Patriotism runs deep at Southwest Airlines, and we are proud of all those who serve, especially the active duty, reservists, veterans, military spouses who are part of the Southwest Family and of course, all our customers as well. We treasure our partnerships with organizations who support our armed service members as it’s a small way we give back to those who have given so much for us. At Southwest Airlines were proud to support STEP as part of our 50th Anniversary Million Acts of Kindness campaign. We hope you will enjoy reading how they are building financial self-sufficiency among junior active-duty enlisted members and recently discharged enlisted Veterans and their families facing financial crisis through counseling, education and grants.

Support The Enlisted Project
In 2012, Support The Enlisted Project (STEP) was started by a group of Veterans who saw a problem and worked on a solution together. STEP began as an organization supporting the most vulnerable in the military – young, junior enlisted service members who are asked to do dangerous, important jobs, with some of the lowest incomes in the country.

Today, STEP fulfills its mission by providing financial counseling, and grants directly to third-party creditors when military families face a basic needs loss such as eviction, repossession, utility disconnection or food insecurity. STEP has served more than 6,300 junior active-duty enlisted military members, Veterans and their families through their Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA), a behavior-based intervention program, working one-on-one with families to find their own path to financial self-sufficiency with a 90% success rate.

In 10 years of operations, STEP has awarded $2.2 million in grants to prevent basic needs losses and has prevented well over 500 in-process evictions. In 2021, STEP expanded its efforts and now serves Washington State and as a result of this critical expansion, STEP now serves 20% of the United States Military population, with 13% in Southern California and another 7% in Washington. Through STEP’s outreach program, they work in collaboration with Joint Base Louis McCord’s out-processing program, STEP is reaching 1,000 transitioning services members every quarter.

AS an example of their work, a married E5 Marine with 8 years of service and her two small children were facing significant financial challenges, when she contacted STEP. She separated from her husband due to a domestic dispute, that triggered a restraining and no contact order on her husband. He immediately stopped paying household expenses. Although she tried to pay the bills, her salary did not cover all the costs and soon she fell behind by two months on her car payment and credit card bills. STEP was able to provide her with a financial grant towards her past due car payment, clothing and shoes hygiene items, food, and diapers, assisted her as she set up a personal financial plan to pay bills with the goal of paying off $her debt within 1 year. She left the office with a plan, confidence and pride that she would be able to take care of her family and achieve her goals.

STEP is also responsive to the needs of our military community, which means when they learn of a need, they mobilize to provide. Whether it is a new crib and car seat for a family or organizing events that directly impact the immediate needs, their supplemental programs offset the common expenses for their clients. Through their monthly Warehouse Distributions this past year they served 21,000 individuals, distributed 140,000 diapers, and 250,000 pounds of food. These events are possible because of our volunteers, generous donations, and advocacy from our supporters such as Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines kicked off their Million Acts of Kindness, and STEP was selected to receive 100 one-way tickets. These tickets are used to help service members travel home for emergencies, and for travel to Washington State to better serve our military clients through our expansion. We cannot thank Southwest Airlines enough for their generous gift.
Partnering with SWA allowed STEP staff to further their efforts and expansion into Washington State serving more families in their time of need and provide counseling and resources that would provide financial self-sufficiency.