Founded in 1997 by Pastor John Marshall, Stewards Inc.’s overall goal is to help vulnerable people
from underserved communities negotiate the path toward a more abundant life,
with dignity and respect. Approved by the Social Security Administration,
Stewards Inc. is a “representative payee organization” (RPO). As such, Stewards Inc. receives a
social security beneficiary’s disability or retirement income check (only $845
a month on average), deposits it in an individual bank account (to avoid comingling
funds), and pays bills based on an agreed upon budget. Stewards Inc. ensures income is
used for housing, utilities, food, and other basic necessities.
For clients, Stewards Inc.’s services
provide the stability they need to begin improving their quality of life. Many struggle with basic life and money
management skills and often fall victim to physical, financial, psychological,
and self-abuse. In
fact, the majority of clients are referred to Stewards Inc. by the Social
Security administration, Kern County Mental Health, and other agencies because
they, or someone they know, are mismanaging their benefits, wasting money on
drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or frivolous purchases.
While there are at least four other Representative Payee
Organizations in Kern, Stewards Inc. is by far the largest and most
unique in its mission. Stewards Inc. goes beyond the bill pay functions of a
typical payee agency and seeks to create a more relational experience for
clients. When clients walk through
Stewards Inc.’s doors, they are greeted by friendly staff and are able to meet
face-to-face with a client representative to discuss their particular needs and
desires. As a result of a relational model, Stewards Inc. staff facilitates a sense of renewal as lives
transform; despair turned into hope; doubt into confidence; and self-hate into
Stewards Inc.’s impact on clients’ lives is
immeasurable. Often our work
results in people overcoming addiction (of all types); access to proper medical
treatment for mental illness and poor health conditions; improved living
conditions; reunification of
families torn apart by violence and abuse; and more children living in more
supportive and safer environments.
(1) Build technological capacity to improve efficiency and reduce staff time in bill paying activities. This includes implementation of new software solution, adoption of a Document Management System, automation of check-writing activities, and a launch of a debit card program for clients. Cost: $50,000.00.
(2) Recruit and train volunteer force of 24-30 individuals working part-time in the office. Cost: $1,250.00.
(3) Develop a case management system to address the holistic needs of, and deepen the relationship with, clients. Cost: $10,000.00
(4) Build a strategic reserve fund. Cost $50,000.00
(5) Employ a community relations and outreach team to connect with clients who are unable to visit our office.
But we do more than just manage
people’s money; we ignite hope and inspire futures in the lives
of the people we serve. We
are a ministry that works in a world full of despair, hopelessness, and
scarcity to create love, hope, and a more abundant life for others. We’re about transforming lives.
Take Emily Chavez for example. Before she signed up with Stewards Inc.
8 years ago, Emily was spiraling downward toward self-destruction. After spending years dealing and
heavily addicted to drugs, she found herself serving a three-year sentence in
But when Emily Chavez got out of
prison, she entered a 90-day recovery program, and then moved in with her
sister. And when she began
receiving social security benefits, she was required to have a payee. She found Stewards Inc. (then called
Bridge Builders), and so much more.
Stewards Inc. staff sat down with
Emily, created a monthly budget, and agreed upon a client contract that
outlined both the payee and client’s rights and responsibilities.
After Stewards Inc. paid her rent,
utilities, and other bills; Emily received a weekly check of $50.00.
Eight years later, Emily is living a,
sober and drug-free life.
“In October, It will be 8 years clean – off drugs and alcohol,” Chavez
says, “ Without [Stewards Inc.], I’d probably be in a dump somewhere, dead, in
jail, or back on drugs.”
Instead, Emily Chavez is working hard
to make our community a better place to live. “I’m not a menace to society,
anymore,” says Chavez. “ You can live drug free, even on a budget you don’t
have to sell drugs.”
And she’s showing the way for
others. Chavez is a sponsor for
women in local Narcotics Anonymous groups. Explaining her calling, she puts it simply: “I just try to
tell women that that is not the way to go.”
But perhaps the greatest impact we have made on Chavez’s life is something simple: a sense of dignity. “ I was asked before if I wanted to be
my own payee,” Chavez shared, “ but even though I could, I don’t want to. Stewards Inc. is like my family;
they’ve taken care of me. They
have been a big part of my recovery. I would be lost without them.”
Things seem to be looking a
little bit brighter.
From the governance perspective Stewards Inc is a very
exciting nonprofit organization to be a part of by volunteering time, energy, talents
and financial support. Started in
1997, we are a young non-sectarian, faith based Representative Payee
Organization that works hand in hand with Social Security and exists to ignite
hope and inspire futures of those who need assistance budgeting their
disability and retirement incomes by recognizing the worth and dignity of each
person, providing financial counsel, good stewardship and guidance toward an
abundant life. Our goal is to create a working relationship with each
differently-abled client in order to help them budget and manage their modest incomes
so that they have a reasonable habitation, food and other necessities. That means tackling some of the issues
that have prevented beneficiaries from accomplishing those goals
themselves. We receive the
client’s disability income and directly pay for their rent and other personal
needs. Drugs, alcohol, compulsive
spending, and having their money usurped by others lead the list of obstructing
issues for our clients. A recent
study affirmed that Stewards Inc has taken approximately $9,000,000 out of the
local drug trade and channeled these resources into the local legitimate
The Board of Directors has helped craft the policies for
administrating this program through 3 committees. (1) The Program Committee has
helped walk us through 7 different office moves as we worked with Adult Protective Services, the police, the
Social Security Administration and have grown in our abilities to guide those
sleeping on the street into housing and a better lifestyle, as well as
continually out-growing our own office spaces. With the acquisition of our present, adequate office
building, this committee has turned its attention to the development of our
offices in Fresno and Bellflower. The
sweet success of growing the number of clients we help in Bakersfield from 8,
in 1997, to over 1600 today is also a challenge to us as we look at our new
offices in their beginning stages with 60+ clients and a huge unreached
(2) The Finance Committee on the board has tackled the
responsibility of creating our annual fund raiser with a very creative clay shoot event at the Five
Dogs Shooting Range near Glennville, CA. This has been a great help in raising the 20% needed to help support our
program. The fees we are allowed
to charge by Social Security covers about 80% of our staffing and program
(3) The Development Committee guides the development of
the board and participates in the encouragement of staff development. Stewards Inc has been blessed with talented, giving board
members from diverse backgrounds with varying gifts who have participated in
truly caring about the challenged, marginalized population in Kern County.
Gloria Marshall, Board Chairperson
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Copyright © 2014 Kern Community Foundation
3300 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 220, Bakersfield, CA 93301
661-325-5346 | 661-325-5358