The End of the Year is Here!

End-of-Year CalendarAs we say goodbye to 2016, and 2017 emerges on the horizon, let’s carry the spirit of giving into every day 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 adult shelter 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.
Take a moment and read Shirley’s story (pictured below) and learn how one outstanding child who was sheltered at CCO with her family went from homelessness to housing and a stable future!
Please consider making a financial donation today. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible.
Shirley Featured Image

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Survival on the Winter Streets

Snow

Providing shelter matters. That is particularly true in the recent frigid weather. CCO staff work even harder during the colder season to make sure more people are safe and indoors. In the evenings and early mornings, helpers are out distributing blankets and mats, encouraging folks to come inside, distributing HotHands to fend off frostbite, and providing other practical help.
Join us in our efforts to see our homeless brother and sisters through this cold season. Volunteer or donate today! Thank you!

Take a moment to read what Archie had to say about trying to survive 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 can 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

Consider making a donation that will provide a safe shelter space, warm meals, clothing essentials, and supportive services, to the men and women brought in from the cold by our Outreach Workers. Thank you! 

 

Christmas for CCO Single Shelter Guests

Mens Christmas Featured Over 350 consider CCO home while they are working to establish permanent housing. It’s important that Christmas is a joy for every family and single person sheltered with us. The giving doesn’t stop with the parents and children. The residents of our single women and single men’s shelter 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.
As you celebrate the holidays this year remember CCO and consider making a holiday or year-end donation. Your gift is 100% tax deductible and you will have the knowledge that you are a part of making the holidays and every day brighter for our shelter guests. If you would like to donate new items for our Holiday party for single shelter guests please contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org. Or consider making a financial donation that will be spent to fill the greatest need. Thank you!

Don’t Give Up: Shirley’s Story!

Shirley Graduates!“It was always the same, every day after school. I would make up a story to tell my friends why I was walking the other way. ‘I’ve got to go to my uncle’s house.’ I didn’t want them to know I was homeless. I was terribly ashamed of it. I never shared it with anybody, and they never knew.”

When Shirley’s family came to CCO for shelter she was 12 years old but she wasn’t new to the homeless experience. For years, she and her family had shuffled from one extended family member’s house to another. At each new destination, disputes erupted and she and her family were once again displaced, and forced to move on to the next couch, floor space, or basement. Shirley grew up with a front row seat to the destabilizing effects of homelessness.

”At CCO, I got to know the staff. They were softer, kinder, and gentler, than the adults I had been around. As a child, some of my best memories were of CCO volunteers and staff teaching me how to do crafts. It had a huge influence on me. Staff and volunteers taught me how to tie-dye. I appreciated it. It opened my eyes to art and artistic expression. I’m still a crafter today. It’s a part of who I am. While my family lived at the shelter, we also did a lot of outdoorsy stuff. I remember getting out of the city and camping, experiencing nature. It was one of the best times of my childhood.”

Shirley’s family eventually moved into an apartment and successfully left CCO, but struggles within her family intensified already-damaged relationships. “I ran away because I kept being told, ‘You won’t amount to anything.’ I knew that I had to do something that would get me where I needed to be. All my high school years, I worked up to 45 hours each week. I would get up and go to school, get out of school, and go to work until midnight or 2 am. Then, do it over and over again. I had a consistent work history but my education suffered. I didn’t have much hope. My big dream was to be the manager of a fast-food restaurant. I thought that was the best I could do.”

Desperate to break free, Shirley took a leap into the unknown. “I enlisted in the Air Force. At basic training I was asked, ‘Are you afraid of blood?’ I answered ‘No,’ so I was trained as a surgical technician. I didn’t realize then how that one question would shape my life! I decided I was going to work really hard in the military. The Air Force made me feel like I had a family. It was the first time in my life that I had the structure and support to achieve my goals. I’ll never forget the day one of the drill sergeants walked pasted me at basic training and said, ‘That Shirley Richards, she’s going to be a great airman.’ I felt like I could fly!

I was stationed in Washington D.C. I took pride in my work and in the Air Force. Years went by and my surgical technician experience and knowledge grew but I knew that ultimately I wanted a civilian life.

After leaving the military, I returned to Chicago and I was hired at a prestigious orthopedic hospital. I really wanted to shine. My work as a surgical technician was exciting and exhausting. I assisted with total joint replacements and worked 50 hours a week. I cared about the patients and my co-workers. Through my work I learned more about medical research which led to a yearning to go back to school and get a degree. So I did. I continued to work full-time and I enrolled in on-line courses.

In 2012 I got my degree in Healthcare Administration. I had been told by some of the people closest to me that I would never amount to anything, yet there I stood with my diploma in hand and I couldn’t stop crying. It was a dream come true. I had finally shown the world and myself that I could accomplish something. I never stopped trying. Today, I am a partner in a medical technologies company and I have authored a published medical research paper.

I look back at myself as a little girl trying to survive family conflict and homelessness, as a teen closing McDonald’s late at night, as a new recruit entering basic training, as a young surgical tech stepping into the OR, and as an adult student studying for an exam. I truly don’t believe I would have made it to the place I am at today without hope.

When it comes to being homeless, it’s easy to give up and fall into sorrow. Don’t give up. If you’re homeless right now, find organizations like Cornerstone Community Outreach. They will help with food, clothes, shelter, training, and housing referrals; these steps will get you where you need to go. It is not easy and I’m not trying to minimize the situation, but there is help, there is hope!”

  • Shirley Richards, as told to Beth Nicholls

The Blessing of Sharing Food

CCOinfo graphic foodEvery Wednesday over 150 people gather in the CCO dining room to “shop” for nutritious food. Canned vegetables, meat, pasta, grains, nuts, boxed food, and more, a wide variety of groceries are offered each week and over 25% consist of nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of CCO food pantry patrons are senior citizens. The bags of groceries they take home provides the financial relief needed to pay rent, obtain important prescription medications, or other necessities, on a fixed income.

Chris Ramsey, CCO Pantry Supervisor, explained why CCO has offered groceries to neighbors for over 25 years. “We do it because we see the need. There are a lot of low-income and needy, elderly people in the Uptown area. There is a lot of food in America and hungry people who need it. The Greater Chicago Food Depository supplies us with a lot of good food and we are blessed to share it.”

In addition to having the pantry provide nutritious food, it is almost entirely run by volunteers. Mike Hertenstein, long time CCO supporter and recent pantry volunteer, had these thoughts about volunteering at the Food Pantry.

“Helping to hand out food on Wednesdays, I have been privileged to see the backstage community of volunteers at CCO. It is a richer and diverse, genuinely-organic, culture that makes everything possible there. People seem to really like each other, genuinely want to help, and have a sense that what they are doing is mutually beneficial. There is more going on than simply handing out food in these little encounters. There is a kind of a push back against all the impersonal treatment and brokenness found in many of these situations. People are extending humanity to each other. They wordlessly come together and do this thing together week after week. It’s kind of astonishing.”

Be a part of the CCO Food Pantry today by making a financial donation that will help fight hunger in Chicago! Thank you.

 

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.

 

The Coat Angels Warm Our Hearts!

(See the bottom of the page for the remainder of the photo gallery.)

The Coat Angels motto is, “For every coat we buy, a child will be warm this winter.” It’s a simple and true statement. The goal of the Coat Angels is not only to make children warm but to make them feel special. They have certainly achieved their goal and we are grateful!

With the cold weather nearly here, the Coat Angels have visited CCO once again! The Angels came through with brand new coats, jackets, gloves, scarves, and hats for the families sheltered at CCO. The children were able to choose from a variety of sizes and colors. The Coat Angels have provided essential winter wear and in doing so they have brought joy and encouragement to our families experiencing homelessness. Thank you for warming our hearts, Coat Angels!

We want to say a special thank you to Devin Escue, who took pictures of the children with their new winter gear. Devin has actively supported CCO throughout his teenage years. He has taken photographs for our Fall Frenzy, provided playground equipment through his Eagle Scout project, served meals at our Annual Veteran’s Recognition Dinner, and has baked many of the birthday cakes that are given to the children sheltered at CCO. What a guy! Thanks, Devin!

Chicago Bears Visit CCO!

Staff, volunteers, and shelter guests were privileged to welcome the Chicago Bears to CCO. The seven Bears who volunteered their time and energy, brought smiles, excitement, and joy to the families and individuals at those sheltered with us. We would like to say a huge thank you to Sam Acho, John Timu, De’Vante Bausby, Jimmy Staten, Mike Adams, Adrian Amos, and Dion Bush, who served a delicious dinner, signed autographs, and gave a word of encouragement. Thanks so much to the Chicago Bears! You’re welcome to come back anytime!

Special thanks to Sean T. McGill, who donated his time and outstanding photography skills so that all of us could enjoy such a memorable evening through his photos. View his other professional photography projects by clicking here. Thank you!

Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday Graphic

Generosity Gets Its Day!

It’s Giving Tuesday! Join us for a day of generosity and giving. Giving Tuesday follows Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It is a global event that was created as an opportunity to give generously following a weekend of shopping and consumerism. Consider giving to CCO this Giving Tuesday!

Their are a lot of ways to give…

Your financial gift will provide warm meals, a safe shelter space, and compassionate care, to the homeless families and individuals we shelter. This year we hope to raise $18,000 in on-line donations between Giving Tuesday and December 31. Consider donating today!

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 2017. Or maybe you’d like to do what you love and donate a portion of your earnings to CCO. Christmas is just around the corner. If you are interested in donating new gift items for the families and singles sheltered at CCO please contact Eve at eve@ccolife.org.

Here’s a few more

Share this post with friends and family. It’s about Giving Tuesday and explains ways to get involved at CCO.

– Take an #unselfie and share it on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. Here’s an example of one. An #unselfie is a simple way to show that you support the good things that are happening at CCO. It’s fun, free, and makes others aware of a charity your stand behind.

– Read and share one of our CCO Success Stories and encourage friends and family to support CCO through prayer, a financial gift, gently-used items, or volunteer hours.

– Share one of our Facebook or CCOlife posts and encourage others to do the same. Click here to read a post that is about hunger and the CCO food pantry or search for another one that interests you.

– Encourage others to join our charitable fitness group, Team CCO.

Share this post that talks about the huge variety of people we shelter and care for at CCO.
These are just a few ways you can show your support for CCO.
Thank you for all the ways you’ve stood behind us over the years.

Generosity Gets Its Day!