United Against Poverty - Hand Up Luncheon
Article by angela Agnew & Photos by MaryAnn Ketcham
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, was like any other South Florida day in Fort Pierce - sunny with a slight chance of rain. But in the heart of downtown Fort Pierce, two hundred plus concerned citizens, business owners, governmental officials and religious leaders gathered to "Stand United Against Poverty" during the Annual Hand Up Luncheon for United Against Poverty St. Lucie (UAP SLC) sponsored by McGarr Insurance, Midway Specialty Care Center and Allegany Franciscan Ministries.
Canieria Gardner, Executive Director of the St. Lucie Campus, spoke to the attendees on the state of poverty within St. Lucie County. In addition, she shared how over the past year UAP SLC has offered incredible services designed to combat poverty issues with its Success Training Employment Program (STEP). Since its inception on the St. Lucie campus in 2018, STEP has graduated over 70 participants, who are now employed thus raising their household incomes to above the 200% of the federal poverty level. All participants are well on their way to economic self-sufficiency. The theme of Gardner's appeal to the luncheon attendees is when we come together as a community, "They can bloom where they are planted," she explained.
This year was the inaugural year for the Hand Up Award which was presented to Norm and Sandy Stevenson, of Fort Pierce. The Stevenson’s have been involved with United Against Poverty for several years. Norm, a former Board Member, and Sandy is currently on the board. Their partnership in 2018 enabled STEP to begin on the St. Lucie campus.
Yet with all of the good STEP is providing to the community, there is currently a waiting list of over 90 individuals desperate to have an opportunity to work and bring their families out of poverty. To be able to accommodate the wait list, the STEP Program is in need of additional staff at the UAP St. Lucie campus.
United Against Poverty St. Lucie, is a 501 c3 non-profit organization that has been in St. Lucie County since 2004. UAP SLC serves those in poverty by providing crisis care, case management, transformative education, food and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers. This year's fundraising efforts are more than double of 2018. For information on United Against Poverty's mission, donating and or volunteering, contact UAP SLC at 772-468-8543 or go to www.upslc.org to schedule an onsite tour of the campus.