Stepping Stones was founded in 1963 as a nonprofit organization to increase independence, improve lives and promote inclusion for children and adults with disabilities. There are four campuses in the Greater Cincinnati area serving close to 1,000 children and adults every year.
The organization offers programs for people of all ages with many different abilities. The Summer Day Camp, Saturday Clubs, Overnight Staycations and Respites and the Sensory Needs Respite and Support Program are all ways for Stepping Stones to provide support, opportunity and education and to increase independence for participants and their families.
“Our participants love to meet new people and the attention they receive from a volunteer makes them feel important and valued,” says Moira Grainger, marketing, board and community liaison at Stepping Stones. “Volunteers enhance our activities and programs by providing an added layer of respect, care, concern and enthusiasm for the daily goals our participants strive for.”
All year there are opportunities for volunteers to work on special maintenance projects, like landscaping and painting. Stepping Stones can use volunteers on the weekends for the Saturday Kids Club and during Weekend Respites. There are also frequent fundraising events where a helping hand is always welcome.
The Summer Day Camp is a program for children with a range of disabilities; it is also where the most volunteers are needed. In 2015 the camp served 455 children and utilized more than 800 volunteers. Summer camp runs Monday-Friday, June 6-Aug. 5. It is not required to be at camp every day of the week, but volunteers must commit to being there from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on the days they choose. This opportunity is open to people as young as 13. “We are fortunate to have compassionate and caring individuals who simply love the involvement with our participants, regardless of age,” Grainger says.
Saturday Clubs are a time to celebrate the abilities of children and young adults that participate in the program. This weekend activity encourages friendships and social interaction and is a good opportunity for volunteering. Weekends Respites are for children with severe sensory needs. Since 2013, Stepping Stones along with its volunteers has been providing one-on-one attention for participants helping them learn social skills to take home with them.
Volunteers that have experience working with people with disabilities or a background in special education are often placed in leadership roles, where they can share their experience with less experienced volunteers.
Community groups are encouraged to volunteer at Stepping Stones. Business groups, boy and girl scout groups and school leadership programs are just a few types of groups that have already used the organization to engage in community service. “These groups will usually tackle a project such as landscaping or building something needed, sometimes a maintenance project, or setting up for a special event such as a group dance,” Grainger says. When corporations visit, a lot of times they will host a special event, like a picnic, for the participants at Stepping Stones.
To become a volunteer, start by filling out the online application. After a receiving a clean background check there is a training program. “The goal of the training is to ensure that all events ranging from needing a band aid to responding to a weather alert can be addressed in a safe and orderly manner,” Grainger says. During training new volunteers learn how to work with people who have disabilities, the appropriate terminology to use when communicate about disabilities and safety procedures.
Stepping Stones hopes that all volunteers are willing to make a long-term commitment. “It makes the experience more rewarding for the participants and the volunteers,” Grainger says.
Stepping Stones relies on financial donations to support their programs and activities. The materials they use change depending on the needs of the programs and participants. If you can’t donate time to Stepping Stones, the gift of money can provide financial aid for participants that can’t afford the programs.
Register a Kroger Plus Card to earn cash rewards for Stepping Stones by enrolling in the Community Rewards Program, which gives a portion of every purchase to the chosen organization. Amazon Smile is a similar program that can be used to make donations.
For more information on STEPPING STONES and access to the online volunteer application, visit