Monday, April 25, 2011

Stride - The Pathway to Self-Sufficiency, Part 1 of 3

Stride.  (noun) "A long, decisive step". This is how Google defines this word and I'll bet they had no idea that it was also describing a Nonprofit organization located in Lakewood, Colorado.

With a mission to assist families in becoming self-sufficient without the need for Government programs, this organization believes that the problem of poverty, and its frequent partner homelessness, can be greatly diminished when people have the means to support themselves.  Through classes designed to help people find gainful employment, to the completion of a high school diplomas and even financial education programs, Stride works to accomplish their goal.  It only makes sense, right?  It's that old adage "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime". 

Recently, over 40% of the Stride family-participants were experiencing homelessness.  This is where Stride caught our attention.  Our mission is to support Nonprofits serving homeless children and families.  Can you imagine the despair overcoming the hearts of parents who have reached the point of being unable to provide for their children?  And as a direct result of the "New Economy", many of these parents did "everything right" but lost jobs, homes and the prospect for a bright future anyway.  If it happened to you, where would you go for help?  

How good it is that there are people who devote their lives to organizations which exist to answer that question.  "Come here", they say.  "We will help and we are sincerely pleased to be here for you".  Since 1991, Stride has answered the plea and currently serves over 200 families each year.  Nearly 90% of those served are single-parent families, and each has a goal of procuring full-time employment thereby lifting themselves out of the need for assistance.  And what is the success rate?  An amazing 2/3 of these families reach their goal.

A number of programs exist within the Stride organization to accomplish this.  Working with people throughout the area, plans are developed on an individual basis to guide participants through the many obstacles they face.  As no two situations are identical, the focus can be placed on those particular issues which are preventing the family from moving forward.  It may be a GED certificate or a high school diploma.  It may be job or mental health counseling.  Sometimes it's the need for a short term loan or maybe temporary housing. It is obvious that there are many pieces to the homelessness puzzle but Stride is prepared to assist with each one of them.

Solving a human crisis of this proportion creates the need for a targeted, holistic approach. Concentrating on Jefferson County, participating Stride families come from the Western suburbs near Denver and include the cities of Arvada, Lakewood,  Golden and Littleton.  With over 10% of the population of Colorado, Jefferson is the 4th largest county in the State.  

Within this demographic, Stride participants are coached and guided through their particular issues eventually helping them to take that long decisive step to self sufficiency, as promised by this organization.  How exactly are they coached and guided?  We'll tell you on Wednesday.  

NEXT POST:  Stride - Part 2 of 3, the Programs 

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