Maple Grove resident devotes her life to helping those who need it most.
It’s one thing to have a passion for helping others; it’s quite another to make a career out of it.
Passionate about empowering youth and giving back to the community, Maple Grove resident Steffany Fleming founded Inspire and Flourish in 2007.
The non-profit organization is an event planning and fundraising organization, which helps raise money and awareness for local nonprofits through special events. Working primarily with organizations that aid animals and children, Fleming describes her organization as a pendulum that swings between two realms that are near and dear to her heart. “It started with a little concept of trying to do something for children in the hospital to give them a smile on their face,” Fleming says. “We all flourish when every living being has been served.”
Emphasizing the need to reach out to those who are in a vulnerable situation, she offers her services to people, who encounter a roadblock that inhibits their ability to positively live their best lives— physically, mentally or socio-economically.
Committing to its mission of serving children and animals, Inspire and Flourish has partnered with organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, Children’s Minnesota-St. Paul Hospital, Ronald McDonald House; Crescent Cove respite and hospice for kids; Pause 4 Paws; and Paws and Claws animal rescues, to name a few.
As a 10-year breast cancer survivor, Fleming understands the need for an uplifting moment, and, oftentimes, that includes for families, friends and caregivers of those needing support. She explains that many people forget that sick children, for example, receive love and support from friends, family and medical staff. However, those supporters can suffer, as well. Inspire and Flourish strives to create a worry-free environment, which allows all people, who need it, a chance to smile.
Inspire and Flourish provides free help to children- and animal-related causes where and when it is needed. In order to continuously serve the most vulnerable, Fleming actively stays connected with larger organizations, so she can be there to provide supplies to pets, care to individuals and feature her very own Hope Carnival at Children’s Minnesota in St. Paul every August, as well as a variety of annual service events with the hospital and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Unfortunately, there will always be sick children, but that makes Fleming’s work (especially with the carnival) with these larger organizations even more meaningful, knowing that she is able to continuously bring joy to people year after year.
For her work on behalf of animals, Fleming has dropped off pounds of food for organizations, covered the medical costs of surgeries and even provided supplies, such as leashes, collars, bowls and fleece blankets (all of which she collects and stores in her basement) to local animal-focused organizations.
As her full-time career, Fleming has devoted the last 30 years to volunteering and raising funds for schools and charities. Each year, she works diligently to collect pet supplies from contributions from locals and collects funding from, not only donations on the Inspire and Flourish website, but from the proceeds raised from her own photo booth business, Mobile Memories Photo Booths. This business provides captured moments for people at events like birthday parties, weddings, fundraisers, graduations, corporate events and even family reunions.
While a majority of her financial support is from these photo booth appearances, Fleming needs additional funding support. Though Fleming describes herself as an event planner by nature, and she has made an enormous impact on so many lives, she gives credit to community members, who have donated their time to the causes. Volunteers are the driving force of Inspire and Flourish, and, without them, programs would not run as smoothly. More specifically, she values the commitment from her high school-age volunteers, as they are able to connect with the children in a genuine way. “It is so important to teach your children how to give back, and this is a way that I could do that,” Fleming says. “What better way to engage youth than to do it with other children.”
Believing in the power of connecting the community at all levels, Fleming recruits volunteers through local high schools (Maple Grove, Osseo and Benilde-St. Margaret’s) and area churches.
Eventually, Fleming hopes to combine the two worlds near to her heart—children and animals— by bringing service animals to hospitals to visit children. That way, both the animals and the kids get the love and support that they need—all in one place.
As for the future of Inspire and Flourish, Fleming hopes to remain local, saying, “I am happy with where it is at because I feel like I am making a difference here.”
A Carnival of Hope
As the driving force of her organization, Fleming’s Hope Carnival for the last five years has brought the joy of any county or state fair to kids in Children’s Minnesota without the hassle and health risks of the crowds. Owning almost 100 custom, handmade carnival games, she is able to provide patients and families with some of the experiences that other fairs have to offer, just on a smaller scale.
With festive mascot costumes and games, like the milk jug toss and Whack-a-Mole, Fleming also provides a plethora of salty and sweet carnival treats, including popcorn, cotton candy, Sno-cones, mini donuts and, of course, cookies. In true fair fashion, each of the volunteer booths are festooned with custom red and white striped fabric. Prizes and goodie bags are also available for carnival goers, who strike it big. (In addition to her annual August event, the carnival has been featured at other animal rescue events with Pause 4 Paws and was brought to a local mobile home park for families to enjoy.)