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?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thank YOU!

We hope you have a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving holiday! As you prepare for the special day please remember the families and individuals who will be celebrating the holiday at CCO. Your gifts allows us to provide safe shelter, basic necessities, and special holiday events, to the children, men, and women we welcome.


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.


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!

Team CCO at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

Congratulations Team CCO for completing the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon! The Team has trained for the big event and fund raised for the shelter guests at CCO.We’re proud of everyone who “went the distance” to help alleviate homelessness in Chicago! Volunteers at the marathon had a great time and helped make the Team CCO charity tent special!

It’s not too late to support the Team.

Go to https://www.crowdrise.com/teamcco2015. Enjoy the photo album!

Want to learn more about charitable fitness? Visit our Team CCO page.

We’ll Leave The Light On…


We’ll Leave the Light on for You

by Sandy Ramsey, CCO Executive Director

“Sometimes I work late at my desk at the shelter. I can see the security monitor that shows who comes in and out of the door in our shelter foyer. You can see the flow of the foyer lights and through the glass door, the dark of night. It makes the foyer look inviting, welcoming, secure.

I think about the people coming in and going out. An older woman with a purse and several bags rests on the step before opening the door for the walk up a flight of stairs to her bed. She has come from her job, dressed up with make-up and earrings. No one would believe she’s homeless. Health and family problems have taken their toll and now she’s temporarily with us.

A man comes in late from his job. He looks tired. No one at work knows he’s homeless. Probably not a subject he discusses around the water cooler. Instead of coming home to his own house, family, and dog, he comes home to a large noisy shelter – not exactly something that builds a man’s self-esteem. But we’re grateful he has a bed with us.

Some people make faces into the camera while they wait to be buzzed in. Did they have a good day? Do they have a sense of humor despite their situation? Or a strong faith in God to get them through their homelessness?

Noisy children tumble out of the foyer door onto the street, followed by a weary parent, taking one last trip to the store before the evening curfew. Thinking of my own children, I wonder how I would fare if I was homeless with them. How would I explain to them, how would I maintain my own sense of family among so many others under one roof? What do the children think? Are they upset about losing the housing they have? What do they face when they go to school? Serious questions, but for now they are happy and I am thankful we can provide a place for them to be with their parents.

Another woman comes in for the night. Her whole life has been plagued by abuse and poverty. Her difficult childhood led to a troubled adult life, riddled with substance abuse and bad choices. Being chronically homeless and always needy, you’d have to look a little deeper to catch her funny personality and deeper strengths. She has been through our program several times and each times comes a little bit closer to making a turn for the better. Will this be the time she goes forward without looking back?

Another man goes out to begin the evening shift at his job. Someone else leans out the door and calls out last minute good-nights to a friend. Eventually the traffic in the foyer slows down as another day in the lives of homeless people in a homeless shelter comes to a close. Tomorrow there will be another chance, more choices, more hope. We will be there and we’ll leave the light on for you.

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!