Home for Heroes

Glenn Kaiser

Glenn Kaiser and friends have put together an outstanding recording to benefit Cornerstone Community Outreach. The music will be available on February 8, 2016. 100% of donations will go to providing safe shelter, nutritious meals, and compassionate management services to the men, women, and children residing at CCO.

Click here to listen to the title track, “Homes for Heroes.”

Surviving on the Winter Streets

ccolife

Safe shelter is important. We are privileged to offer safe shelter, nutritious meals, and intensive services to each person we shelter. Our Outreach Program assists those on the streets and bring many in from the cold.
Here are some words from Archie, a friend, who lived on the streets in Chicago. This is his advice for surviving on the winter streets.

“First, you have to find a lot of blankets; at least 5 or 6, but 10 or 12 would be better. Try to keep them dry. Put on all your clothes, one layer on top of another. Find a place where the wind isn’t blowing too much, like a spot against a wall. Look for a hospital with warm air vents. And if it’s raining or snowing put some cardboard under you and get some shelter over you, like an awning or overhanging. Find some more people trying to survive, because you’ll stay warmer together. Take off your wet socks and anything else that’s wet or else you’ll freeze or get frostbite. Wrap up in all your blankets and put some over your head. You don’t worry about breathing because you’re so cold. The trick is to keep the air out.

If you get a transit pass, your best bet is to ride the train. Try to find someone else to ride with you so one of you can sleep and one of you can watch your stuff. Keep your stuff on the inside seat and sit next to it. Get off the train before the end of the line so they don’t know you’re homeless or they’ll kick you off the next time you get on. Try to go unnoticed and switch trains so you can ride all night. It sounds crazy, I know, but you can do it, even when it’s below zero outside. You can make it.”
– Archie

Team CCO & Your 2016 Fitness Plan

BACM - Team CCO 2015

Are you thinking about your health and wellness resolutions for 2016? Consider being a part of Team CCO! Are you interested in a 5K, half marathon, full marathon, obstacle course, or a family-friendly walk to fight hunger? Team CCO offers many opportunities to raise funds and awareness while improving your heath and reaching new fitness goals.

BACM - Team CCO 2015

End-of-Year Giving

Lydell

As 2015 draws to a close and 2016 emerges on the horizon, let’s carry the spirit of giving into everyday 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 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.
Click here to donate today. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible. Thank you!
Read Lydell’s story (pictured above) and learn how one outstanding father who went from homelessness to housing at CCO!

Happy Holidays From CCO!

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 2015 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. Thank you!

It’s A Wonder-Filled Life: A Letter from Our Executive Director

The “No Room at the Inn” sign does not hang here.

This CCO narrative by Sandra Ramsey first appeared in the December 2011 Newsletter.

Our holiday season opens with a homeless man appearing in our lobby whose appearance greatly resembles that of Santa Claus. He disappears before we can figure out how to help him. Is even Santa Claus falling on hard times?

The weather outside is frightful. It is erratic and severe, causing Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO) to go into emergency response mode. This means that even though our bed spaces are full, we will continue to take anyone in from the cold and find a place inside for them. The “No Room at the Inn” sign does not hang here.

Back and forth on Clifton, staff and residents alike make their way between our two buildings. No one really dashes through the snow. It’s more like plod, slosh, and stumble as the wind whips us along.

The first holiday dinner is served by one of CCO’s faithful volunteer groups. Turkey and all the trimmings are eaten, and gifts passed out. There is a Christmas concert in our dining room … beautiful music to soothe and encourage. Although visions of sugar plums probably don’t dance in the heads of the homeless, our residents begin to see that they, too, can celebrate this holiday season.

Over the past couple of nights a total of three men come out of nowhere into our warming center … are these the wise men following a star to find shelter?

Because of the weather, our aging drain pipes decide to give out in our dining room, where we serve food to hundreds of people every day. Flood water threatens our kitchen and quick plans are made with our long-suffering plumbers. Jackhammering of the dining room floor begins merely days before Christmas. The giant fake Christmas tree, middle lights out, garland askew, stands watch over the men as they work.

Meanwhile our team of elves is sorting and tagging, wrapping and bagging hundreds of toys and gifts. Will there be enough for everyone? Will the bad economy take its toll? Will our many faithful contributors and volunteers understandably hold back this year? Not here, not with our friends.

I take a few minutes to talk to a man and woman who have been sleeping on the loading dock behind the Aragon Theater. For some people there is never room at the inn. I tell them to send word to the others living on the dock to come in from the cold. We will make a space for them.

Another Christmas concert is played right on top of the plywood that covers the drain pipes in the dining room. This one features a wide range of musical acts. Our residents are treated to everything from step-dancing and blues to traditional Christmas carols. And where else could you see a Goth band perform “The Werewolf’s Christmas”? Some dance, some clap, and all eat Christmas cookies. It is a time of relaxing and rejoicing while yet another snowstorm swirls about outside.

A Christmas wreath arrives from a local agency. Two hours earlier they held a memorial service to honor the homeless who died in the last year. We display the wreath for a few days, contemplating the sadness that it represents. Then it ends up in the home of one of our former homeless friends, where it reclaims its original purpose of promoting holiday cheer.

A couple comes bearing beautiful handmade Raggedy Ann dolls for gifts. A woman donates money in gratitude for finally finding her lost sister in our single women’s program. Toys for Tots pulls up with bags bulging full of toys. Our team of elves bustles around handing gifts out to everyone. Exclamations of delight and amazement ring in our ears.

Meanwhile, back outside, we all continue to stumble over the snow which has now hardened into deep, icy ruts. A white Christmas is not all it’s cracked up to be. It becomes even more difficult for all to navigate back and forth between our buildings. We are on a side street and will be the last to get plowed. Not to worry, I get lessons from my less-fortunate brothers and sisters, who take this weather in stride and continue to cheerfully haul supplies back and forth, taking out the garbage, holding doors and helping little kids and elderly wade through the snow and ice. Images of Whoville come to my mind. They live the struggle of life every day and I am thankful that even on this tucked-away, snow-choked street, the holiday season has arrived for the homeless.

Another festive feast and then another. At the height of the severest weather a group comes through the frigid air and swirling snow to prepare and serve their traditional meal of Italian beef. I am profoundly humbled and thankful that these volunteers, who could easily call off their visit, choose to plow through and arrive with the determination of the Comcast man. And everyone enjoys another wonderful holiday meal. At the end of this night, when all is bitterly cold, what appears in my sight is not eight tiny reindeer but eight little children with Mom and Dad, being dropped off by the Chicago Department of Human Services van. Somehow their plans to be in Texas for Christmas are thwarted and they will spend Christmas with us. Not missing a beat, the elves make up bags of presents for them, drawing again from the generous donations of so many people.

Johnny, a former client in a wheelchair, is on the phone to us. He, too, slept on the loading dock before coming to CCO. Deteriorating health sent him to the hospital, but he recovered enough to be able to stay in a nursing home. Not to be overlooked at Christmas, Johnny is now calling us to please deliver “snacks” to him. Again from our plentiful donations, my husband loads up snacks and extra clothing for Johnny and a couple of other folks we know in the home. Next, some volunteers let us know that a shelter on the other side of the city is short on food. Back in the van, my husband drops off surplus food to them, because we can.

Another family arrives on our doorstep from the Department of Human Services. We take them in and help them get settled. Their teenage son suffers from autism, and the changes going on around him are very difficult for him to handle. We get word that they have a dog that helps the boy to settle. Can we house the homeless dog too? Without losing a beat the answer is, “Yes, we can.”

T’was the night before Christmas and last minute details are being worked out. Many are still stirring and someone points out an elderly man sitting alone in our lobby. Putting my innkeeper hat on again, I walk over to him and as he sits and we talk. To say that he reminds me of the peaceful Babe in the manger is really a stretch of the Christmas analogy. But completely helpless like a child is this man in utter desperation, hanging onto the walker in front of him. How long has he been here? How did he get here? Who has sent him and what can we do for him? Hardly able to talk due to pain, he states that he lives on the streets. He just wants to go to Cook County Hospital where he can get his ankle fixed and find a chair to sleep in. He fell an hour earlier out in the snow and broke his ankle. A bone was protruding and he is bleeding. Other street people referred him to CCO, and one person off the street themself, actually donated their walker to him since he is obviously worse off than they were. I can only hope I would be that unselfish. We call the ambulance and send him off, knowing that his Christmas has just been upgraded from the streets to the hospital.

All in the same holiday season the weather changes abruptly. The snow melts and it begins to rain. Up on the rooftop, drip, drip, drip. Again, no reindeer here, but a team of us join together to sweep several inches of water down a drain to slow the leaking. Miracle roofers appear and seal up enough holes to take us through the holidays.

Extra food, extra volunteers, water from beneath, water from above, drilling dust and swirling snow. The star continues to guide needy people to our doorstep, our neighbor requests prayer for his store clerk, the garbage compactor sticks, tables shift to accommodate more festive dinners and treats, bags of donated coats come in, and people shop through them. Life happens here in this harbor from the elements. Loneliness stops at these doors. The holiday celebrations of the poor and needy…good conversations, good advice, good food, good support… Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is right.

________________________________________________________

To each and every one of our many donors and supporters, the above recap of our holiday season is a small effort to try to convey to you a snapshot of what your time, effort, and finances accomplish. You bring the holiday season to our doorstep and without you, all of these stories would have had a different ending. While you were concentrating on providing gifts and food, you also were sheltering the autistic boy’s family and their dog, you provided Christmas at the last minute for the family of ten, and finally, on Christmas Eve, you helped send the man with the broken ankle to the hospital. Wonder and joy are being brought into the lives of the multitude who are crossing our threshold this holiday season. Without you, this work could not be done. I hope that you are beginning to see where your time and effort goes. Thank you so much and please visit us again when you can. Happy Holidays!

Unique Gift Giving at CCO

Merry Christmas

We have had many parents tell us that their Christmas at CCO has been the best Christmas they’ve ever had. Hearing comments like that make all the work worth it!

We have a unique approach to gift giving at CCO. Instead of giving out gifts to the children ourselves. Gifts are delivered to the parents of each family wrapped and labeled. They are then able to celebrate the holiday when and how they choose. This way, parents feel empowered and able to give gifts to their children themselves. This simple shift in gift giving has really encouraged parents, which is especially important while they are experiencing homelessness.

Of course, parents aren’t left out! Many of our generous donors shop for special items that will make parents feel cared for over the holidays. One faithful donor has purchased new, fluffy robes for each of the mothers in our Hannah House program for years! This gift is always a hit.

Our single men and single women’s shelter programs always have a Christmas party that includes gift items, practical necessities, festive food, and music. The women even have a holiday talent show with singing, dancing and prizes!

We want everyone to feel loved and cared for. This is especially important as they experience homelessness. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered time, purchased new gift items, or financially donated to make the Holiday’s bright at CCO!

If you haven’t donated and you’d like to click here. Thank you!

Willow Creek Christmas Celebration!

Willow Creek

Nearly 100 Willow Creek Church volunteers created a fun and festive Christmas celebration for the families at CCO. Some of the moms sheltered with us got manicures and gifts were brought and given to over 130 children. The group brought supplies for each of the children to put together sweet, little gingerbread houses complete with candy decorations and icing. Other activities included, cooking decorating and painting.

Another group of volunteers worked in the Free Store organizing donated items for our shelter guests and neighbors in need. The Free Store offers gently-used clothing and household items that come to CCO through out donors. Hundreds of people get their needs met through the CCO Free Store each year!

Thank you Willow Creek Church!

Letter from CCO’s Executive Director

Executive Director Sandra Ramsey

Dear Friends:
The staff, volunteers, and shelter guests at CCO would like to wish you a Happy Holiday! Without you we would not be able to offer safe shelter, nutritious meals, and many other necessary and practical services for the homeless families and singles that come through our doors.

At CCO work begins long before December to make a joyous holiday for all. You make it possible for those sheltered with us to feel cared for and remembered. Chrissy, one little girl, has asked for a play kitchen set. She will be overjoyed when she sees the pink kitchen with stove, refrigerator, and cupboard that have already arrived for her. Chrissy and nearly 150 children are sheltered at CCO with their families and we strive to make the season bright for each one of them, especially while they are homeless. Many of you have given goods or a financial gift that will help make the holiday special for our families. They can expect holiday treats, special meals, gifts, and outstanding events.

Mike, one our former clients who had been homeless for six years, is looking forward to the holidays in his new apartment. We often see him on the street in our neighborhood. We know he is now coming from or going to his new apartment. Denise, a former CCO resident, who was featured in our last newsletter, continues to work and is looking forward to putting up holiday decorations in her apartment after spending three Christmases homeless in her outdoor storage unit. On any given day, over 145 single men and women are sheltered at CCO. We don’t want anyone to be forgotten or overlooked at the holidays. Our single shelter guests will be enjoying a fabulous Christmas party with festive food, special treats, holiday music, and gifts.

In addition to our two family and two single shelter programs, we respond to the cold weather by having an Outreach Program that bring those on the streets inside. It is truly an emergency search and rescue operation on the coldest nights. The men who are part of our Outreach Program can look forward to all the goodies and additional blessings that Christmas at CCO brings.

All of these special events take place in the midst of our day-to-day efforts to help our families and singles reach permanent housing. All the referrals, advocacy, and individualized help that takes place between homelessness and housing are still happening each day.

We can easily think, “What can I do?” The needs around us can seem overwhelming. On a practical level, you can do what you have been doing all year. You can give $1, $10, $100, or $1,000. Your donation, no matter how small or large, will help our shelter guests experience a brighter holiday season and bring them closer to the housing that would be at the top of each of their Christmas lists.

Sincerely,

Sandra J. Ramsey CCO Executive Director

 

AmazonSmile

AmazonSmileLogo

Donating to CCO through AmazonSmile is easy. Follow the link to choose Cornerstone Community Outreach as your Amazon Charity and Amazon will donate a portion of your total purchase to CCO at no cost to you. Millions of Amazon items are eligible and 0.5% of your total cost goes to CCO, and there is no limit to how much Amazon will give. Click here to go to AmazonSmile and learn more or to sign-up. Happy Holiday Shopping!

Click here to view our Amazon Wish List. The list consists of many of the basic needs our shelter guests request. Partner with us in providing practical necessities to those sheltered at CCO!