Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day 2014Every day at CCO, we are privileged to see mothers persevering against the odds, diligently working to secure housing and moving closer to a better life for their families.

On this special holiday, please consider making a financial donation that will help moms and their families get one step closer to a stable home. Join us as we provide safe shelter, nutritious meals and critical case management services to over 65 mothers living on our programs. Thank you!



SamanthaWIC, provides healthy-food vouchers, nutrition education and breastfeeding support to roughly 9 million poor American women and their children. Many of our homeless families receive nutritious food and baby formula from this valuable program. The WIC program will no longer be providing this essential service by the end of the week due to the shutdown of the Federal Government. CCO will try to bridge huge gap that the loss of this program will create.

Consider donating today. Click on the ‘Donate’ button on the right. Thank you!

Everybody Loves Stewart!

The Brown Family

Stewart with his mother, Denise and one of his three sisters.

“I was on the street, drug addicted, and up to no good,” Denise remembers. “And my son, Stewart, hunted for me until he found me. He got tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘Mama, you have to come home. We need you.'”

Denise shakes her head. “I told him I couldn’t come home. “I’m no good to you, Stewart. I’m no good to anyone.”

Stewart simply looked at her with tears running down his cheeks. “Mama,” he said. “We love you. We need you. All of us need you. You have to come home, Mama. You have to. We can work it out.” Something in his voice broke through the despair she felt about her life. And she went with him.

Since that day, Denise has moved away from drugs and the street, and has become a consistent, mature, and loving mother. In late February of 2003, Denise and her three children moved into the Sylvia Center, then a year later moved to our Leland House Permanent Housing Program.

Stewart has a specialness to him that only took us a few minutes to discover. He is developmentally challenged, yet has an amazing emotional maturity. He is also someone who lights up a room just by entering it.

People who haven’t met Stewart can’t stop smiling when they finally do; the phrase “Everybody love Stewart” is the only way to describe the effect he has on both staff and shelter guests.

One staffer recalls, “Stewart came over to me one June morning with something in his hands. He held out a gold and a bronze medal he had won running at the Special Olympics in Bloomington, Illinois.”

Though Stewart has an enlarged heart, preventing him from playing football, it doesn’t stop him from giving his best when he runs.

And that same energy shows up elsewhere. Stewart is bright, friendly, and outgoing. He wants first of all to know, “How are you feeling?” When he is not asking that, he’s got a sharp eye out for anyone lifting any heavy object. His first question as soon as he spots them, “Can I help?”

Stewart now has a part-time job. But in his off hours his favorite thing is to hangout with Chris Ramsey, Site Manager of CCO.

Chris and Stewart both love baseball, and when the Cubs began giving CCO the leftover vendor meals from Wrigley Field, it became their mutual mission to leap into the old ’94 Dodge Ram van and “go get those Cubbie dogs!” As they pull up to the shelter Stewart hangs out the window, “Hey, man, you want some hotdogs?” Stewart calls from the van. “These are from the Cubs game!”

Stewart’s mother, Denise, sums him up best. “I have medicine I take everyday. And sometimes I forget. But Stewart is always there, asking me how I’m doing, asking me if I remember today to take it.” He seems, she ponders, to think always of her needs.

Maybe that why we all love Stewart… because he’s so good at loving others.

– written by Chris and Sandy Ramsey, December 2004

Mama’s Voice

Poem Photograph
Mama’s voice like a thick red ribbon
s t r e t c h e s across the room
and i pretend not to hear
choking on my laughter
my naked feet beat out bare percussion
on the tile
surrounded by the faint applause of beads
jumping and falling
arranged as balanced as a christmas tree
racing and running to nowhere
pursued by nothing but the dull tickle of
and once again i hear the call
like the full sure ring of a church bell
cautiously i approach
as humble as an unsuccessful beggar
with most of the hilarity locked deep in my closet
mama she’s movin’ like a woman with too much
heavy change in her pockets
pickin’ up the baby
wrapped up tight
so he won’t get away
-Beth Wagler-Nicholls