C-U at Home Newsletter

Winter 2024

One Winter Night 2024

One Winter Night, our annual fundraiser and awareness event, returned to downtown Champaign on February 2-3. This year’s event was actually twofold: the OWN Outdoor Challenge on Friday night, followed by Saturday evening’s first-ever OWN Benefit Auction.

Friday’s Outdoor Challenge was the best attended event in recent years. Over 100 people gathered at The Venue CU downtown, at Good Shepherd Lutheran and Windsor Road Christian churches in Champaign, at Mahomet United Methodist Church, and at homes around the community. Dozens of UIUC students also participated in OWN on the Quad for the third consecutive year.

In fact, students figured prominently among this year’s participants. A dozen Champaign Central students from the Future Business Leaders of America club were on hand, along with their advisor, for their sixth consecutive OWN. Members of the Illinois Stamps Scholars were also downtown, just as they have been since the very first OWN in 2012. Stamps Scholar Noah Meyerhoff even wrote about his experience for the Daily Illini!

“Sleeping in the cold is a truly miserable experience. The kind of thing you really can’t understand until you’ve done it yourself,” he shared. “Firsthand experience serves to energize your sympathy. It motivates you to do good . . . because it makes you identify, in this case, the plight of the homeless with something physical that you cannot forget.” (Read the whole story).

Keagan Markun (being interviewed, right), a junior at St. Thomas More, was back for her 9th OWN experience! She started participating with her mom, Kathleen, as a 4th grader in 2016, and this year she brought some friends along with her.

“I was one of the first kids to get involved,” she said. “Now there’s a few kids from Central and Centennial (high schools) who’ve come.” (Read her full story in the News-Gazette).

During an evening program in The Venue CU ballroom, participants and others heard social worker and former C-U at Home staffer Kelly Jane Monahan (below left) talk about the causes of homelessness.  Host Matthew White also talked with current C-U at Home staff about their day-to-day activities and interviewed two Pathways to Progress program grads about their experiences in the program.

Although the energy, enthusiasm, and level of participation for the overnight event seems to be returning to pre-pandemic levels, funds raised (so far) have reached just over half of the $150,000 goal set for the Outdoor Challenge. Donations to the event can still made by clicking HERE.

“A Night in the cold can make an impact for life.”

OWN on the Quad 2024

A Night to Remember

Thanks to the support of over 50 sponsoring businesses and churches, the first-ever One Winter Night Benefit Auction was a great success! Nearly 200 people attended the event, where they were treated to powerful music by local artist Kayla Brown, delicious hors d’oeuvres from Pan & Cake catering, and refreshing mocktails served by members of the Junior League of C-U. And that was before the bidding even started!

After some time socializing and browsing the items available for both a silent and live auction, attendees heard some inspiring words from executive director Melissa Courtwright, who in turn introduced local realtor Lisa Rector, who we honored for her assistance helping us make a successful transition from a congregate to a residential shelter program over the past year and a half.

“Lisa Rector went above and beyond for us in searching for just the right home for both our men and women. We cannot thank you enough. We would not be in homes right now if it were not for you.”

Melissa Courtwright

What followed was a lively night of bidding on items ranging from vacations to sports memorabilia to a wide variety of gift baskets and more! The event raised well over $90,000 and, equally as important, introduced a broader range of community members to the important work we do helping people take steps out of homelessness toward personal stability and self-sufficiency.

We extend heartfelt thanks to our generous sponsors, local businesses and organizations who donated auction items, and all the participants who helped make the OWN 2024 Benefit Auction a success. We especially appreciate the support of our wonderful hosts, The Venue CU; the team from Mega Events Benefit Auction Specialists; and Premier Sponsor Champaign Asphalt Co.

Staff Spotlight

One of the things our Pathways to Progress program emphasizes is security and stability for our clients. The latest member of our case management team, Haley McCormick, can relate. Originally from Rantoul, last year she bought the childhood home she grew up in, which she still calls home today!

Haley’s “there and back again” journey took her to three states before she finally settled back in Rantoul. She received her bachelor’s degree in social work in 2020 from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. 

After graduating, she moved to Dallas, Texas, where she began her social work career as a Disaster Relief Case Manager for Catholic Charities.  Seven months later, she moved into a Project Manager position to oversee a specific grant her department had been working on. 

Shifting to Refugee Services gave her an opportunity to do intensive case management with refugees and asylum seekers. About a year later, she returned briefly to Rantoul before striking out once more – this time to North Carolina – for a position as a paraprofessional in an elementary school. After learning that a case manager position was open here, she saw an opportunity to return home.

“I became drawn to C-U at Home because its program works to truly bring each client out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency,” she says. “I was also drawn to C-U at Home because of it being a faith-based organization, which aligns with my personal beliefs.”

After a couple of months on board, Haley doesn’t hesitate when asked what she finds meaningful about her work. 

“Creating relationships with the woman in the program has been so incredible!” she says.  “They all have been so open and welcoming to me, and getting to know them more and more every day has been such a gift!”

In her spare time, Haley enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, camping and baking. She’s already making an impact on the lives of her clients, and we are blessed to have her join our case management team. She brings a cheerful smile and positive energy to work every day and has certainly been a gift to the C-U at Home team!

A Message from Melissa

As I reflect on what I would like to share with you, the word that keeps coming to my mind is GRATITUDE.

The unwavering support extended to C-U Home over the past few months, culminating in One Winter Night 2024, has been truly remarkable. Organizing and carrying out our first-ever two-day event was no small feat! The load was lightened by the remarkable generosity of this community.

You helped with planning, donated billboard space, provided news coverage and airtime on your radio programs, and gave us time to share in your churches. You provided sponsorship support and invited people to the events. You stayed outside in the cold, and you listened and asked amazing questions during our program. You gave of your musical talent and shared your space. You discounted food and drinks. You enthusiastically bid on auction items, both in-person and virtually.

I could list many more things, but the bottom line is I am grateful to be part of a community that cares about the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Your support for OWN 2024, in so many ways, will continue to make an impact throughout the year. Thank you!

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