C-U at Home Newsletter

Summer 2023

C-U at Home Selected for

Junior League Partnership

C-U at Home has been selected to partner with the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana (JLCU) as this year’s Nonprofit Assistance Collaboration Team (NPACT). This partnership is an exciting opportunity for C-U at Home to work with JLCU for a one-year term.

Each year, the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana partners with a nonprofit in the community to support throughout the year with funding and volunteering and to learn more about the nonprofit’s mission and how it serves the community. JLCU will provide volunteer hours, financial assistance, professional expertise, and support to fulfill needs and complete projects for C-U at Home. In return, C-U at Home staff will educate and train JLCU members to help them better understand and support our mission serving individuals experiencing homelessness in the community.

“We’re thrilled to work with C-U at Home this year,” says August Schiess, Vice President of Community Outreach for JLCU. “C-U at Home is a nonprofit deeply imbedded and committed to supporting our community, and we are honored to offer support and resources to help bolster their ongoing work.”

One of the reasons C-U at Home was selected for this annual partnership was our alignment with many elements of the JLCU community service positions such as women’s welfare, sheltering, mental health, and voluntarism.

“We are honored to have been selected for this program,” says C-U at Home executive director Melissa Courtwright. “We look forward to all the great things that will come from this exciting partnership.”

JLCU is dedicated to advancing women’s leadership and creating meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training. Pictured above (l-r) are JLCU president Laura Gerhold, August Schiess, and Melissa Courtwright.

Staff Spotlight: Housing Navigator

We are happy to welcome Jean Cesar Ntedika to our staff as Housing Navigator. He’s stepping into the role originally occupied by Laura White, who has assumed Associate Director duties for C-U at Home.

Jean Cesar is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. He arrived in Urbana in 2008 and has been serving in the community ever since. In addition to working manufacturing jobs, Jean Cesar has also volunteered with African Community outreach services, Urbana Adult Education, and YMCA’s New American Welcome Center. Before coming to us, Jean Cesar was employed with Champaign County Salvation Army.

His work with us involves building relationships with local landlords and housing agencies, identifying appropriate housing options for clients who are ready to move on from our shelter programs, and helping them work through that process.

“I’m pleased to be part of this organization’s mission to provide pathways to the homeless population,” he says. “This is a place where I can address some instability housing issues they face.”

Jean Cesar’s wife and young daughter remain in the Congo. He talks with them daily by phone and looks forward to the time when they can join him here in C-U. Serving people is a way to focus on others’ needs rather than himself.

“I enjoy helping and giving my service to people in need,” he says. “C-U at Home is a good place to support families or individuals who are experiencing homelessness.”

Prosperity Gardens Featured

On Annual Garden Walk

Our C-U at Work partnership with Prosperity Gardens was privileged to be part of the 27th annual Garden Walk, sponsored by the Champaign County Master Gardner Program. Six private and two public gardens were featured in this year’s walk.

Nearly 1000 people visited Prosperity Gardens North Street Farm from 9 am to 4 pm that day. Prosperity Gardens director Nicole Musumici was pleased with the turnout and praised the efforts of the C-U at Work crew in getting the farm ready for the big day.

“I’m always ready to share the story of the amazing program we have here with anyone who will listen,” she said to a group of visitors on the walk. As she pointed out various crops being grown, she also made note of the extensive weeding that had been done on the property to prepare for the walk.

“That’s all Cheryl and Emmaniel,” she said, referring to a first year participant and Austin’s Place resident and the site foreman, Emmaniel. In fact, Emmaniel is in his third year with the program, during which time he moved out of our shelter into his own apartment. He now works directly for the City of Champaign Township, which oversees Prosperity Gardens.

Four other participants this season have spent the last couple of months planting, mulching, weeding, and harvesting produce to be sold at local farmers markets. The opportunity to be part of this year’s Garden Walk was a great way to showcase the fruits of this unique and special program to the wider community.

Catholic HEART Workcamp a Success

Two teams of teens and their adult chaperones from Catholic HEART Workcamp gave four days of hard work to make wonderful improvements at two of our locations in mid-June. Their labor of love resulted in a new patio at our Austin’s Place women’s shelter and a new access ramp at our University House advanced shelter. They also painted and tackled many other much-needed maintenance projects.

CHWC is a national organization that coordinates week-long service camps for teens and young adults. Teams, along with adult chaperones, do service work for charitable organizations or individuals in need in the communities where they are assigned. Students came from as near as Charleston and Edwardsville and as far away as Texas and Kansas.

Part of CHWC’s mission is “to share the love of Christ as we serve the neglected, brokenhearted, and the marginalized in any way needed.” We are thankful and blessed that they reached out to us to host one of their summer workcamps, and we pray for God’s favor on their work and mission!

A Message from Melissa

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). I know I’m not alone in wanting more details to God’s plan than He sometimes gives. I think to myself, if I could just have more details, I would be able to make a more, well-informed decision. 

That seems reasonable, right? We want to see just a little glimpse of the future, so that we can take the best path to the full life God promises. It’s often only in hindsight that we realize if we’d had known then, what we know now, we might have been too scared to take a next step.

My husband and I were married only six months when we unexpectedly found ourselves sitting in a doctor’s office hearing, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.” If you’d told us during our engagement that just a few months after our first-year anniversary we would be parents, we may have called the whole thing off.  I couldn’t imagine I was ready to raise a child so soon after getting married. Thankfully, we didn’t have those details, and God allowed that plan to unfold one step at a time. We now have three beautiful, wild sons and a 17 year-marriage. 

What does this have to do with C-U at Home? If you had told me when I applied to work here that shortly after my arrival, we would be moving and changing our program model, I don’t know if I would have kept going with the process. I probably would have looked at my current job stability and decided to stay where I was. 

But thankfully, God has also allowed that plan to unfold one step at a time too.  Sitting here in Austin’s Place, our beautiful home where women are striving to live healthy, whole and healed lives, I’m amazed and thankful God allowed me to be part of this journey. Here’s to all of us, taking one faithful step at a time! 

Melissa Courtwright, Executive Director

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