Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
12:02 pm
25 March 2019

Person of Interest: Stephanie Harris

Executive director of New Beginnings of Central Florida

Photo: Fred Lopez

Vital Stats:

  • In 1999, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Barton College in North Carolina.
  • She joined New Beginnings of Central Florida January 2017.
  • She served in leadership positions at other nonprofit organizations, including March of Dimes and Salvation Army.
  • She has two daughters: Madison, 23, and Tori, 15.

 

New Beginnings is great because: This organization helps homeless people find themselves when they’re in a dark place. They’ve lost hope and have nowhere to turn. New Beginnings gives them a second chance, helps them regroup, and advances their skills so they can move forward in life. We give them a hand up; not a handout. Our goal is to help them re-enter the workforce and find permanent housing.

New programs under your leadership: I started a bridge housing program for families. It’s a bridge from where they are now to permanent housing. I felt this was important because there are a reported 1,600 homeless children in Lake County. One aspect of the program is assigning a financial mentor. Unfortunately, they don’t teach you in school how to balance a checkbook. They must learn to live within their means and monitor how much they spend.

Important life advice: You never know what situation people are going through. Don’t be so quick to label them. Instead of judging them, treat them like a friend. Treat everyone with kindness.

Secret to success: Surround yourself with knowledgeable people. It is OK not to always know the answer, but you want to have people at your side who do know the answer.

Success story: One married couple with three children went through our program. They saved up enough money to buy a house and get the electricity turned on and then still had some money left in savings.

Favorite quote: “It takes a village to serve a community.”

Dogs or cats: Dogs. When I was in college, a stray dog walked into the yard of my professor and she brought it to campus. I ended up getting the dog and naming it Bailey. I once used Bailey in a video that advocated for dog shelters.

Guilty pleasure: I can always go for desserts such as chocolate-covered fruits.

Three words that describe you: Outgoing, giving, witty.

Hobbies: I love dancing, as well as boating and Jet Skiing.

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