STEPS in the right direction. Kamilla Barton is showing the community first hand what empowerment and resiliency looks like. She is the Founder and CEO of S.T.E.P.S: Successful Transitions Empowering Permanent Safety. Their mission: to empower and transform the lives of survivors, educate the community, and advocate for victims of domestic violence. The humble, transparent mother of two is one the most passionate, dedicated women you will ever meet. We invite you to learn more about the strength, courage and resilience of Kamilla and how she empowers her community as this week’s Boots on the Ground community leader.

How long have you been doing what you do? “In 2014, I began serving and advocating for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2016, I gave birth to STEPS, Successful Transitions Empowering Permanent Safety a grassroots 501(c )(3) nonprofit organization. We provide individualized advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I launched Kamilla Barton Empowers in 2019. I provide national life coaching and empowerment workshops.” 

What made you decide to pursue this journey? “I was raised in the foster care system. I had an amazing social worker named Juanita Wilchie. Growing up, I always admired her and wanted to be just like her. It gave me the desire to give hope and empower others at an early age. This is why I am passionate and do what I do. In 2012, two advocates at the Family Safety Center changed the lives of my children and me. In 2014, the organization forwarded the opportunity for me to change the lives of others in different capacities. In 2016, I began to walk in my purpose. I realized I was an overcomer. I had overcome many things: childhood sexual assault, a suicide attempt, dropping out of school, homelessness, grief, verbal, and psychological abuse, and so much more. I also realized I did not overcome those challenging experiences alone. God strategically placed some genuine, caring, and supportive people in my life. Having people believe in me planted and nurtured seeds of hope and courage. That empowered growth and belief in myself. Soon after, I decided to empower and give that very hope and courage given to me, to other survivors during their transitions.”

What are some of the most gratifying parts of what you do? “The joy that I get from doing what I was meant to do is priceless. ‘Our dreams don’t disappear, they’re just waiting to become true’, is a quote I live by. One of the most gratifying parts is living my dream of providing hope and selfless support to others. I was called to do this work. It is my ministry. Empowering the lives of other people is gratifying in itself.”

What are some of the most disheartening things about what you do? “Founding STEPS in 2016 and serving my community are some of the best experiences of my life. I always wanted to be a social worker and help people. But, I had no idea God would make way for me to do it in this capacity. I am blessed to say I have provided individualized advocacy: food, clothing, housing, financial assistance, peer support, and so much more to many individuals in need. In the beginning, one of the most disheartening things was not being able to provide those much needed resources. We recently received a donation from the Taffi T. Crawford Foundation and a Covid-19 Emergency Grant from SisterReach. Both have allowed us to expand our reach and empower our community. I am forever grateful for every individual that God has placed in my life.”

Do you have any needs that would better help you do what you do? “Yes, Joyce, thank you so much for this opportunity and allowing the space to share our needs. We need a social work field instructor. We have been blessed to partner with the University of Memphis to offer student volunteer assignments and undergraduate internships. Due to not having a field instructor. we had to decline undergraduate internships for the upcoming fall semester. Moreover, having a field instructor is an integral part of the organization’s growth and reach.”

Do you have any events coming up? “Yes. We are planning a community outreach project. STEPS will provide 150 relief meals and care packages to families in need, the homeless community, and elderly residents throughout Memphis & Shelby County. We are also planning our 2nd annual clothing drive, and a few other events. Covid-19 has put a halt to event scheduling. Everyone is invited to connect with us and stay updated.”

What main points do you want readers to take away from this article? “I want readers to believe in themselves and be empowered, even if they are in an atmosphere where it is not familiar. I want readers to follow their dreams and never give up amid adversity or life’s many challenges. One of the things that keeps me resilient, is distinguishing the differences between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable, we cannot avoid it. Suffering is a choice. When we suffer, most times we have allowed pain to fester and ruminate. It negatively impacts our day to day life and overall well-being. Pain will pass. Suffering will not, unless we allow ourselves to heal. I believe it is impossible to walk into your purpose and live your dreams while holding on to pain. Healing is not always the easiest thing to do, but it has not failed me yet. I want people to know that it is okay to seek and receive help. If it had not been for my faith in the Lord, my therapist, passionate advocates, and a few good friends, I do not know where I would be right now.”

How can people get in touch with you?

About Kamilla Barton:

Kamilla Barton is the Founder/CEO of S.T.E.P.S. She is a proud survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. She contributes her survivorship to the Family Safety Center, the Exchange Club Family Center, Case Management Inc., The Crime Victim Center and a host of others including the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter.

Kamilla served as the Victims Advocate Provider for Memphis and Shelby County’s Blueprint for Safety. She has since dedicated her life to helping individuals affected by violence.