Letter from the Executive Director

Executive Director Sandra Ramsey

Dear Friends:

Another year has flown by and the staff at Cornerstone have had a front row seat to so many victories and successes! We get to witness the relief on people’s faces when they finally secure keys to their home once again, or for some, for the first time ever. We experience firsthand the joy of someone getting a job because they know that is a major step in securing their housing. Being able to secure birth certificates and IDs helps each person feel like they exist and are important in this world.

We witness the strength and tenacity of our residents time and time again and wonder how we would do if we were experiencing homelessness ourselves. We look forward to this year of 2017 with even higher hopes and greater anticipation of the many families and individuals we will meet, hearing their stories, and helping them move forward with their goals.

Our mission at CCO is to help people recover from the hardships of homelessness with dignity while helping them restore their God-given worth and self-esteem.

Sincerely,

Sandra Ramsey

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.

 

46th Ward Award for Best Non-Profit!

46 Ward Awards

CCO would like to say a huge “Thank You!” to everyone who voted for us to receive the 2015 46th Ward Award for Best Non-Profit. CCO received the award, presented by Alderman James Cappellman, earlier this week at the Uptown Underground.

Andrew Winter, CCO’s Chief Financial Officer was there to accept the award and say thank you on behalf of Cornerstone. Here is a copy of Andrew’s speech:

On behalf of Cornerstone Community Outreach, Sandy Ramsey our Executive Director, and all the staff who diligently work to make Cornerstone great, I’d like to thank the residents of our ward for choosing Cornerstone Community Outreach as Best Non-Profit. With your support, homeless families and individuals are receiving quality care and interim housing, and getting permanently housed. Someone who is homeless is in a very complicated time of their life, and we hope to understand each persons needs and meet them accordingly.I’d also like to thank all the non-profits and organizations, that collaborate in our ward and throughout the city, to meet the needs of those seeking assistance in our ward. Thank you, Chicago Department of Family Support Services for your work in coordinating these efforts, and also to Alderman Cappellman. If you would like to know more about Cornerstone, or make a wonderful donation, please feel free to talk to me!

Again, thank you very much!

 

20 Below Wind Chills – CCO’s Response

CCO Warming Center

“King” escaping deadly cold and welcomed into CCO Warming Center.

CCO’s Extreme Cold Search & Rescue

“Thank you for bringing me in. If you hadn’t, I think my hands would have gotten frostbite.”

-“King”
The cold weather is inconvenient for us all but for homeless people, especially those living outside, it can be deadly. Each winter CCO responds to the cold weather by welcoming our friends on the street into a warm, dry space. Sandy Ramsey, CCO Executive Director, and Jeremy Nicholls, CCO Outreach Worker, searches the local viaducts, loading docks, and under passes to bring in those living outside in dangerous weather. Many are rescued from the frigid conditions by these late night search and rescue operations.

CCO Outreach

CCO Outreach Working encouraging someone to come in from the cold.

CCO Outreach

CCO Outreach Worker asking someone to come into the Warming Center.

CCO Outreach

One of several people who came into the Warming Center at CCO during the deadly cold.

Evening runs are a part of CCO life. Click here to read about Driving Through the Blowing Snow.

Enjoying Christmas Dinner at CCO!

Christmas Dinner - Post

CCO staff member, Chris Ramsey, shared a delicious Christmas dinner in the CCO dining room with Tom, a long-time friend and neighbor. The kitchen lovingly prepared ham, sweet potatoes, beans, and cranberry sauce. Tom has been a part of CCO’s Dinner Guest and Food Pantry program for years.

Homeless to Housed : Elizabeth’s Story

 

I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.”  I said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!”

I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.” I said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!”

Homelessness does not discriminate between genders, ages, ethnicities, levels of education, or other demographics. At CCO, it has been our privilege to shelter newborns with their families, elderly persons, people with developmental disabilities, those with master’s degrees, adults who have worked full-time their entire lives and some with no work history at all. Anyone can become homeless.
Elizabeth’s story challenges the norms of who we believe can become homeless in America. It breaks down the fences that divide the “haves” and the “have nots”.
“My father was a very hardworking man. He owned a construction company and he instilled a strong work ethic in me. Growing up I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have what we needed.
After getting my master’s degree in finance, I worked full-time as a financial advisor in the Loop. My husband, Doug, was a stock analyst who worked at the Chicago Board of Trade. I have memories of being downtown at work and homeless people would ask me for change. I wasn’t thinking about the person in front of me. I was thinking about what I was going to have for lunch, who was going to pick-up the dry cleaning, and when I had to be at my next meeting.
I had always lived in the Chicago suburbs. My husband and I had a beautiful home with our sweet daughter. We often had barbeques with neighbors. That’s the sort of life we lived.
After 15 years of building our lives together and of living the American Dream, my husband Doug suddenly and tragically lost his life. We had had a good marriage. We had higher education and great jobs. I couldn’t have stopped what happened to Doug, but for some reason I blamed myself. The loss was unbelievable and shocking. I felt a part of me died with him.
At the funeral someone gave me a drink and I remember feeling numb. That’s what I wanted to feel. Heavy with grief, I just wanted to feel nothing at all.
I quickly became a functioning alcoholic. These were very dark times. I remember going to an AA meeting. A woman was talking about her husband. She said that he was dying and she was so depressed she couldn’t stop drinking. Her story spoke to me and that’s when I realized I needed help. She’s my sponsor to this day and we are very close. I also got intensive residential treatment. It was unbelievably hard physically and emotionally, but I stuck with it. The 12 steps are an important part of my life. People say it’s about making amends and forgiving others, but I think it’s mostly about forgiving yourself.
In 2008, the recession hit and my company lost 30% of our clients. In 2009, the company closed. I was unemployed and the money was running out. I sold my house and moved to Chicago. I wanted to make sure that my daughter had money for her education. That was very important to me. My unemployment eventually ran out and I began to sell everything I had in storage: furniture, household items, everything.
I was frantically looking for work all over the city. Employers kept saying, “You’re overqualified. We can’t pay you what you’re worth.” I just wanted to work. I believe part of the problem was my age. I just kept being rejected and turned away. And I didn’t have anything left to sell and I became homeless.
I found shelter at CCO’s Naomi House program for single women. The staff made me feel welcome and showed me around, but those first few days and nights were tough. I couldn’t believe I was in a shelter. I felt like the biggest failure. I had gone from full-time employment with a home in the suburbs to homelessness. I had never been homeless before. I was scared and I just wanted to hide but I couldn’t. I started to send out 50 resumes a day. I used every computer I could get my hands on.
I was working hard to keep my hopes up and attending AA meetings. CCO has a Free Store where residents and neighbors can “shop” for necessary clothes and household items. One day I was searching the Free Store for cold weather clothes and I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.” I ran downstairs to the Naomi House office and showed it to staff and said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!” Everyone believed me and we had a good laugh!
Soon after that, Sandy Ramsey, CCO’s Executive Director, called me into her office. I couldn’t figure out what I was getting in trouble for. Instead of getting in trouble she offered me an employment position at CCO. I was so surprised!
Now, I am working in the Naomi House program that I had lived in myself. I work as an evening and night staff person. Women living in Naomi House have a lot of needs. When I’m at work, I feel like I’m a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a referee, an officer, a financial advisor, you name it!
I really feel like CCO saved my life. Not just because I got shelter when I was homeless, but because I was given hope, purpose, and employment, too.”
-Elizabeth Hartline, as told to Beth Nicholls

Our Executive Director

Together Mosaic

CCO has a long history of women in leadership. Sandy Ramsey has led our organization for nearly 30 years. Recently, Sandy captured the philosophy and hope that CCO tries to bring to all its programs and services.
“We assist people and work with them as they recover from the hardships of homelessness while helping them restore their God given-worth and self-esteem.”

Restoration at CCO

CBRE & Rebuilding Together

Mary Davenport, CCO Case work Supervisor, writes beautifully about the restoration efforts of two very special volunteer groups, CBRE and Rebuilding Together. She expresses the impact their efforts had on our shelter residents and herself. Take a moment to read this interesting peek into CCO life…

     Today 200+ volunteers came and brought much needed visual hope to my shelter. Fresh paint gives people a new reason not to mark on the walls. 2 new hang out spaces give our kids a place, other than the one room they share with their family, to just be. New flowers tell our neighborhood that we care enough to make the outside welcoming to the eye. A redone play area gives our kids fun in the summer. 200+ people came and worked hard to show our residents that they are valuable. Each volunteer was excited to help. Each and everyone one of them gave me new excitement and reminding me that others care too. The volunteers don’t have any personal stake in the day to day lives of our shelter residents. They will probably never see any of them again. They didn’t get to witness the very first kid come home from school and light up with excitement at the new space filled with books and brightly colored walls made especially for him. I will see the kids use those spaces. I will hear the residents say how much better it looks. I will bare witness to the benefits of the hard work done by others. This is where my restoration came from today.

     While all of this was happening, I got a phone call from a former resident. Her husband has become addicted to heroin. She finally had to leave him and take their young child to a safe place. She’s almost broke and family can only help so much. She called to see if we had shelter space for her family and to be encouraged. As we spoke, I said what I always say, “Put your child first and it will be alright”. They are such simple words to me. I say them so often I feel like I’m on auto pilot. She broke down on the phone. She felt so guilty that she had walked away from her husband to save her son. The words reminded her of what she already knew, the most right thing is to always put her child first.

     As my day came to a close I was leaving my office. I saw a brand new resident and introduce myself. We started to chat and he laid it all out. He’s scared. He doesn’t know how he even ended up here with his only child. I could see the fear in his eyes and I could hear it in his voice. He kept saying, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful or seem too good to be here.” He told me he didn’t want his son to stay at the shelter. His child’s mother is new to sobriety and he is considering letting his son return to living with her full time. He wants to keep his son with him. He wanted me to tell him what the right thing to do is. I heard the words coming out of my mouth again. “Put your child first and it will be alright”. He lost it. I could see the worry leave him. Visually he seemed lighter. Those words didn’t change his situation. They simply reminded him of what he already knew, the most right thing is to always put his child first. This is where my restoration came from today.

– Mary Davenport, Sylvia Center Program Director

A Letter From The Director

CCO logo Dear Friend,

This past year, 2013, has been filled with many adventures. Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO) has been privileged to walk with many families and individuals as they pass through a very difficult time in their life. By the time they reach our doorstep, the majority of our shelter guests have lost everything. Unfortunately, some have suffered more loss than you and I can imagine and homelessness is just one more thing on their plate.

We are committed to partnering with our shelter guests through this time by assisting them in stabilizing their finances, housing, and ultimately their lives. It has been an honor to help those who come through our doors. It is an experience that we would not trade and we look forward to another year of serving those who are less fortunate.

Our mission at CCO is to help people recover from the hardships of homelessness with dignity while helping them restore their God-given worth and self-esteem.

In 2013, over 170 people moved into permanent housing from one of CCO’s shelter programs or through street outreach. It is always a joy to see former residents proudly showing off their new apartment keys!

Every donation helps bring our homeless families and individuals one step closer to stability and permanent housing. Will you consider donating today?

– Sandra Ramsey

Executive Director, Cornerstone Community Outreach

“Addressing Homelessness, Providing Shelter, Accepting People,

FINDING HOME.”