Happy Thanksgiving!

CCO Thanksgiving graphic

Gratitude is the sign of a noble heart! – Aesop

All of the staff, volunteers, and shelter guests, at CCO wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! At CCO, we will celebrating the day of gratitude with turkey and all the trimmings. We have so much to be grateful for. Visit our Gratitude Tree post to see what  our shelter guests are thankful for. What are you thankful for?

Denise’s Story


“In my storage unit, I was too cold to rest. I wanted a place to lay my head down and just sleep. I’d wrap up in ten blankets, just trying to get warm.”

Denise seems to have an endless abundance of joy. She is a very petite woman in her late 50’s with bright eyes and a wide, welcoming smile that goes well with her upbeat personality. Denise’s past was filled with a solid and consistent work history. For 30 years she was employed with Illinois Bell. She began in 1979 working part-time in the mailroom and was promoted 12 times, working her way up to full-time Engineering Clerk. After taking early retirement from Illinois Bell and giving the funds to her son to pay for his college education, Denise found work as a secretary with a moving company. Eight years later that business relocated to Florida. Denise found herself unemployed and alone. Too young for social security benefits but old enough to experience age discrimination when looking for work, she didn’t know where to turn for help.

Finding a job proved difficult and she eventually lost her apartment. Denise had an outdoor storage space that measured about 10 feet by 10 feet located in an outdoor lot on the south side of Chicago. The space held all the items from the apartment she had lost and with nowhere else to turn, she moved into it. Without any heat at all and only a few flashlights for light, Denise said she prayed, read her Bible, and cried a river in that storage unit. Keeping clean was a real challenge and when she tried to wash up in local public bathrooms she endured looks and comments from people who seemed to fear or despise her. Her former life was utterly lost.

For three years and throughout notoriously harsh Chicago winters, Denise stayed in her storage unit. To escape the cold, she would often ride the Chicago Public Transit system. “I was so tired of riding the buses. So tired… but when I rode the buses no one ever robbed me. An angel must have been sitting beside me.” Throughout these years Denise kept her difficult circumstances hidden from her son who lived out of state.

This sweet, hard-working woman had been forced so far out on the margins that she couldn’t find her way back. This past January, in the deadly cold, Denise arrived at Cornerstone. Three years of surviving alone would lead us to believe that Denise would find living with the 74 other women sheltered at Naomi House nearly impossible. Not so! Denise soon began to encourage homeless women younger than her, giving words of wisdom, and helping to defuse tense situations.

During her time at the shelter, Denise felt that God told her, “I’m giving you the rope but it’s up to you to grab ahold and pull yourself up.” And she did just that. During her stay at CCO Denise got security guard training, earned her PERC (Permanent Employment Registration Card) card, and got full-time work as a security guard. Of Naomi House staff Denise says, “They really supported me. The case managers got to know me and took time with me. I felt that they respected me.”

For the last 8 months Denise has been working full-time as a security officer for a domestic violence shelter that serves women with children. She enjoys her work immensely. The day Denise moved into her apartment she shouted, “Lord, You have been too good to me!” and then sat down and cried tears of gratitude. We rejoice with Denise!
Denise’s story reflects a trend of age-related employment discrimination. Regardless of her impeccable work history and experience Denise struggled to find a job. The turning point in Denise’s story is when she arrived at CCO and began to climb out of the day-to-day survival situation she had sunk into. We have been blessed by her stay and applaud the employer that saw what we see in Denise – a lovely, enthusiastic, hard-working woman who simply needed a job.

– Denise Hardy, as told to Beth Nicholls

If you are a donor then you helped to provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and intensive case management services to Denise and other CCO residents like her. Please consider giving again financially today. If you have not made a donation to CCO consider giving a gift that will help someone move from homelessness to permanent housing. Thank you!


One Week until Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday Graphic

Generosity Gets Its Day!

Tuesday, December 1st, Giving Tuesday, is one week away. Join us for a day of generosity and giving. Giving Tuesday follows Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It was created as an opportunity to give to those who have less following a weekend of consumption. Consider giving to CCO this Giving Tuesday!

Your financial gift will provide warm meals, a safe shelter space, and compassionate care, to the homeless families and individuals we shelter. Your volunteer hours will go a long way in serving our shelter guests. Consider being a part of Team CCO, our charitable fitness team in 2016. Or maybe you’d like to do what you love and donate a portion of your earnings to CCO.

Consider giving in some way on Giving Tuesday. Generosity Gets Its Day!

Sweet Fundraiser


Seven year-old, Parker Graning, couldn’t believe some children are homeless and he decided to help. He worked with friends and family to set-up a hot chocolate stand that raised $1,000 for the children sheltered at CCO.

It was a pleasant surprise the day Parker came to the shelter to deliver the money he had raised selling apple cider and hot chocolate. The friendly fundraiser was promoted by everyone who participated and the final earnings were “matched” to create the $1,000 donation. Thank you Parker and your generous friends and family!

We are really grateful and encouraged by Parker’s desire to help children at CCO who are homeless. We shelter nearly 150 children with their parents, at any given time. We are privileged to work alongside the families who come through our doors to find permanent housing. While families are sheltered with us, we are grateful to offer tutoring and after-school assistance through Chicago Hopes for Kids.

IMG_0407 - Copy

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week


This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The National Coalition for the Homeless created the week to help break down the myths and misinformation surrounding hunger and homelessness in America. Visit our Facebook page to see daily posts that focus on legislation and information about poverty in America and find out what you can do to help.


Veteran Recognition Dinner

A delicious dinner and a good time was had by all at this years 2015 CCO Veteran Recognition Dinner. CCO shelter guests enjoyed a baked chicken dinner with lots of extras. We are grateful all our cooks and volunteers who helped make the evening special for everyone at CCO.

If has been our privilege to provide shelter for U.S. Military Veterans. Take a moment to read Tommy’s story. Tommy is a Vietnam veteran who shared his story of finding housing after living on the streets of Chicago for decades.

Handmade Blankets!

Sweet Blanket Donation!

One outstanding CCO donor has been sewing soft, cute blankets for the infants and toddlers in our family shelter programs. Parents have been encouraged by such a practical yet encouraging gift and the babies love them! It’s another example of people doing what they love and doing good!

Each blanket has a colorful note card attached to it saying,”Dear Mother, This is a Prayer Blanket because while I was sewing it I prayed for you, your baby and family in that God would bless you everyday.”

Nearly 150 children under the age of 18 are sheltered with their families at CCO. Help us continue to provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and compassionate case management services, to everyone who comes through our doors. Consider donating new or gently-used items or making a monetary donation today. Thank you!

Tommy’s Story…

Maked and using for LenSlider 462d096575 banner. Dont delete from media library.

Tommy is an extremely unassuming and polite man! He is drug-free, alcohol-free and felony-free. He doesn’t want to bother anyone. He’s happy to quietly sit and I’ve never heard him complain! (I’m complaining for him) He just lives “day-by-day”, accepting his “homeless fate”. When he wandered into Cornerstone, he didn’t come yelling or demanding answers, he was just expecting CCO to be part of his journey, he was expecting CCO to be just another place to lay his weary bones! But, we had other plans, so we drew this information out of him…..

Click here to read Tommy’s story of hope in the midst of U.S. Veteran homelessness.

The 2015 Fall Frenzy!

A good time was had by all at the 2015 CCO Fall Frenzy! Each children sheltered at CCO chose from a selection of new or gently-used donated costumes. The Fall Frenzy featured treats, games, art projects, face painting, and more. Our dedicated volunteers worked to make the event fun and special. Take a minute to look at the princesses, pirates, tigers, and other awesome characters in our photo album below. Enjoy!

We want to say a special thank you to Francis W. Parker School and the Lincoln Park Zoo who provided new costumes and sweet treats for the children sheltered at CCO! The Carolyn Taylor, Cambaris family, and many other donors contributed candy and costumes, as well. Northwestern University Public Interest Program worked hard to set up, clean up and provide a lot of party fun for the children. Without the assistance of each of our donors and volunteers the special parties for our shelter guests would not be possible. Thank you!

Do you wish you had been able to contribute to the Fall Frenzy? We hold events for our shelter guests all the time! If you are interested in donating items that can be used for our Veterans Recognition Dinner or Christmas gift give-away contact us at info@ccolife.org. Do you want to volunteer? If so, click here. Thank you!

*Thanks to Devin Escue and Colleen Davick for taking all of the Fall Frenzy pictures  featured below.


Thank You Francis W Parker School!

Fall Frenzy 2015

The Fall Frenzy is nearly here and we want to say a HUGE thank you to Francis W. Parker School for hosting a costume drive for the children sheltered at CCO! Their efforts brought in over 100 new or like new costumes for our special event. The families at CCO are truly grateful!

At our annual Fall Frenzy families sheltered at CCO enjoy treats, games, music, prizes and a dance party! Our fabulous volunteers and donors work hard to make this event special. Thank you to everyone who has made this event outstanding!

If you’re interested in donating new, individually wrapped candy or treats for the Fall Frenzy please email Eve at eve@ccolife.org today! Thank you!