Heart iconDonate
St. Anthony's Foundation logo mark
St. Anthony's Foundation logo mark

STEPS Program Provides a Pathway to a Bright Future for a Volunteer Services Coordinator and Her Daughter

April 9, 2024

This month, in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we are celebrating members of our volunteer community here at St. Anthony’s. We are proud to honor our volunteers and the guests they lift up like Cookie, who inspires us with her story of stability and renewal as she gives back as a Volunteer Services Program team member

The STEPS (St. Anthony’s Employment Pathways to Success) program at St. Anthony Foundation in the Tenderloin addresses unemployment, homelessness, and life transitions with personalized support, job training, and practical work experience. Aimed at more than just stable employment, STEPS fosters economic independence, personal growth, and community involvement through job retention, career coaching, mental health support, peer assistance, and housing guidance, aligning with St. Anthony’s mission to break cycles of poverty and create a society where all people can flourish.

Temukisa, who goes by “Cookie,” is an inspiring example of how the STEPS program empowers individuals to transform their lives. Her story highlights St. Anthony’s pivotal role in nurturing hope for the future, resilience, and empowerment for the people it serves.

Cookie’s story begins in the vibrant yet challenging streets of San Francisco’s Sunnydale, where she was born and raised in the rich cultural heritage of her Samoan and Mexican roots. From a young age, Cookie faced numerous challenges, including disciplinary issues in school. These issues led her mother to send her to Colorado for a year with her grandparents, aiming to remove her from the toxic environment she was living in. It was a time marked by personal introspection and growth after the passing of her grandfather only weeks after she arrived. The experience was a turning point for Cookie, motivating her to get her life on track.

Upon returning to San Francisco a year later and graduating high school, Cookie worked multiple jobs with local nonprofits she was connected with through the Human Services Agency, sometimes working two jobs, while experiencing recurring episodes of homelessness as she struggled to make ends meet in an exceedingly expensive city. Then, in 2021, at age 20, she became pregnant. Worried about supporting herself and her child on her own, Cookie turned to Catholic Charities, who referred her to the Jelani House — a transitional home for pregnant women experiencing homelessness.

The Jelani House, with its mission to provide shelter, support, and resources for pregnant women facing homelessness, became a cornerstone in Cookie’s journey toward stability and self-sufficiency. They provided critical stability and support when Cookie needed it most. They helped her secure an apartment voucher to subsidize rent and provided budgeting assistance to help her plan financially for herself and her newborn daughter, Emiliana. Although being a young, single pregnant woman and then a mother was challenging, Cookie was determined to give her daughter a good life.

While receiving government assistance, a former high school classmate told Cookie about an open position at St. Anthony Foundation. Eager for a new opportunity, she applied but was initially rejected. Undeterred, she applied again a few months later for the STEPS transitional employment program and was accepted. For Cookie, STEPS was an opportunity to step into a future filled with hope and promise, not just for herself but for her daughter. “I saw an opportunity to build a stable future … and contribute meaningfully to my community,” she said.

Cookie started out in Guest Services, where she learned valuable skills interacting with St. Anthony’s homeless and low-income clients. Her supervisors, Chris and Darren, noticed her strong work ethic and encouraged her to apply for a full-time role after her six-month STEPS probationary period. With their endorsement, Cookie earned a position as a volunteer coordinator, where she now manages and works alongside the many volunteers who help make St. Anthony’s services possible.

“Volunteer Services is amazing,” Cookie says about her new role. “Volunteers come and do the work. They’re very much so interactive. They make everything easy.”

Cookie’s story is a testament to the power of social service organizations like St. Anthony’s working together to support women who are struggling to make ends meet while raising children. Her success so far highlights the STEPS program’s holistic approach. “It was not just about finding a job; it was about building a life,” she said.

Through the combined support of the Jelani House and St. Anthony Foundation’s STEPS program, she is navigating the challenges of young motherhood, financial instability, and the journey toward self-sufficiency. Her story illuminates the critical work done by these organizations and underscores the importance of compassion, community, and the profound impact of helping those in need. Her experience shows how transformative programs like STEPS can be in empowering individuals to gain skills, confidence, and economic self-sufficiency to break the cycle of poverty and flourish in life.

Your support helps to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has access to the services and welcoming community they need to flourish. Please help us continue uplifting San Franciscans through programs like STEPS by giving today.

Our Partners

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.

Accept cookies
Skip to content