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

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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

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“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!

Is CCO on Your Christmas List?

Coat Angels 2016

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
– Garrison Keillor

Over 130 children and youth are sheltered with their parents at CCO, during the holidays and all throughout the year. Our donors, volunteers, and supporters have always been a valuable part of making the season bright for each and every child.

The giving doesn’t stop with the families. The residents of our single women and single men’s shelters are no less important. Each program celebrates with a festive party that includes decorations, a delicious holiday meal and gifts. Everyone is valued and no one is left out.

Help us make the Holiday Season shine at CCO! Consider donating new toys, teen presents, or items for our single adults. Don’t like shopping? You can help by making a financial gift that will allow our Christmas volunteers to provide presents for families who arrive at CCO a day or two before Christmas. contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org if you would like to help us this Holiday Season.

 

The Coat Angels Warm Our Hearts!

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The Coat Angels motto is, “For every coat we buy, a child will be warm this winter.” It’s a simple and true statement. The goal of the Coat Angels is not only to make children warm but to make them feel special. They have certainly achieved their goal and we are grateful!

With the cold weather nearly here, the Coat Angels have visited CCO once again! The Angels came through with brand new coats, jackets, gloves, scarves, and hats for the families sheltered at CCO. The children were able to choose from a variety of sizes and colors. The Coat Angels have provided essential winter wear and in doing so they have brought joy and encouragement to our families experiencing homelessness. Thank you for warming our hearts, Coat Angels!

We want to say a special thank you to Devin Escue, who took pictures of the children with their new winter gear. Devin has actively supported CCO throughout his teenage years. He has taken photographs for our Fall Frenzy, provided playground equipment through his Eagle Scout project, served meals at our Annual Veteran’s Recognition Dinner, and has baked many of the birthday cakes that are given to the children sheltered at CCO. What a guy! Thanks, Devin!

Fall Frenzy Photo Album!

We want to say a huge thank you to all the staff, volunteers and donors who made the Fall Frenzy a fun celebration! The children and families sheltered at CCO enjoyed delicious treats, face painting, crafts, custom-made balloon creations, and dancing to their own special requests.

A group of very generous donors provided CCO children with new costumes. We owe a debt of gratitude to Francis Parker Elementary School, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, and St. Josaphat School. Together these outstanding organizations donated over 200 costumes. Families sheltered at CCO were able to shop through Ironman, Cleopatra, Hulk, Princess, and a wide variety of other options to find that special dress-up. Thank you!

CCO provides a safe space for nearly 150 children who are sheltered with their families. If you would like to help provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and  intensive supportive services to the families and individuals sheltered at CCO consider donating today. Click here to be redirected to our Donate Page.

 

New Costumes Needed!

Costumes! Calling all costumes! Our 2016 Fall Frenzy is fast approaching and we need your new or gently-used costumes. The Fall Frenzy gives CCO children an opportunity to dress-up, play, enjoy treats, crafts, and a fun dance party in the safety of the CCO dining room.

Nearly 150 children are sheltered at CCO with their families. Help them have an outstanding fall costume party by picking up an extra costume or two when you’re at the store or donating last year’s costume!

If you would like to help in this way please email Corey at corey@ccolife.org or Beth at bnicholls@ccolife.org.

2016 Marathon Album! Get Inspired!

Commitment, motivation, and inspiration are just a few of the words that describe  Team CCO at this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon! Every member of the team “wowed” us with their commitment to crossing the finish line. They motivated us to support homeless services and inspired us to give! We want to extend our deepest thanks to each member of the team who endured 26.2 miles to help families and individuals who are sheltered at CCO. Every step you took brought someone closer to permanent housing.  You have truly inspired us!

We also want to thank the support team who cheered everyone on at the Charity Block Tent. Your encouragement kept the team on the road to the finish line!

Are you inspired? Registration for the 2017 Chicago Marathon is open from October 25 – November 29, 2016. Contact Andrew at teamcco@ccolife.org or visit the Team CCO page to request more information. Not a runner? It’s not too late to give to the team that supports those sheltered at CCO. Visit the Team CCO CrowdRise page by clicking here.

Click the album below to view the Team CCO 2016 Marathon photo album.