Forward STEPS

Each Thursday, about 50 families gather in Muncie’s Union Missionary Baptist Church for a meal and workshops about everything from taxes to dinner etiquette. Anyone is welcome to these free gatherings—sponsored by Second Harvest of East Central Indiana—but the focus is on residents eager to gain economic stability.

The program is Forward STEPS, which stands for Support Transforming Empowerment Pathways to Sustainability. The relationship-based program brings social service agencies, businesses and community members together to support struggling households.

Dorica Watson, Second Harvest’s community engagement manager, invited our student team to volunteer and connect with these families, many who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed individuals. These ALICE neighbors live above the Federal Poverty Level but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. They are the state’s child care workers, home health aides, and servers. More than 68 percent of Indiana jobs pay less than $20 an hour, according to the United Way.