In December of 2001, Pastor Charles Mueller, Jr., during a sermon at Trinity Lutheran Church, Roselle asked, “How many of you know a woman who has been battered?” He received a 75% response with raised hands. Pastor Mueller then challenged the congregation, and later the community as a whole, to step up and stop the violence.
In the Spring of 2002, after researching the programs and facilities available to those in need in northern DuPage County, a meeting was held at Trinity Lutheran Church to launch an effort to determine how concerned citizens in this area can help. Nearly 100 people attended this meeting. In addition to Trinity members, representatives of Living Hope Church, Elk Grove Village; Roselle United Methodist Church and Saint Walter Catholic Church, Roselle; and members of the community including representatives from Bridge Communities, Family Shelter Services, DuPage County Sheriffs Office, Roselle Chamber of Commerce, Northern Fox Valley Women in Management, and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital attended this meeting.
A Steering Committee was formed. Representatives of the Steering Committee met for nearly a year to research domestic violence and agencies that work to reduce this problem. Directors and others representing crisis care and transitional living agencies met with the steering committee to inform and educate committee members. After reviewing all the existing programs, it was determined that transitional living was a critical need. Stepping Stones was formed to provide a transitional living program, and Bridge Communities, Inc. was chosen as a partner.
Stepping Stones chose Bridge Communities as a partner because of their established reputation and their highly developed infrastructure for determining the appropriate placement for families. Bridge Communities provides professional screening of prospective clients, training of mentors, case management, career counseling, tutoring, some assistance with rent, and networking. This gave Stepping Stones a solid program at the start.
Since 1988, Bridge has partnered with churches and secular organizations to serve homeless families. They offered to partner with Stepping Stones to serve families who are looking for a new start far from the abusive home environment that they fled. Bridge Communities, Inc. is a private, non-profit transitional housing and mentoring program in DuPage County. The Bridge program provides each family with a base of housing, case management, life skills, mentoring, transportation, job readiness and training, and after school tutoring in order to achieve lifelong self-sufficiency.
In spring of 2003, ninety community members attended a follow-up meeting, which provided them with information regarding the program, such as the mission statement, the type of program and partnering with Bridge Communities. In May of 2003, Stepping Stones Board of Directors was formed and met for the first time. In June 2003, Stepping Stones’ first family was moved into an apartment. Before the end of 2003, Stepping Stones officially became a 501 (c) (3) organization. The State of Illinois has approved the name Stepping Stones for Women of Domestic Violence, N.F.P.