Crouse said. “It is our mission to serve those in need. We will continue, and even enhance, our services as the numbers of those in need continues to grow.”