Back-to-School Bash Photo Album!

CCO’s Annual Back-to-School Bash was a huge success! Families sheltered at CCO enjoyed dancing, music, pizza, cake, prizes, face-painting, and more. All school-aged children chose a new backpack, from a wide-range of styles, provided by the Northeastern Illinois University Alumni Association (NEIU). NEIU has provided and distributed backpacks and school supplies at the Back-to-School Bash for years. Thank you, NEIU!

Student volunteers from Uptown Christian School (UCS) set-up the room, served food, decorated, cleaned, and reassembled the dining room. The teens were willing, fun, and amazingly helpful. Thank you, UCS!

Education is a critical stabilizing force in the lives of homeless children. We are privileged to partner with our area school teachers and administrators to ensure that the children sheltered at CCO have the best education possible.

Consider making a donation today that will directly support the families sheltered at CCO. Thank you!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to you! Did you know that CCO staff and volunteers bake, ice, decorate and deliver a birthday cake to each child who has a birthday while sheltered at CCO? It’s true! And mom and dad are given wrapped gifts for the birthday boy or girl. It’s a truly sweet way to encourage the kids at CCO.

We need your help! We are looking for CCO supporters who would like to purchase new cake mixes, icing, and decorations (candles, sprinkles, etc) to make sure the birthday elves are never short of supplies. If you are interested in giving in this way contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org. Thanks!

Permanently Housed Up 29 % at CCO

Every person who moves from homelessness to housing is a cause for celebration. We rejoice with every one of our residents who are able to turn a key and enter their home, whether it is a mom or dad with children, single senior citizen, couple with children, three-generational family, or young adult. Finding home is the next step in a new phase of life.

While staying at Cornerstone the case-management staff work hard to make sure each person receives the assistance and services available. The work with the residents is tracked closely to be able to monitor what works and what areas can be improved on. One area tracked is how many people who come to Cornerstone homeless, successfully move into permanent housing.

We are glad to announce, that the number of people that have been housed this year so far is up by 29 percent! Already 24 families and their children, and 51 single men and women, all of whom stayed in one of CCO’s shelters moved from homelessness to permanent housing. That’s 9 more families and 16 more men and women than this time last year.

All of this can only be accomplished by your support, the hard work of the people finding home, and Cornerstone’s staff. Please consider donating today to help this wonderful work continue, and more people find home.

A donation of $4 per day can provide these wonderful, successful services for the homeless in Chicago. Donate Today!

Jakil’s “Blessing Bags”

“It speaks volumes about the character of the children and I appreciate it!” said one CCO shelter guest. An exceptional 9-year-old has visited CCO for the second time to bless those experiencing homelessness. Jakil Jackson, came to CCO to give encouragement and hygiene bags to the families and single adults sheltered with us. Jakil organized his friends and family to sort, fill, and distribute the bags.

Jakil may be one of the youngest philanthropists to bless CCO. Jakil told one news source, “In a perfect world, I would buy every homeless person a house. But since I can’t do that, I will try to help as much as I can.” He certainly does. Bags are filled with everyday items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, shampoo, soap, lotion, water, shaving cream, and a crisp white t-shirt. He has encouraged us with his smile and generosity! Thank you, Jakil!

Watch a Windy City News video segment featuring Jakil distributing his “Blessing Bags” at CCO, by clicking here.

The Joy of Giving: CCO 2016 Christmas Album

“Never get tired of doing little things for others.
Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts.”
– Unknown

What a festive Holiday Season! It was a joy to watch the children and parents sheltered at CCO receiving and unwrapping Christmas gifts. CCO wants to say a huge “Thank you” to our generous and thoughtful donors, who made the 2016 Holiday Season extra special. Our shelter guests gushed with gratitude. Parents enjoyed watching their children tear open gifts and felt comforted in the knowledge that they would not have to go ‘without’ this year. Each present showed that this Christmas, they were remembered. They were valued. And they were not alone.
Chicago Bear, Jimmy Staten, volunteered to play Santa this year. Thank you, Jimmy! You made every single family and child feel truly special. You brought an exciting boost to our holiday gift giving. Thank you for your time, patience, and sweet attitude!
And thank you to our very own Santa, Stewart Brown. Check back for a CCO special video featuring Stewart coming soon to CCOlife.
Thank you to all the Christmas elves who worked day and night gathering donated toys, sorting, wrapping, and organizing so that everyone felt special. Thank you to all the staff, volunteers, and CCO Board Members who helped make everything come together for the families and nearly 150 children sheltered at CCO.
Special thanks and photo credit goes to Juan Carlos Garzon. Thank you for the fabulous pictures we can all enjoy, including the families, who received copies as keepsakes of their Christmas at CCO.
Your thoughtfulness and encouragement last long after the wrapping paper is swept up and the toys are well used. It is truly a blessing to give and we are grateful to all who did!

 

The End of the Year is Here!

End-of-Year CalendarAs we say goodbye to 2016, and 2017 emerges on the horizon, let’s carry the spirit of giving into every day of our lives. Consider making an end-of-year donation that would allow CCO to continue welcoming and sheltering over 350 individuals in our family and single adult shelter programs. It’s our privilege to take in homeless fathers with children, three-generational families, single senior citizens, pregnant moms, families with teens, and other families and singles who often find it difficult to get into shelters. We believe everyone has a right to safe shelter.
Take a moment and read Shirley’s story (pictured below) and learn how one outstanding child who was sheltered at CCO with her family went from homelessness to housing and a stable future!
Please consider making a financial donation today. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible.
Shirley Featured Image

260_Plus_housed

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Happy Holiday from CCO

We hope that you have a joyous and happy holiday!

CCO staff, volunteers, and residents would like to say a huge Thank You to each one of our generous Christmas donors! The 2016 holiday season at CCO was filled with fun events, festive food, parties, and gifts for our shelter guests. We want to say a special thank you to the donors that made the season bright by donating financially, creating an event, volunteering or purchasing gifts that blessed our guests. The children, parents, and single adults, sheltered at CCO felt encouraged and remembered this year.

As you celebrate the holidays this year please remember CCO shelter guests and consider making a year-end donation. Your gift is 100% tax deductible and you will have the knowledge that you are a part of making the holidays and every day brighter for our shelter guests.

 

Leland House, Forever a Part of our Life Story

Leland_House_4656_N_Malden_Chicago_IL

“As a student at Moody Bible Institute, I thought my mandatory volunteer work at the Leland House tutoring children would be a difficult burden. I was quickly proven wrong, firstly, because I immediately fell in love with the children, and secondly, because I met my wife there.

Tutoring the children became an immense joy for me. I had never worked with children in this manner before so I was a little lost at first. Fortunately, one year I was assigned a partner: my wife-to-be. The first week she came in I was mesmerized by the way she handled the kids with love and strictness all at once. I watched her as she made funny faces and played along with the children’s ridiculous games while maintaining order in a learning atmosphere. Needless to say, I fell in love with her as we worked side by side at the Leland house and together we fell in love with the kids.

Unfortunately, after our service time at Leland House was complete my wife was hit by a car right outside of our school. Her pelvis was shattered and she was in the hospital for some time. During this time she received countless cards and flowers from friends and family but none compared to one large envelope. The big yellow envelope held dozens of crayon-scrawled, hand-written letters and pictures from all our children at the Leland House. It was in that moment that we knew we had created lifelong friends and lasting memories with the children and families through our blessed time at the Leland House. My wife and I are now happily married with an 8-month-old baby girl living in Texas and the Leland House children and experience is forever a part of our life story.

Leland House has been a subsidized housing program for families in need for over 20 years. This year ownership of Leland House was transferred to an organization that is committed to continuing affordable housing for the families housed there. CCO made this decision so that employees and resources could be focused on our homeless shelter programs, which provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and supportive services, to nearly 350 individuals and families each day. To make a financial donation to CCO click the Donate button at the top of the page. We want to say special thanks to Pegge, Carol, all the other staff, who faithfully served at Leland House. We also want to thank Barnabus Project and many other valuable organizations who worked alongside out families to make Leland House an outstanding place to live. Thank you!

Leland Computer Lab

Don’t Give Up: Shirley’s Story!

Shirley Graduates!“It was always the same, every day after school. I would make up a story to tell my friends why I was walking the other way. ‘I’ve got to go to my uncle’s house.’ I didn’t want them to know I was homeless. I was terribly ashamed of it. I never shared it with anybody, and they never knew.”

When Shirley’s family came to CCO for shelter she was 12 years old but she wasn’t new to the homeless experience. For years, she and her family had shuffled from one extended family member’s house to another. At each new destination, disputes erupted and she and her family were once again displaced, and forced to move on to the next couch, floor space, or basement. Shirley grew up with a front row seat to the destabilizing effects of homelessness.

”At CCO, I got to know the staff. They were softer, kinder, and gentler, than the adults I had been around. As a child, some of my best memories were of CCO volunteers and staff teaching me how to do crafts. It had a huge influence on me. Staff and volunteers taught me how to tie-dye. I appreciated it. It opened my eyes to art and artistic expression. I’m still a crafter today. It’s a part of who I am. While my family lived at the shelter, we also did a lot of outdoorsy stuff. I remember getting out of the city and camping, experiencing nature. It was one of the best times of my childhood.”

Shirley’s family eventually moved into an apartment and successfully left CCO, but struggles within her family intensified already-damaged relationships. “I ran away because I kept being told, ‘You won’t amount to anything.’ I knew that I had to do something that would get me where I needed to be. All my high school years, I worked up to 45 hours each week. I would get up and go to school, get out of school, and go to work until midnight or 2 am. Then, do it over and over again. I had a consistent work history but my education suffered. I didn’t have much hope. My big dream was to be the manager of a fast-food restaurant. I thought that was the best I could do.”

Desperate to break free, Shirley took a leap into the unknown. “I enlisted in the Air Force. At basic training I was asked, ‘Are you afraid of blood?’ I answered ‘No,’ so I was trained as a surgical technician. I didn’t realize then how that one question would shape my life! I decided I was going to work really hard in the military. The Air Force made me feel like I had a family. It was the first time in my life that I had the structure and support to achieve my goals. I’ll never forget the day one of the drill sergeants walked pasted me at basic training and said, ‘That Shirley Richards, she’s going to be a great airman.’ I felt like I could fly!

I was stationed in Washington D.C. I took pride in my work and in the Air Force. Years went by and my surgical technician experience and knowledge grew but I knew that ultimately I wanted a civilian life.

After leaving the military, I returned to Chicago and I was hired at a prestigious orthopedic hospital. I really wanted to shine. My work as a surgical technician was exciting and exhausting. I assisted with total joint replacements and worked 50 hours a week. I cared about the patients and my co-workers. Through my work I learned more about medical research which led to a yearning to go back to school and get a degree. So I did. I continued to work full-time and I enrolled in on-line courses.

In 2012 I got my degree in Healthcare Administration. I had been told by some of the people closest to me that I would never amount to anything, yet there I stood with my diploma in hand and I couldn’t stop crying. It was a dream come true. I had finally shown the world and myself that I could accomplish something. I never stopped trying. Today, I am a partner in a medical technologies company and I have authored a published medical research paper.

I look back at myself as a little girl trying to survive family conflict and homelessness, as a teen closing McDonald’s late at night, as a new recruit entering basic training, as a young surgical tech stepping into the OR, and as an adult student studying for an exam. I truly don’t believe I would have made it to the place I am at today without hope.

When it comes to being homeless, it’s easy to give up and fall into sorrow. Don’t give up. If you’re homeless right now, find organizations like Cornerstone Community Outreach. They will help with food, clothes, shelter, training, and housing referrals; these steps will get you where you need to go. It is not easy and I’m not trying to minimize the situation, but there is help, there is hope!”

  • Shirley Richards, as told to Beth Nicholls

Join us this Holiday Season!

Coat Angels 2016I will honor Christmas in my heart,
and try to keep it all the year.
– Charles Dickens

Join us this Christmas and make the Holiday Season truly bright for those sheltered at CCO! Consider making a financial donation that will make this time of year better for a teen, senior citizen, parent, or child, who is experiencing homelessness. You can  make a difference!