TC Palm Recognizes Stefanie Myers
For Stefanie Myers, the recipe to end poverty includes generous amounts of caring, hope, education, respect, empowerment, generosity… and more. As the new Executive Director of the St. Lucie County Campus of United Against Poverty, formerly Harvest Food and Outreach, Myers hopes that the most important ingredient — community — will embrace the movement to provide a hand up instead of a hand out for neighbors in need. All you have to do is scratch the surface of Myers’ resume to realize how this new position seems tailor-made for her passion and qualifications.
Her experience includes 10 years working for St. Lucie County: serving on the board of directors for the Support Alliance for Emergency Resiliency (SAFER), Council of Social Agencies (COSA), as a Master Gardener volunteering her time at Heathcote Botanical Gardens, and through other local organizations and agencies. Since starting with the United Against Poverty St. Lucie Center, Myers has been making inroads toward achieving the goal of building out the 19,000 square foot space. Since its inception in Fort Pierce in 2009 (2003 in Vero Beach) by Austin Hunt, the nonprofit organization assisting people struggling financially had a mission to give back choice, dignity and control to those who utilized its services. “There is a chronic challenge that even well-intended crisis intervention creates dependency among the recipients, and eventually, this dependency creates a feeling of entitlement,” Myers said.
“In a sense, by attempting to solve the problem of poverty in our community through giveaways, our good intentions have helped perpetuate the cycle of poverty.”To help break the cycle , programs empower rather than diminish clients. One of the programs offered under United Against Poverty St. Lucie Center’s umbrella is a Member Cost-Share Grocery. If members purchase a $30 member share, they are eligible to purchase approximately $100 worth of groceries, helping stretch their budget, enabling them to cover the cost of day care or transportation to a job. Every day, between 400 and 500 individuals are assisted by United Against Poverty St. Lucie, a number that Myers says only scratches the surface. Knowing how much it would help individuals to have a centrally-located place to receive services and assistance is the vision that drives Myers.
The new leadership and name change is part of a plan to take the model of helping people help themselves to a national level. “United Against Poverty St. Lucie is about lifting lives, and I believe that working together as a community, we are capable of making amazing, sustainable and positive change,” said Myers. “It will take all of us working together, but that’s how our community is.”The UP St. Lucie Center is recruiting volunteers, interested in assisting with the goal of ending poverty in St. Lucie County. To learn more, call 772-468-8543 or visit UPSLC.org.