NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A nonprofit that’s been serving the North Little Rock community for nearly 40 years received a huge honor for its work toward declaring victory over violence. STEP Ministries received the Difference Makers Award from Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.

STEP Ministries is a faith-based mentoring and tutoring program based in the Eastgate Terrace Neighborhood.

“This is a chance to give these kids another support for their lives,” Heath Land said. “The need is there. People need people. We all need good mentors in our lives and people to help us out along the way.”

Land has been a mentor with STEP Ministries for several years.

“It’s kind of helped expand my view of what it means to be part of the church, too. This is an extension of the church. It’s not just Sundays and Wednesday nights,” Land said.

The program accepts kids between 8 and 18 years old. Some mentors are paired with their mentees for multiple years.

“We have a lot of longevity in our program focusing on that one-on-one and really on into adulthood,” Executive Director Mary Carol Pederson said.

A group of pastors started the program 36 years ago to help curb violence in central Arkansas.

“One of the amazing things here is that the crime rate in our neighborhood has gone down drastically since we were started 36 years ago,” Pederson explained.

According to Pederson, STEP has also seen a 93 percent graduation rate among their mentees, which is one reason the organization received the Difference Makers Award and a $1,000 donation.

“To be in the community here for 36 years and to have them recognize us has been really a blessing,” Pederson said.

She said the donation will help step mobilize the body of Christ further by investing one-on-one in under-resourced children.