Next Step Staff Spotlight with Jess!

We thought, during these uncertain times of COVID-19, that it would be fun to take a break from the news and highlight some of our staff members and give you the chance to get to know them a little bit better.

First up, Jessica!

Jessica is the Director of Operations at Next Step. While Jess says that her work is “not very exciting” and that she works with numbers all day, it is important to point out how critical her work is. Jessica makes sure the lights stay on, the trains run on time, there is food in the fridge for our young participants, and so much more – you get the idea.

Jess is organized and helps us all figure out those important logistics you’d never think of – whether for a fundraising event or program – and is the total team player. We miss seeing her in the Next Step office so we recently emailed her these interview to find out what she has been up to lately!

Explain to us what you do in the back office “where the magic happens?”

It’s not very exciting, but I do all of the stuff that keeps the business part of the business running. There are lots of bureaucratic deadlines I have to pay attention to, but one of the most important things I do is manage and report on all of the money coming in and going out. I’m also in charge of addressing issues that arise with Next Step’s physical space. I keep the trains running on time, as Kepler likes to say. I like to say that my job responsibilities run from screwdrivers to spreadsheets, and everything in between!

What are you watching/reading/listening to to stop yourself from going stir crazy during this time?

My husband and I have been fiending on the new season of Ozark. Sadly, we finished it last night. Every time I hear that some network has moved up the release date of a new season of a show I get weepy with gratitude. Small pleasures in these difficult times, no?

Are you having any cravings for foods/drinks/snacks that you can’t get during this time?

So far we have denied ourselves almost nothing food related, because, like, aren’t things hard enough right now? I did create a tiny little treat box out of colored card stock and washi tape in an attempt at portion control.

What kind of changes, if any, you’ve made to shake up your daily routine?

Well, it’s not a change to routine so much as an addition. I’ve always been scared to actually buy stocks because I don’t understand how it all works, but I’ve recently created a sample stock portfolio in Yahoo Finance. I entered some pretend trades to show how I would have done if I’d actually bought anything. I figured I might as well to try learn something new while I’m home 24/7!


Do your cats like having you home all of the time?

You know, by the way cats torture me after I’ve been out of town, I really would have thought they’d be delighted with my constant presence. Not so much. ALL THEY DO IS SLEEP. SMH.

How have you stayed in contact with your friends and family outside of your house? any fun virtual games or activities you can recommend?

I had a surprisingly successful book group on Zoom last week. I didn’t have high hopes but it was so, so lovely to see my friends; I was impressed with the amount of support and love we all felt from a virtual gathering. I think I’m going to try to get an extended family get together scheduled, but there’s a 9-hour time change between by two brothers, so it could be challenging!

And this isn’t something everyone can do, but I borrowed a fire bowl from my neighbors last weekend and sat outside burned sh*t! We invited two friends who stayed 6′ away on the other side of the fire bowl and we just chatted for hours while we watched the flames. It was probably the nicest experience I’ve had since this whole crisis started.

Is there a special Jessica Martin recipe you can share with the Next Step community?

I have a Chicken Stew with Biscuits recipe which, to me, is the ultimate comfort food. It’s like chicken pot pie, which I love, only easier because you use biscuits on top instead of pie crust. It’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe (Queen) and it makes a ton! I will say it is not light.

Click here for a link the recipe on the barefoot contessa website.

I also have a really great and simple recipe for homemade Chex Mix.  Now THAT is a guilty pleasure. It comes from my friend Jill’s family in North Carolina, and they call it Trash:

Jess’s Homemade Chex Mix:


1 tablespoon of butter

4 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce

1 tablespoon of garlic salt

1 cup of mixed nuts

6 cups of Chex cereal (whatever type you like)


Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Melt the butter in a rimmed baking pan in the oven

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt

Mix in the cereal and nuts and stir until coated

Bake for 15 minutes, stir; bake for 15 minutes, stir; bake final 15 minutes and then remove from your oven. The total baking time is 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and get crispy (if you can wait!)

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