Think about Redwood trees; they are a symbol of success in the natural world. They are strong, withstanding years of wind, rain and fire. We want to be able to withstand the stresses in life. It is our roots that enable us to be strong in the hard moments. If we focus mainly on what others see, the branches and the leaves, then we are like trees with shallow roots. By focusing on how to look successful on the outside with little attention to what is happening on the inside, we will not we able to weather the storm. If we have strong, deep roots we can withstand the pressures of life and continue to grow and progress. The Strategies to Empower  People company logo combines this idea of roots with the concept of bridge-building. Our roots are our character, we develop from the inside out. This part of the mural reminds us to give our first energies to character development, usually invisible to others, like the roots of a tree. As we cultivate the roots, we begin to see fruits.

How we started

The concept for Strategies to Empower People began in late 1990 when Jacquie Dillard-Foss and Kelly McGurran were working at Jean Martin group homes. These were ICF/DDH’s developed to serve Deaf and/or Deaf-Blind individuals. Tina, one of the residents, was told that due to her being so successful she had to move out of the group home and into an ILS (Independent Living Services) program. A few local programs assessed Tina for ILS but none of them knew sign language and this was a major factor leading to the development of Strategies to Empower People.

Tina (first person supported by STEP) today

Tina Harris  First Person Supported in 1991

Tina had spent many long years at Napa State Hospital, and the majority of the issues and frustrations she dealt with came from lack of communication from the staff there. After much discussion it was decided that Jean Martin Homes, Inc. would create and submit a Program Plan to begin ILS services for Tina. Jacquie and Kelly, with the help of Heather Campbell and a few others, first began by naming the new program. We knew we wanted People to be “empowered” and that the first “step” toward independence was the scariest. after a long night of discussion and laughter, we became Strategies To Empower People (STEP).

While we waited for an approved program plan, we had to save Tina from going into an existing ILS program with no Deaf communication. What to do? In early 1991 Tina moved into a house with Jacquie. The program plan was submitted and we waited. After six months of waiting, and non-paid support by Jacquie, Tina moved into an apartment next to Kelly and he continued the non-paid support while we waited for DDS approval of the program plan. Another 6 months went by. Meanwhile, Tina flourished (a few bumps in the road) and then Wahoo! On April first, 1992 the plan was approved and Strategies to Empower People became an actual vendorized ILS program with DDS.

We next served Joe and John. They moved out of the ICF/DDH. The next people to take their STEPs to independence were Charlotte and Sharlene. The photo shows Tina in 2007. From those humble beginnings, we are now one of the largest agencies of our kind in Northern CA.

A few milestones along the way:

  • Independent Living Services began with Tina in 1991
  • Supported Living Services began with Scott in 1994
  • Started the Next STEP Vocational Program
  • The first “office” was in the Howe Rassy apartments, a 2 bed/1bath for $450.00 per month
  • We added a sign language interpreting program in 1997
  • Extra STEP began behavioral then medically fragile program
  • in 2002 we moved to a 10,000 sq. ft. office in Carmichael in 2002 and wondered what to do with all that space
  • By 2010 we were bursting at the seams, and in 2013 we moved to a much larger, permanent home in Sacramento!
  • In 2017 we began provided Supported living Services in the North Bay Area (Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties)
  • Enhanced Supportive Living Services were introduced in 2019
  • We expanded our services more by provided Tailored Day Services (Employment Services) in 2019
  • In 2021 we added Mobile Crisis Service to our list of programs that we provide
  • First STEP Housing Services was added in 2022 to our ever growing list of services

Hear more from our CEO & Founder

The journey of Strategies to Empower People continues and we all still learn and grow along the way. It has been an exciting and fulfilling time for so many of us and with the strength of an amazing team, we will continue to strive for excellence. Welcome to this journey of support, empowerment and respect. Strategies to Empower People was built on the foundation of supporting the person to meet their needs and that continues to be our vision. We look forward to having you as part of this team of visionaries.