The Feature is Female: Sarah Stephens

“My dream has always been that every person that walks in this door reaches their full, God-given potential.” – Sarah Stephens

How often do you think about food? I mean truly think about it? Like where it comes from, how often you consume it, how much you consume…you get the picture. Let me ask you this, when was the last time you were concerned about where your next meal was coming from? If you can honestly answer never, then consider yourself blessed, because for the people Sarah Stephens helps feed, that’s a thought that crosses their mind daily. 

In the United States alone, over 44 million people face hunger. This gut wrenching number, includes one in every 5 children. In the wake of COVID-19, many people were left with the uncertainty of where their next paycheck would come from, much less their next meal, so many Americans turned to food assistance for extra help. By 2022, it was being reported that 49 million people were reaching out to food pantries, food banks, and other local organizations for meal assistance. In our community, Horizons Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry has acted as a beacon of hope in times where hope seemed all but lost. 

With the mission of ‘Helping Those in Need’, Horizons Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry has worked tirelessly to do just that. In 2022, they were able to serve over 40,000 hot meals. This year, they’re on track to exceed that number. To understand an organization that does so much, you must understand the heart behind it, and their heart is none other than their Executive Director, Sarah Stephens. 

When Sarah Stephens began her time at Horizons nearly 14 years ago, she never expected to be where she is today. Through many ups and downs, Stephens has found herself in the place she knows God wanted her to be. “I was a Vice President for National City Bank of Indiana, but when my daughter was born, we moved here, and I became a stay at home mom, which I loved. After a couple years, someone who is on the staff today, came to me about this new organization, Horizons, and they were looking for someone to run a business, and the profits from that business would go to support the non-profit. That was my first introduction to Horizons,” recalls Sarah. “I wasn’t quite ready to go back to work yet, but after I learned a little more about what they were wanting me to do and a little bit more about what they do, I really felt like God was leading me here. When that side of things fell apart, they called and asked me to come work at Horizons, and I just knew God was in it, so it felt like the right fit.”

Having past experiences working in fashion merchandising, banking, and more, have helped to give Sarah a well-rounded perspective on how to handle various situations that arise during her daily duties. “I managed a bank during a buyout, and then came here and managed Horizons through their move from St. Johns to this new location. I always say, I don’t know a lot about any one thing, but I know a little about a lot of things,” states Stephens with a laugh. “That perspective helps me though, because if I don’t know how to do something, I’m going to get someone in here that can do it. When there’s an area I’m lacking in, God always guides me to the right people, and I love to see those people do what they do, and do it well.”

Being a leader is something that takes hard work and determination. Many will work their entire lives with every intention of climbing the ever-elusive corporate ladder, but for Sarah Stephens, the idea of having a leadership role in this organization, or any other, wasn’t even a thought. “I’m going to be honest. I never thought about it. I just didn’t. I wish I had lived a little more purposefully…but I learned from that, started being more purposeful with my choices, and now I’m here. I never thought I’d be leading a non-profit, but it’s been a blessing,” states Stephens.  

Self described as an authentic and transparent leader, Sarah Stephens looks inward when trying to lead others. “I lead from within. I am much more participatory and always try to be as authentic and transparent as possible. My goal is always to empower those around me,” says Sarah. “I’m always working to help people reach their fullest potential. The dream for me would be a day where no one asked any questions, because how awesome would it be if everyone felt so confident in what they were doing, that they didn’t have to ask questions.”

When someone is in a leadership role, it’s easy for people to assume they aren’t boots on the ground kind of people, or that they aren’t putting in the same sweat equity as the others. For Sarah, being hands on within the organization is one of the best ways to show her leadership skills. “I want people to see me doing what I am going to ask them to do. I never want to be perceived as too good to do something, so I think that if people know that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work yourselves, then people are so much more willing to come alongside you and do it with you.”

As the first born of six children, the ability to be a leader was something that Sarah Stephens always knew she was equipped with. “I feel like I’ve always been a natural born leader, that doesn’t mean I have to be one, but it pains me to sit and wait for somebody to take the lead, so I find myself constantly jumping in and doing just that,” says Sarah. “I do believe, though, that we are all leaders. We are all leading somebody, somewhere. I tell my daughter all the time ‘Whether you realize it or not, you’re leading someone, so be sure you’re leading people to good things.’”

Much like most things in life, there are barriers to great leadership. The biggest barrier, for Sarah, is when leaders are in it for themselves. “When you’re in it for self-promotion and power, it’s never going to work. People need to know you love them. If they don’t know you love them, you’re not going to have a devoted team. There has to be care, and we’re fortunate to have that here,” says Stephens with a smile. “We have an incredible team. We truly are a family, and that’s just an incredible thing.”

When it comes to advice for our next generation of great leaders, Sarah’s answer was poignantly simple: show up. “Show up. Show up and trust in your ability, but don’t lose heart, even when the work is hard, because in the end, it’s so worth it.”

As someone who gets to work in the business of helping others, Sarah Stephens knows that she is blessed. “I know that I am beyond blessed. I know that I am one of the many that much is expected of, and I just feel like we all have a responsibility to play our part, so I work hard everyday to do just that,” says Stephens. 

Leadership can come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, or perhaps you’re the owner of a local flower market, but no matter what your title is, real leadership starts from within. For Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry’s Sarah Stephens, leading from within is her God-given gift. 

For more information on how you can volunteer at or donate to Horizons Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry, click the links below:

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