Kicks For Kids!

Back-to-SchoolKicks For Kids!

Over 150 children are sheltered with their families at CCO. Many of them leave CCO each morning and head to school. Will you consider making a generous donation that would allow us to buy a new pair of shoes for each of our school-age children? Help our kids start their school year off right!

Please donate today!

Over 10,000 Pounds of Food!

Thank you to everyone who walked for CCO at this years Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) Hunger Walk. Those who joined us for the Hunger Walk helped to create over 10,000 pounds of food from the GCFD for CCO shelter guests and food pantry patrons.

Each day over 350 men, women, and children are sheltered at CCO. The CCO dining room offers nutritious meals to all our shelter guests. Each week over 150 households visit the CCO Food Pantry to choose from healthy grocery items.

If you weren’t able to join us for the Hunger Walk you can still make a donation that will make a difference for those we shelter. Safe shelter, nutritious meals, and intensive case management services, are a critical part of the services CCO offers to the families and individuals sheltered with us. Consider donating today!

 

Devin’s Eagle Scout Project

Thank you Devin! Devin Escue has been working on a special Eagle Scout Project. Through tireless fundraising Devin has been able to purchase new toys for the CCO Rooftop Playground. The Playground Party was a huge success and the kids were able to try out new hula hoops, balls, bikes, and even a basketball hoop. Devin provided delicious treats and the moms and children had a great time. Thanks again Devin!

Fight Hunger with CCO!

Hunger Walk  2014Join us for the Greater Chicago Food Depository Hunger Walk 5k! Each year walkers at the Hunger Walk provides CCO with a food account with the Food Depository that is used to create nutritious meals for those we shelter and groceries for our food pantry patrons.

This years 5k Hunger Walk will take place on June 25 at Jackson Park in Chicago. Each walker counts! Click here to register and don’t forget to use our agency code A00393 so you’re steps count for CCO and to ensure a free registration.

We hope to see you there!

Congratulations!

Successfully Housed Family!

Congratulations! It is always a joy to see one of the families sheltered at CCO moving from homelessness to housing! Our most recently housed family is pictured here proudly displaying the keys to their new apartment.

In 2015, 42% of CCO’s total shelter population is made up of children age 17 and under. 37% of these are minors age 12 and under. Providing safe shelter and working with the families that come to CCO is a critical part of our mission.

The National Coalition for the Homeless states that the average age of a homeless person in the U.S. is 9 years old. This number challenges a lot of the typical stereotypes that people associate with homelessness in America. Children who are homeless have special needs. Stability through on-going education, proper nutrition, and development through play space, can help lessen the burden of homelessness.

At CCO, we welcome homeless families of all kinds, mothers with children, fathers with children, couples with children, and three-generational families. Case managers compassionately work to assist families with school transfers or transportation, assessments and referrals for children struggling in an emotional or academic area, and assistance with specific challenges that may arise. We are privileged to take part in the successes of our shelter families. Consider making a donation today and be a part of helping to stabilize and strengthen the families sheltered at CCO! Thank you!

Home for Heroes

Glenn Kaiser

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

Here are a few reviews:
“Glenn Kaiser…the revered Chicago bluesman…joined forces to help raise funds for the Cornerstone Community Outreach…this leads to Kaiser’s reflective side shining through but it’s all done without sacrificing the vocal power and passion that has become the singer’s trademark…Kaiser on top form…worthwhile release… 8/10.”
– Crossrhythms (Lins Honeyman)

“I had to check out something new from brother Glenn who I’ve looked up to for 35 years. He’s like a distant pastor to me and a tremendous example to follow…This whole album is like delicious organic fruit. The good stuff without the pesticides of over production and empty lyrics. And it supports a great cause as well…Looking forward to soaking my soul in all of these songs for a while…Five Stars.”
– iTunes Reviewer

Click here to listen to the title track, “Homes for Heroes” and donate and download today!

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

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!

Fred, Clara, and a Family of Six

Providing Shelter

Every week CCO shelter guests face new and unique challenges. We realize each person is different, and we try to assist each person with that in mind.

Fred just turned 84, he is a Korean War veteran who came to us without an ID or income, and he now has both, which has created a new chance to meet his next goal: permanent housing. Ray just returned from a stint in prison, so we’ll be attempting to help him get his documents, make his appointment, stay sober, get an income and eventually successfully move into housing. Kenneth is a Vietnam veteran, who was just evicted, but because of an ongoing mental illness, we are helping him by being his advocate, and supplying him with transportation and taking him to his appointments, making sure he’ll get into subsidized housing as soon as possible.

Even though there are many tear-jerking stories rising out of CCO, we cannot forget the countless stories of hope. Dawson came to us from prison and without an income, and after a year of faithfully keeping his appointments, he left us with an income and permanent housing. Tommy, a Vietnam veteran, came to us after being homeless for 30 long years; he now receives benefits and has moved into permanent supportive housing. Due to some health issues, Clara struggled to stay employed and therefore ended up homeless, she came to us, found another job and eventually moved into her own apartment a couple weeks ago.

The stories never end at CCO, on Friday a newly homeless 18 year old male entered our doors, followed by a couple with 4 young children, only to be followed by a fragile 70 year old lady, assisted by a walker. Each and every one of them is unique and needs to be assisted in different ways; whether it’s getting a job, receiving a pension, attending daycare or starting training. In a world that, at times, seems void of hope, our goal is to offer them fresh hope, an ability to move forward and let each person know how important they truly are.

Providing safe shelter, nutritious meals, and compassionate case management services is important in the lives of the families and individuals we serve. Please consider donating today!

  • Jeremy Nicholls