Your 2023 Annual Report!

“Cornerstone gave me the chance I needed. It was so hard to find a decent job
when I was sleeping in my car every night.
I had no place to wash up, no rest, nothing to eat.
I couldn’t get past the first interview. 
Thank you for everything!
You helped me get my life back!”
– Former CCO Guest

Your support has paved the way for many CCO success stories! The 2023 CCO Annual Report offers information about the good things that have happened at CCO in the lives of shelter guests. We thank you for ensuring shelter residents access shelter beds, enjoy nourishing meals, and get individualized professional care leading to housing.

Your donation will guarantee stabilizing opportunities and housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Click Here to Donate Today!

Wrap-Around Services Fight Poverty!

Wrap-around services are a daily extension of the care shelter guests experience at CCO. Most shelter guests arrive with no income, support, and limited resources. Once guests enter CCO, immediate needs are met, such as meals, clothing, bedding, and hygiene items.

However, CCO’s wrap-around services go far beyond the immediate needs of families and individuals. The support needed for success is different for each person. A young mother with two children will have different needs than a senior with a chronic health condition. Case managers work alongside guests to create an individualized plan to link shelter guests with practical assistance that brings income, health, and housing stability.

Cornerstone needs your financial support to continue to provide services and shelter. Click here to donate today and make a difference in the lives of families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Non-Congregate Shelter for Families

DONATE NOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

Imagine the benefits of a non-congregate shelter for families experiencing homelessness! Picture a welcoming shelter space offering families individual hotel-style rooms with a toilet, sink, and shower in each room. The Non-congregate model shelter affords moms, dads, and kids greater privacy, dignity, and wellness.

Studies show that more families move from homelessness to permanent housing from non-congregate shelters, but the benefits start long before families move into their new homes. The following are just a few scenarios. Parents with teens would have a chance to retreat into a private space to nurture their relationships with each other. Also, families with members who have special needs or disabilities would have better health and emotional balance. It is not uncommon for a parent to bring a newborn into the shelter, an individual room would produce healing, rest, and recovery for a mother and newborn, reducing physical and emotional exhaustion.

Shelter guests will still have ready access to their case managers and other CCO staff. Research shows that guests in non-congregate shelters have a higher rate of staff engagement. Families benefit when parents access assistance and get help to stabilize their future.

Cornerstone endeavors to provide the very best shelter experience to vulnerable families experiencing homelessness. Over the years, all of Cornerstone’s shelter spaces have had construction renovations and upgrades. As a result, some shelter programs have semi-non-congregate rooms, offering families private rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

Through your ongoing support, Cornerstone will continue to welcome families of all sizes and descriptions into safe shelter spaces with wrap-around services. We believe everyone can benefit from non-congregate shelter units, and Cornerstone hopes to make this advantageous shelter model a reality.

Together, we can provide and improve shelter facilities for families experiencing homelessness!
Click here to donate today.

2023 Christmas Photo Album

Smiles and laughter abound! The Holiday Season was filled with hope and joy at CCO! All Cornerstone shelter guests were remembered thanks to our outstanding donors, volunteers, and staff. Many thanks to everyone who made the season bright for children and adults experiencing homelessness! It’s a joy to see the celebration and fun flow over into 2024!

Photo Credit and Many Thanks to Nathan Cameron.

Cornerstone Helped Me

“To live under a dictator is like slavery. There is no justice. There is no peace. It is not a free country.” Over fifty years of living under a Congolese dictatorship was long enough for Ildevert Mboungou. In the Congo, Ildevert worked as a chef for the employees of a major oil company. The authorities found out that he was a supporter of the Democratic party, and the dictatorship that ruled and mistreated the Congolese people for decades took revenge. Ildevert had to leave his employment, home, and all he knew. He escaped his homeland and fled to America.

“I flew directly to Chicago. I did not know anyone. I was alone and deeply sad. I was living near the El train station. A man approached me and spoke my language. He told me he knew where I could get help and brought me to CCO. I do not know who he was.”

Homeless shelters do not exist in the Congo, and Ildevert was unaware that help was available or how to find it. This kind stranger took him from being isolated and living outside to CCO where he could find a sense of community, support, and help for the future.

“I came to CCO with only a plastic bag that held my Bible, documents, passport, and coat. That is all I had, but I was happy to find shelter. I met Franke, Andre, and Jeremy, and they made me feel welcome. I could have meals, clothing, showers, and a bed. I am no longer alone and outside. Coming to the shelter was extraordinary.”

During Ildevert’s stay, he worked closely with his case manager to access an ESL course at Truman College and certificate training in Food Service through a local non-profit. He became an active volunteer at the Kolver Center for survivors of politically sanctioned torture. CCO staff rejoiced with Ildevert when he received his political asylum certificate. Ildevert was reunited with his family when they came to Chicago, and they found a home. It has been a joy to see great things in Ildevert’s life.

  • Ildevert Mboungou, as told to Beth Nicholls and translated by Franke Moukiama

A Happy Holiday for Everyone

“Christmas isn’t just a day; it’s a frame of mind.” -Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas is for everyone! Cornerstone works hard each Holiday to celebrate and remember every shelter guest. Join us in making this time of year memorable for children, parents, and single adults experiencing homelessness.

We’re looking for volunteers to work in Santa’s workshop sorting, wrapping, and labeling Christmas gifts. Most people arrive at Cornerstone with little more than a backpack or duffle bag. We hope you will help us spread Christmas cheer through gift-giving. You can shop and donate gifts through the Cornerstone Wishlist. Or make a financial donation to ensure people coming to Cornerstone right before Christmas get gifts, too. Please use the QR codes below to get involved!


Sponsors, Donors & Volunteers

The CCO staff and families would like to thank the incredible sponsors, donors, and volunteers who made this year’s Back-to-School Party a hit! We called, and you answered! School-aged children at CCO can step into the new school year with confidence! Many thanks!

We are so grateful to the following…

Chicagoland Women in Roofing who donated $1,000.

Roofing Contractors Association who donated $2,000.

Roofivent bought school supplies worth $500.

Baird and Warner collection backpacks, shoes, and school supplies.

Vive Church Chicago donated loads of new shoes.

Tiny Giants Early Learning Center collected backpacks, shoes, and school supplies.

Emmanuel Anglican Church donated school supplies.

Last but not least, thank you to all the volunteers who helped prepare donated items and who helped out on the party day. Many Thanks!

Magical Moments in CCO’s Rooftop Garden

“A few months ago, as I walked onto the Cornerstone (CCO) rooftop garden, I could hear beautiful music. One of our shelter guests, a mom with five children, was practicing her saxophone for church on Sunday. What an unexpected gift to hear her music flowing out from among the herbs, flowers, and veggies! It felt almost magical. She and her children came to CCO because her husband was deported, which meant that the kids lost their dad, and she lost her husband, along with the majority of their income and their home. She and her children were so involved in the garden. It’s been fabulous watching families make the garden their own and care for it too.”

– Laura Thiessen, CCO rooftop gardener

The CCO Rooftop Garden has almost completed its third season of producing a variety of vegetables, fruit, herbs, microgreens, and flowers for CCO shelter guests. The benefits go far beyond the bountiful produce. The Rooftop Garden is a place for women and children to play, plant, grow, harvest, witness birds and insects, and relax in a safe outdoor space. The rooftop garden has been the fulfilled dream of Laura Thiessen or, as the kids call her, “The Garden Lady.” Laura has worked with fellow plant enthusiasts and shelter guests to make the Rooftop Garden a haven of life amid the concrete and brick of Chicago.

The garden always needs seeds and supplies. In April, one special shelter guest donated many seed packets and helped with planting. Laura said, “She gave me seeds for flowers, squash, and pepper that she bought at the dollar store. Once they sprouted and were ready for planting, she helped with that, too. She got a job and spent less time in the garden, but her plants are still in a special area just for her.”

In May and June, shelter guests can get their hands dirty planting. Guests from the Naomi Shelter for Women often help transplant the seedlings into growing totes on the rooftop. Children from the Hannah Shelter for Families join in and learn about gardening while having fun in the dirt.

Throughout the summer, Laura and fellow gardener, Martha Alicia Montes, host a Tea Time in the garden. Tuesdays are for the single women at Naomi Shelter. Laura said, “Marta often does an art project with the ladies. One project was wind catchers made from recycled cans. We hung them on the pergola. They were so pretty. Sometimes we play music and dance in the garden. It’s pretty relaxed. We want everyone to enjoy the green space and have fun.”

Thursday morning Tea Time in the garden is reserved for moms and children at CCO. “We grow three types of mint and make it into iced tea with honey. Sometimes, we gather echinacea or wildflowers to put in our tea. We also have a snack like watermelon, popsicles, or fruit salad. The kids always come running. They are curious and ask so many questions. Often, they want to water the plants or help in any way. I’ll show them how to pick the mint. If they’re upset, I tell them they can go to the mint plants and brush the tops with their hands, smell their minty hands, and take deep breaths. A lot of children stay at CCO. It can be pretty chaotic but a lot of fun! I’ve taught the kids to save seeds from the foods they eat and plant them. The garden draws the kids. They still pick green tomatoes. I try to teach them how to be a garden protector, not a garden picker. They’re learning!” Laura says with a chuckle.

A family of golden finches has made a home in the garden. Laura has carefully chosen seeds and plants that attract birds and pollinators to the rooftop garden. Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are frequent visitors of the flowers on the CCO roof. An enclosure had to be built to protect the black swallowtail butterflies from the birds. The children especially love seeing the butterflies in their habitat. The explosion of plant, bird, and insect life is a testimony to the importance of the CCO rooftop garden for humans and creatures alike.

“One day, we were in the rooftop garden during Tea Time. Several of the ladies just started talking about some personal and painful events. They were so vulnerable, sharing stories filled with heartache. I think something about being in the garden, outside in a green space together; it is therapeutic. We just listened. I felt honored to be entrusted with their stories. One of those ladies went on to get a job working in a large urban garden. She still has plants on the rooftop. The other ladies take pictures of her vegetables and send them to her so she can see that they are growing.”

“People come to CCO to get help. Sometimes, they move on fast. Even if their time at CCO is short, one moment can be important and special. Hopefully, when people look over their lives, they will know that Cornerstone gave them real support, compassion, and opportunity for a change. I’m grateful that the garden can be part of the good things happening at CCO. I want to thank all the women and children who helped in the CCO Rooftop Garden this year. I would also like to thank two important organizations, Seed Money and Awesome Foundation, for their financial support. This unique place of life, growth, and hope would not be possible without your generosity!”

-All quotes by Laura Thiessen, as told to Beth Nicholls

Cornerstone shelter guests need your support. Please consider making a financial donation today!

Sponsor the Back-to-School Party!

CCO would like to partner with generous donors to help support this year’s Back-to-School Party. Each August, CCO hosts a party filled with school supplies, new backpacks, games, treats, dancing, and a lot of motivation for the new school year. Your support will help make this year extra special for the children at CCO.

Children experiencing homelessness can face additional barriers to consistent education. CCO tries to bridge the gap that homelessness and poverty cause in childhood development and academics. The family case managers ensure children are attending school and have all they need to succeed. CCO partners with Chicago Hopes, which provides tutoring during the school year and enrichment programs in the summer to children sheltered at CCO every weekday afternoon.

If you want to sponsor part of the fun at this year’s party, contact Amanda Learmond at a.learmond@ccolife.org. Or visit our Amazon Wish List by clicking here or scanning the QR code above.