As many of you know, former JONAH Organizer John Stedman died unexpectedly earlier this year. The Stedman Step-Up Fund was established to honor his memory. The Stedman Step-Up Fund raises money to provide a scholarship to the Gamaliel Weeklong Leadership Training, where attendees are able to learn the skills necessary to become leaders in their communities.
John Stedman was passionate about social justice, and much of his time was devoted to working towards the betterment of the community and improving the lives of individuals within it. One area of social justice that John was especially passionate about was addiction and the criminalization of addicts. John himself had battled with alcohol addiction, and was at the time of his death 30 years sober. Having experienced firsthand the reality of addiction and the hope that lies beyond it, John worked with and inspired countless people in recovery. John believed that in order to change systems of oppression, we must empower those who have been disadvantaged. In keeping with this vision, preference for funding will be given to people in recovery from addiction.
The Stedman Step-Up Fund provides individuals who are passionate about social justice but lack the financial resources to otherwise attend the leadership training with the opportunity to develop valuable skills and become progressive members of their communities. Sarah Ferber, a member of JONAH who worked alongside and was mentored by John Stedman, attended the leadership training after John’s death and “heard echoes” of his words and lessons. “The training helped me see that in order to help others, I had to first help myself,” Sarah recalls. During the course of her training, Sarah also learned about “the importance of community involvement,” as well how to hold effective meetings and “the importance of one-on-ones” as tools to learn about the state of the community.
Equipped with these and other skills, Sarah was ready to apply what she had learned to positively impact the community. “I had some residual fears about my past – I felt like people would not take me seriously,” Sarah admits, “but the results have been amazing.” She plans to use the skills she developed to continue helping JONAH and the local EXPO (Ex-Prisoners Organizing) chapter grow.
The Stedman Step-Up Fund was designed to assist people like Sarah, people with troubled pasts who are ready nonetheless to take the next step, to improve their own lives and those of the people around them. With the Step-Up Fund, every year someone like Sarah will be sent to the Gamaliel Weeklong Leadership Training. The scholarship is funded in part by Sharon Stedman, John’s widow, but your efforts are also needed. If you believe in John’s vision, in the value of his work, we ask that you consider donating to the Stedman Step-Up Fund so that John’s legacy will sustain. Donations can be made here. Thank you.