Member Spotlight: Support the Enlisted Project (STEP)

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September 25, 2018

Tell us about your company.

Support The Enlisted Project (STEP) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit helping service members, veterans, and their families in Southern California address financial crisis through financial counseling, grants and secondary programs, designed to shift their focus to obtain and maintain a lifetime of financial self-sufficiency.


What products or services does your business provide?

STEP’s core offering is its Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program, a two-pronged approach for addressing the immediate and long-term financial needs of military and veteran families. The program starts with one-on-one counseling for each family from a professional social worker, who is also a certified in financial counselor. These sessions teach and empower families to solve their current crisis and plan for their financial future. The program also can provide grants, not loans, to address immediate financial obligations, like eviction or disconnection of utilities, if the client’s current dollars cannot suffice. Our secondary programs focus on helping families offset expenses by providing them access to donated or discounted goods and services. This can include food, reliable transportation, essential baby items, and even tickets to sporting events so families can take a breather from putting their financial puzzle back together. Additionally, these programs are executed in a way to emphasize effective financial practices and to create awareness of our primary EFA program.


What was the most memorable or successful moment in your business' history?

Not to sound cliché, but STEP has experienced more than 3,000 successful moments since our inception in 2012. STEP’s EFA program focuses on behavioral change while also addressing an immediate financial crisis. Change isn’t easy for everyone to embrace, especially under threat of losing your home, so it’s a memorable moment when a client accepts responsibility of their financial future and begins to take the necessary steps toward economic independence. If you are thinking about a specific data point, this month STEP will halt or reverse its 400th eviction/homelessness case for our young military families in Southern California. Every one of these families were in the eviction process and we were able to halt everyone in a way in which the family became self-sufficient 92 percent of the time. If you’re looking for a specific case, STEP recently assisted a young active duty couple following the service member’s relocation to San Diego. Moving costs and property damage resulting from the move ate into the couple’s finances. Making matters worse was spousal unemployment due to the time required to transfer her nursing license across state lines. Unable to make ends meet, the young family came to STEP and received grants to help cover an overdue cell phone bill and car payment. This young family wasn’t spending carelessly, but fell victim to one of the many traps associated with moving. At STEP, we understand relocating is a common practice for military families so we were prepared to act quickly, helping the family address an immediate crisis so they can focus on long-term financial sustainability.


Tell us an interesting fact about your business.

Over fifty percent of our staff has a direct connection to the military and veteran communities we service, either as a veteran themselves or as a spouse. This is something we’re proud of since it allows us to support families through employment and gain the deep knowledge and understanding needed to appropriately serve our noble neighbors. I meet with every new staff member, board member and volunteer to share my passion and quickly set the culture by sharing my view points. Every military spouse who calls our office, emails our office or walks in the door is treated like my mother, because she needed a place like STEP when she was a young military spouse. Every service member is treated like my best friend, because places like this is where my submarine buddies came when they faced their crises. Every veteran who comes calling for assistance is treated as if they are me, because I needed a place like STEP during my transition.


What tips/advice can you offer that is related to your business' industry?

In the nonprofit sector, it takes a village. In December, the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) named the San Diego region to the 2018 class of Great American Defense Communities. This wasn’t due to the impact of a single organization, and while STEP is humbled to be one of three organizations officially recognized by the ADC, the honor belongs to the many community partners who come together in support of San Diego military families every day. Whether it’s through event participation, a referral or simply lending a vehicle for a donation pick up, community partnerships keep this ship afloat.


Do you have any upcoming events or information you want your fellow Chamber Members and the community to know about?

Absolutely! During the month of October STEP is hosting a Thanksgiving Food Drive. For more information visit:


For more information on Support The Enlisted Project (STEP) visit

Zachary Nola, Community Engagement Coordinator, (858) 695-6810