Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
by Stephanie Symonds, A Mommy Corner, and the UP Center

A Mommy Corner was honored to interview James Monds, the Executive Director of the UP Center. James is a native of Fort Pierce and he knows what it means to live in and overcome poverty, as he allowed poverty to become his driving force to rise up and make a difference in his community. The UP Center is a place in St. Lucie, Indian River Counties, and Orlando to service all families who are in need of extra assistance. The UP Center has been in existence since 2006 servicing the community to help break the cycle of poverty by lifting lives. They believe that poverty is not permanent, and that people are not defined by their current circumstances. They have an extensive amount of services that are in place to help people take a step forward in their own lives. The UP Center is a firm believer of collaborating with other agencies and organizations to fight poverty.

The Grocery Membership Program is a food and household supply assistance program where the members can select food, hygiene, and household items for their family needs. The membership is free and available to those who fall into the 200% percentile of the poverty level. They believe in the HAND UP model, rather than hand out, with the desire to empower and motivate for growth and success to overcome poverty. The UP Center helps families save up to 70% on their normal grocery budget. Research states that Americans spend 40% of income on food. The UP Center helps families living paycheck to paycheck cut their grocery budget so they spend only half that much on food.

The Crisis Stabilization Program is in place to help those in a crisis situation. They will complete an intake process with the individual by asking a range of different questions. This questionnaire helps the assigned case manager have a complete understanding of each person’s situation so they can get to the root cause and provide the client with a care plan including referrals for community resources.

The General Education Program is a support program for GED students at Indian River State College. They provide ESOL support for individuals speaking Spanish and Creole. They help participants learn English so they can successfully gain bilingual employment utilizing their native language.

The AIDS Awareness Program provides free testing for AIDS and STDs every Friday from 12-5pm. The testing is sponsored by Butterfield Drugs and free to all in the community. The Teen Prevention Pregnancy Program is new. A liaison from the center goes to different schools and educate young ladies about teen pregnancy prevention, letting them know that teens can come to the UP Center to get tested for pregnancy for free.

The Capstone Project – Success Training Employment Program (STEP) is transcending lives by empowering adults to make something more of their lives. Participants can step outside of their comfort zone to make a difference for themselves and their families. The STEP program provides a workforce skills acquisition training program to help the clients gain employment. The goal is to gain successful employment by the end of the six week course. They personally train each individual.

The individuals go through a three phase program made up of 120 hours of work. They work on their emotional intelligence, workplace skill development, and job acquisition skills. The first phase includes four hours a day, five days a week. The second phase focuses on individualized skill development, employment preparation, and job placement. If possible, job interviews are given for full time positions that fit that individual’s particular career choice. Once the individual gains employment they enter phase three to focus on employment retention and career development. Each participants is provided a success coach who continues to work with them for three years to ensure they excel and advance towards further success.

The UP Center is brought to you by United Against Poverty. You may visit the UP Center at 2520 Orange Avenue, Fort Pierce, FL 34947. For more information, please visit or call 772-468-8543.