Strength From Each Other

Strength From Each Other

The large brick building reads “7030” and we know we have arrived at Rochelle and Dionte’s new apartment. A nearby grassy lot dotted with bright yellow dandelions makes the corner feel open and friendly. Trees, lush with leaves, stand tall along the street and black iron fences surround each sturdy brick home and apartment building. Brittany and Amanda, the family’s CCO case managers, are especially excited to visit everyone and see their new home.

With an enthusiastic smile Dionte meets us outside and leads us up the stairs to his family’s second-floor apartment. Rochelle meets us at the door with baby Leia in her arms. Two-year-old Dionte Junior toddles over, curious to find out who has come to visit.

Rochelle and Dionte’s apartment is bright, spacious and clean. We immediately feel the warmth of a real home and the energy and liveliness that small children bring to a space. After hugs and a quick tour, we settle down in the living room to talk.

Rochelle, an attentive and affectionate mother, cradles baby Leia in her arms and talks about her work and her dreams. As she speaks she patiently puts the pacifier back in the baby’s mouth and gently plays with Leia’s tiny curls. “I appreciate Cornerstone but we needed our own place. Being homeless was filled with ups and downs. Sometimes we felt ready to give up but then we looked at our kids and knew we couldn’t give up.”

Rochelle has just completed training to be a full-time driver for a company that transports people with physical challenges. The work helps others and also gives Rochelle the opportunity to work full-time and over-time. “It will keep us housed and on our feet.”

Her true employment ambition is to study to become an ultrasound technician. “That is the next step,” she says with a smile. She recalls each of her children’s ultrasounds with pleasure and wants to be a part of bringing that joy and excitement to other expectant families. “Sharing those moments with other families would bring me joy and I would have a skilled, well-paying job that I love.”

With a friendly and tenacious personality, Dionte is pursuing a brighter future with his family’s security at the heart of his plans. Dionte, a self-described family man, has committed to his role because as a child, he lost his own father to gun violence. “My dad died when he was nineteen. He didn’t get to see me grown up. I want to see my kids grow up.”

Dionte explains how he has had the employment door slammed in his face repeatedly due to a felony in his past. “But I kept trying. I got a job at Target because I was honest about my past offense and they hired me because they could see I was a hardworking person who didn’t lie. I work the night shift and Rochelle works the day shift; that way one of us is always with the kids.” Dionte is on a waiting list for a construction work apprenticeship and he is enrolled in acting classes at Chicago’s famous Second City Acting Program. Energized and unwilling to pin all of his hopes on one occupation, he is remaining flexible and open to new opportunities.

When asked what motivated them to make it through homelessness they both speak about their children, each other, and their family as a whole. “Homelessness can be a really depressing time but we got our strength from each other. We knew we couldn’t give up,” Rochelle explains.

It was a joy to visit one of CCO’s successful, ambitious young families. They have made it through homelessness with an even deeper commitment to creating a stable future for themselves and their family.

Rochelle had this to say about her experience with homelessness, “As dark as that tunnel may seem there is always going to be light at the end.” Dionte adds, “I want to always do better for my kids. I want to provide for them and make sure they have what they need. This is not the end. I feel we have a long way to go and I think we’re going to get there.”

They certainly will. Together.

(Names have been changed)

– By Beth Nicholls

Families Experiencing Homelessness

It is our privilege to welcome families of all descriptions who are experiencing homelessness. CCO operates two shelters for families, Sylvia Family Shelter and Hannah House Shelter, both welcome families who are homeless and provide them with individualized wrap-around services. These services are a personalized approach to assisting our shelter guests in moving from homelessness to permanent housing. It includes housing referrals, subsidized databases, job training, employment referrals, educational enrollment, counseling, medical referrals, information regarding life skills, after-school tutoring, individualized advocacy, nutritious meals, safe shelter, and more. These services look different for each individual and family we shelter because each person’s experiences, strengths, and needs are different.

Consider making a donation today that will assist the families sheltered at CCO to move from homelessness to housing!

Learn more about wrap-around services here.

 

Thank you, Coat Angels!

Coat Angels Give the Gift of Warmth!

We want to say a very special thank you to the Coat Angels! The children sheltered at CCO have been blessed with the gift of warmth thanks to this fabulous group of volunteers and donors! Each year the Coat Angels visit CCO and deliver new coats, hats, gloves, and other winter wear accessories to our children. Thank you, Coat Angels!

To learn more about the Coat Angels and all the good work they do click here.

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to you! Did you know that CCO staff and volunteers bake, ice, decorate and deliver a birthday cake to each child who has a birthday while sheltered at CCO? It’s true! And mom and dad are given wrapped gifts for the birthday boy or girl. It’s a truly sweet way to encourage the kids at CCO.

We need your help! We are looking for CCO supporters who would like to purchase new cake mixes, icing, and decorations (candles, sprinkles, etc) to make sure the birthday elves are never short of supplies. If you are interested in giving in this way contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org. Thanks!

Jakil’s “Blessing Bags”

“It speaks volumes about the character of the children and I appreciate it!” said one CCO shelter guest. An exceptional 9-year-old has visited CCO for the second time to bless those experiencing homelessness. Jakil Jackson, came to CCO to give encouragement and hygiene bags to the families and single adults sheltered with us. Jakil organized his friends and family to sort, fill, and distribute the bags.

Jakil may be one of the youngest philanthropists to bless CCO. Jakil told one news source, “In a perfect world, I would buy every homeless person a house. But since I can’t do that, I will try to help as much as I can.” He certainly does. Bags are filled with everyday items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, shampoo, soap, lotion, water, shaving cream, and a crisp white t-shirt. He has encouraged us with his smile and generosity! Thank you, Jakil!

Watch a Windy City News video segment featuring Jakil distributing his “Blessing Bags” at CCO, by clicking here.

Join us this Holiday Season!

Coat Angels 2016I will honor Christmas in my heart,
and try to keep it all the year.
– Charles Dickens

Join us this Christmas and make the Holiday Season truly bright for those sheltered at CCO! Consider making a financial donation that will make this time of year better for a teen, senior citizen, parent, or child, who is experiencing homelessness. You can  make a difference!

Is CCO on Your Christmas List?

Coat Angels 2016

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
– Garrison Keillor

Over 130 children and youth are sheltered with their parents at CCO, during the holidays and all throughout the year. Our donors, volunteers, and supporters have always been a valuable part of making the season bright for each and every child.

The giving doesn’t stop with the families. The residents of our single women and single men’s shelters are no less important. Each program celebrates with a festive party that includes decorations, a delicious holiday meal and gifts. Everyone is valued and no one is left out.

Help us make the Holiday Season shine at CCO! Consider donating new toys, teen presents, or items for our single adults. Don’t like shopping? You can help by making a financial gift that will allow our Christmas volunteers to provide presents for families who arrive at CCO a day or two before Christmas. contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org if you would like to help us this Holiday Season.

 

Fall Frenzy Photo Album!

We want to say a huge thank you to all the staff, volunteers and donors who made the Fall Frenzy a fun celebration! The children and families sheltered at CCO enjoyed delicious treats, face painting, crafts, custom-made balloon creations, and dancing to their own special requests.

A group of very generous donors provided CCO children with new costumes. We owe a debt of gratitude to Francis Parker Elementary School, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, and St. Josaphat School. Together these outstanding organizations donated over 200 costumes. Families sheltered at CCO were able to shop through Ironman, Cleopatra, Hulk, Princess, and a wide variety of other options to find that special dress-up. Thank you!

CCO provides a safe space for nearly 150 children who are sheltered with their families. If you would like to help provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and  intensive supportive services to the families and individuals sheltered at CCO consider donating today. Click here to be redirected to our Donate Page.

 

New Costumes Needed!

Costumes! Calling all costumes! Our 2016 Fall Frenzy is fast approaching and we need your new or gently-used costumes. The Fall Frenzy gives CCO children an opportunity to dress-up, play, enjoy treats, crafts, and a fun dance party in the safety of the CCO dining room.

Nearly 150 children are sheltered at CCO with their families. Help them have an outstanding fall costume party by picking up an extra costume or two when you’re at the store or donating last year’s costume!

If you would like to help in this way please email Corey at corey@ccolife.org or Beth at bnicholls@ccolife.org.

CCO Back-to-School Bash 2016!

 

This year’s back-to-school bash encouraged and motivated the children sheltered at CCO with their families. We have a lot of outstanding groups and individuals to thank for such a great event. Thank you to Northeastern Illinois Alumni Association for providing backpacks to all the children at CCO. The kids were smiling from ear to ear as they walked out of the party with their newly-chosen backpack. Thank you!

Thanks to Kuumba Lynx, who once again, infused life and energy into the party. Though music and dance the youth of Kuumba Lynx entertained and uplifted everyone at the event.

Thanks to Scott from Twisticity who created balloon hats, animals, and flowers. The kids loved each creation!

Thank you to Papa John’s Pizza, who provided a deep discount on yummy pizza that the families enjoyed at the back-to-school bash!

Thanks to CircEsteem, who performed fun and amazing feats of circus fun at the party!

Thank you Shirley Richards for sharing from the heart. You motivated the children and the families alike with your personal story and words of encouragement. Thank you!

Thanks to the hard-working volunteer group from Church of the Living God in Traverse City, Michigan. We couldn’t have done it without you helping at each of the stations, applying face paint, handing out prizes, serving pizza, cake, and drinks, and helping with clean up. Thanks!

We want to say a HUGE thank you to River Street Bible Study, Phyllis Weir with the Santa Program, and an anonymous family, who fund raised for each of the children at CCO to choose a new pair of shoes. They will be stepping into the new school year with much-needed shoes. Thanks to all who helped in this way!

Last, but not least, Eve Haycock made the whole event possible. Thanks for your hard work, Eve!