More than 60 people celebrated the graduation of individuals and families who’ve completed the coursework for Uplift People of Elk Grove, a local nonprofit that helps people create more abundant lives and work to break from the cycle of poverty.

The graduates, the second group to complete the curriculum since Uplift began, were beaming with pride as they accepted their completion certificates on behalf of themselves and their families at the July 9 ceremony.

In all, seven adults completed the program as “champions of change.” In addition, several allies who will serve as mentors for the champions have also completed their training.

Uplift began the program about two years ago. Through education and by building community and supportive relationships, the group examines the roots of poverty, learns how to increase their well-being, and develops realistic goals to move forward in their lives. As they move forward, they also learn the value of reciprocity and begin giving back to the community themselves.

Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli was in attendance at the ceremony as well, and he is among several civic leaders who have been strong supporters of Uplift since its inception.

The champions and allies gather every Tuesday evening, sharing dinner before going through curriculum, or hearing from experts on subjects like budgeting, how to create more career opportunities or further their education or job training.

The crux of the program is creating stronger relationships that cross cultural and socio-economic barriers. Childcare and youth activities are also provided to make Uplift a true family affair.

One highlight of the evening was remarks from Crystal DiBenedetto, a graduate of the first class of champions last year. She noted that she was once living out of her car with her two children, but has now secured stabilized housing, has developed a higher level of confidence, and has obtained two licenses to start her own businesses and attain a stronger financial base.

“None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Uplift,” she told the gathering.

Crystal is now going through training to become an Uplift ally herself.

Uplift People of Elk Grove is gearing up to begin its third class of champions. For anyone interested in learning more about the program, or becoming a champion or ally, please contact program coordinator Jeff Teague at (916) 900-6991 or

Uplift to host ‘SteinTime’

fundraiser, Oct. 4

Uplift People of Elk Grove is hosting an Oktoberfest-themed fundraiser party called, “SteinTime” at Elk Grove’s Tilted Mash Brewery on Friday, Oct. 4. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit and their mission to lift community members out of poverty.

This party includes an Oktoberfest-style dinner, music, and an auction. This event is only open for adults ages 21 and over. Tickets are $45 and are sold at

“SteinTime” lasts from 6-9 p.m. at 9175 Union Park Way.

Mark Hedlund is a former News10 reporter and is now the board president of Uplift People of Elk Grove.  Citizen News Editor Cameron Macdonald contributed to this article.