Collegiate Professor creates “Any Step” to make a difference

Collegiate Academy’s Professor of Humanities Sydney Portilla-Diggs poses with her organization Any Step sign.

courtesy Portilla-Diggs

Collegiate Academy’s Professor of Humanities Sydney Portilla-Diggs poses with her organization “Any Step” sign.

Her mind flips back to the moment that she keeps replaying in her mind. The doctor was dressed in a white coat, wearing an empathetic look. 

“You have cancer, ” the doctor said. The three worst words someone can hear. 

Her life flashed before her eyes, as she realized she hadn’t done anything she felt was meaningful in her life. 

So, in 2016 she and her husband went to Costa Rica. The gray-blue mountains, green trees, and rich blue water surrounded them. However, they weren’t here to look at the beautiful scenery. They were there to serve at a child orphanage. 

They then found out that the child orphanage was closed. Their faces were filled with despair because they didn’t know what else to do, everything seemed to be going wrong. But, as soon as their faces were filled with despair they were recommended by the ministry staff of their sister church to go to an elderly home instead. 

So, they took all of the supplies that they brought to the elderly home. Collegiate Academy’s Professor of Humanities Sydney Portilla-Diggs was astonished by how the elderly people reacted.

“These people hadn’t been visited by their families and they were in tears, ” Portilla-Diggs said. “They acted like it was Christmas.”

She and her husband decided that they would come back next year, and when they did they were told that they were about to run out of food. So, they filled up the food pantry at the nursing home. 

Inspired, Portilla-Diggs knew that if she could do this in Costa Rica she could do it in her own country. 

Portilla-Diggs started an organization called Any Step Community Service. This service has made a huge impact on older adults in the area. This last year they were able to donate 15,607 pounds of food to over 1300 households. They have grown by 300%. Now, they just launched a new webinar series, so now they also provide education on different aspects of nutrition.


When she got back from Costa Rica she knew what she wanted to do, but she didn’t know if that’s what she needed to do. So, she wanted the “universe to choose for her.” When she came back from Costa Rica she wanted $600 because they needed to become registered by the State of Texas, the IRS, and other entities.

“If I come home after spending all the money I can in Costa Rica, and come home with $600 that means I need to start an organization,” Portilla-Diggs said. “So I came home with $250 but in the mailbox was a check from my dentist which made up the difference. So we started the organization.”

However, at the start of her organization, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It was hard at first to even find a place to distribute the food. This was not her sector so she didn’t know what to do. However, another organization helped them get started.

“I ran across another organization called the Senior Source, I put in a call to them and they called me back, ” Portilla-Diggs said. “And, that started our relationship. So most of the time when we distribute food we distribute it from the office of the Senior Source. And, now three years later they have given us office space and storage so that now we have offices in the Senior Source.”

One of the most important things about creating an organization is the name. Nevertheless, Portilla-Diggs created the name based on what she said to someone else. 

I would like to hope that whenever I get to the age where I need help, someone would care. But, I think just making sure that people have the essential needs, brings about a certain dignity. No one wants to feel like they don’t have something”

— Sydney Portilla-Diggs

“I used to be a life coach and I was having a conversation with a client, and I was telling her: You know any step you make is progress,” Portilla-Diggs said. “So when we thought about that, I said that is what I want our organization to be.  At AnyStep Community Services we see any step you take toward helping an older adult household helps the community. Any step we take together that’s progress.”


Making the Any Step Community Service was the best thing that had happened in her life. This organization is not all about food, it is about providing for the whole person.

“So we try to socialize, we try to talk, we try to ask them: is there something you would like to see in this distribution that you didn’t get?” Portilla-Diggs said. “I think that it is a very difficult position to ask for help for things, so we try to provide the things that they need and that they asked for without making them feel like they’re getting a handout.”

Portilla-Diggs hopes that people treat their neighbors with kindness. She wants everyone to treat each other with respect, like human beings. 

“I would like to hope that whenever I get to the age where I need help, someone would care, ” Portilla-Diggs said. “But, I think just making sure that people have the essential needs, brings about a certain dignity. No one wants to feel like they don’t have something.” 

Her volunteers have helped her throughout the whole way, and the volunteers also want to make an impact on the world. Some of the volunteers wanted to help and learn about the older community like Caleb Ho.

“Volunteering made me see how important it is to include/accept anyone regardless of who they are; everyone deserves a life without worrying about food, ” Ho said. “Professor Diggs was a fantastic professor and an even better person. I love that she created this non-profit to help others.”

Despite starting an organization she still does teach humanities to college students. One of her favorite lessons that she likes to teach is the philosophy of Ubuntu. This Philosophy is practiced in South Africa and it emphasizes community, forgiveness, and kindness. The philosophy teaches people that without other people we wouldn’t be human. And, she tried to embrace this philosophy which led to her creating this organization. 

“Ubuntu really opened up my eyes to see that everything isn’t always what it appears to be, ” Portilla-Diggs said. “That my responsibility is to have an open heart, so that I can help where help is needed. I don’t really have to know about someone’s motivation or what they’re gonna do with my help. I just want to make sure that I’m a human being that is open and has a giving heart.”