We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Teravainen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
Since March, our program shifted gears some and started providing food and diapers to military families required to stay on base, with limited contact. Over 8,000 have been served and it’s been inspiring to see the community join together to make it possible. It has also allowed us to touch base with families who are sacrificing so much right now. Let them know they are not alone, their community cares and wants to ensure they have what they need to thrive. Our main program is about overall financial well-being and how we can provide the skills necessary to be successful long-term. With the job losses we are seeing with active duty spouses, it’s never been more critical to get to these families before it’s too late. The long-term effects of COVID-19 on our military and Veterans has yet to be seen. As a community, we need to prepare for the long-haul toward recovery. By working together we can ensure every individual who chooses to fight for freedom also has access to their own American Dream.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
STEP is entering its 8th year in business. We just moved to a larger facility and have slowly been expanding our staff. Where we are now, in just eight years, has been an incredible journey. There were nights early on when I worried about keeping the doors open and making sure the staff was paid. I did not have any non-profit experience, but I knew we had a program that was working and I just needed to find a way to make it financially viable. What I have learned along the way is that reaching out to others to ask for help, their expertise and then finding ways to support them as well has allowed STEP to thrive. We have program that works, but it’s one program and our families have other needs. Creating partnerships in the community to get those needs met has allowed us to grow.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a tough one for me as I am either at work, or at home with family working on my farm in Escondido. We have a small rental unit on the property and we always encourage guests to hit the highlights – the beach, downtown, the zoo – but also to spend some time out East. The hiking trails, lakes, wild animals … not always the first thing people think about in San Diego, but it’s a huge county to explore.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Growing up in a military family and then enlisting in the Navy, there are so many along the way that help shape who I am and how I got to STEP. It taught me a lot about being resilient, using what you had in front of you to succeed, and never giving up. My co-founder at STEP Terry Magee, a retired Navy Captain, embodies a lot of that and has been instrumental in ensuring our Core Values at STEP are always met. He’s had a successful career outside of the military and continues to find ways to give back. I value his input and commitment to this organization. He believes in what we are doing and wants each family to find success.
Images were taken by STEP employees.