The power of second chances:

A new lease on life at the Indiana Gazette

It’s fair to say, at some point in our lives, we have all been afforded a second chance of some kind. Maybe it’s happened on a professional level or in a personal relationship. Maybe it’s a reconciliation with one’s own self. It can derive from a mistake quickly forgiven or a serious lapse in judgment that takes considerable time and effort to amend. Second chances aren’t always easy to come by. In most cases, they must be earned through self-improvement, humility and trust.

Jason Stepp of the Indiana Gazette made a commitment to himself, and others, to turn his life around after years of addiction. His second chance gave him the ability to regain control of his life. But it also gave him a moment of clarity, that he could “pay it forward” and help others in the same situation. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” Stepp said. He has honored his word.

Twenty years ago, Stepp followed in his father’s footsteps and started his career in the family commercial printing business. Although an astute learner, he developed a substantial drug and alcohol addiction that upended his life. After years of struggling personally and professionally, he entered a drug rehabilitation center in 2017. The experience was life-changing and provided him with a new sense of purpose. For two years he worked as a crisis interventionist at an in-patient rehabilitation center to counsel others while strengthening his own recovery. Although the work was fulfilling, he aspired one day to return to the world of commercial printing. Fortunately, an opportunity would soon arise that allowed him to embrace both passions.

In 2022, the Indiana Gazette, part of the Sample News Group, was looking to expand its commercial printing capabilities and bring newspaper printing back in-house. Remembering his work at his father’s company, Sample News Group approached Stepp with an offer he couldn’t refuse, a management role at the Indiana Gazette within its revamped press operation. The plan involved printing three additional Sample News Group dailies at the facility along with supplements, flyers and inserts for outside vendors. On April 4, 2022, Jason Stepp accepted the position as the new production director.

To meet the ambitious new goals, Stepp needed to hire a team. He knew exactly where to look. Within a three-block radius of the facility were several institutions that support the recovery community of Indiana, Pa., including out-patient rehabilitation, recovery centers with 12-step meeting programs and apartments specifically used to house men in recovery. Stepp knew he could find people willing to work while also providing the same opportunity afforded to him; a chance to start over.

With the support of management, including Sample News Group CEO and Publisher George “Scoop” Sample, he launched the Recovery to Work initiative, a program providing employment opportunities to individuals in recovery. He received guidance from Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) – Western PA, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction. He is working to secure state grants offered to companies who employ workers in recovery programs or with criminal backgrounds. New staff came on board with varying degrees of experience; some spent years operating presses or other types of large machinery while others were hired at entry-level positions in the mail room.

The initiative has been highly successful. For Sample News Group, in-house printing has grown exponentially. For Stepp and his team, the benefits run deeper. Many employees have worked their way into management roles. Others have learned skills that allowed them to pursue different career paths. At the same time, Stepp has created a safe space for employees, where they are allowed to be “human”, lean on each other for support and encourage each other through highs and lows.

The Recovery to Work initiative has been a win-win for all involved. The Indiana Gazette has grown its printing operations and garnered new streams of revenue. The team behind that success has even more reasons to be grateful. Not long ago, many were at a crossroads in life. They made the difficult decision to seek help and rebuild their lives, just like their leader Jason Stepp. Together they build each other up, one employee at a time, to make their lives and community a better place.