Pam De Santiago

Pam De Santiago

A nonprofit in The Colony was there for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as things gradually start to get back to normal organization leaders want people to know they’re about to expand their services even more.

Next Steps began in 2019 by taking over the family crisis efforts from longtime The Colony-based nonprofit Metro Relief.

“We are focused on helping people really determine root cause issues for whatever is going on with them,” said Pamela De Santiago, director of Next Steps. “So many times people come in thinking they need one thing, but they really need something else.

“We’re a neighbors helping neighbors organization, which means we connect people in The Colony who want to help with people in The Colony who need help,” De Santiago said. “Our goal is to be the local crisis center.”

De Santiago said the organization has been able to resume seeing clients in person after the pandemic caused assistance to be done over the phone.

De Santiago said during the pandemic Next Steps was a resource for those who had lost income and needed help. She said from March 13 to Dec. 31, 2020, Next Steps assisted 158 households in The Colony with federal relief funding, which was funneled through United Way of Denton County.

In total, De Santiago said, Next Steps provided $563,740 to The Colony residents needing assistance in rent and utility payments.

This year, the nonprofit has continued to help residents dealing with the lingering effects of the pandemic. On March 8 the Consolidated Appropriations Act became available to Next Steps for funding. De Santiago said from March 8-31 the nonprofit provided assistance to 74 unique households, totaling $331,818. She said 397 months of rent/utility payments were covered in that timeframe. 

In addition to rent assistance, Next Steps is also launching several new programs, including a back to school new shoe drive called Kicks for Kids. Shoes can be dropped off at Next Steps any week day and will be distributed before school begins on Aug. 11.

“Those are an expensive item, kind of a luxury item for a lot of families,” De Santiago said.

Next Steps is also partnering with the city for Serve on Saturday (S.O.S). Once a quarter the two entities team up to meet the needs of The Colony residents with various service projects.

“We have a lot of people who want to volunteer and want to serve and help their neighbors,” De Santiago said. “So we’re going to connect those two and hopefully get some help to people who have projects they can’t handle on their own.”

Possible projects include lawn mowing, fence repair, graffiti removal, etc.

Another project is called Shoes 4 Good. De Santiago said this will be an ongoing fundraiser where Next Steps will collect used shoes from residents who drop them off in boxes placed at various locations in the city. The event will kick off July 19 at Scheels. The first 150 people who drop off a pair of shoes will receive a gift.

These shoes will be put through a recycling program, and those that are usable will be repurposed to help people in third world countries in their microbusinesses. The shoes that are not able to be worn again will be ground up, and the material will be used for playgrounds surfaces.

Council members praised Next Steps for its work.

“You keep doing things the right way,” Councilman Kirk Mikulec said. “You’re helping people who need help here locally, which is great, and up there in Denton you guys have a great reputation.”

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