C-U at Home Newsletter

Spring 2024

One Summer Day – All Summer Long!

Our One Summer Day fundraiser is back for a second year, and this summer we’re going even bigger! After testing the waters last summer with a handful of garage sales (which were quite successful!), our event planning team decided to raise the bar in some exciting new ways this year.

“One Summer Day captures the very best of summer – being outside, talking with your neighbors, meeting new people, and being good stewards of our earth by repurposing items instead of sending them to a landfill,” says C-U at Home board member Ruth Moore, who organized last summer’s inaugural event.  “To add on the beautiful mission of supporting C-U at Home and their Pathways to Progress program is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae!”

This year we’re extending participation throughout the summer months of June, July, and August. Simply make plans for your sale, pick the date(s), then click on this One Summer Day Event Page to register your sale. This site provides more information about our mission and programs and allows participants to donate part or all of their sale proceeds to support the work of C-U at Home. You’ll also be able to see others who have registered to participate throughout the summer!

We are also reaching out to the HOAs of some local subdivisions to connect with annual neighborhood-wide garage sales already planned for the summer. Liberty on the Lake is already onboard with their June 15 event, and Cherry Hills residents will be encouraged to register sales throughout the summer. Check our website for updates as more opportunities develop.

One Summer Day is an opportunity for community members, churches, and organizations to raise financial support and spread the word about our Pathways to Progress program by hosting garage sales throughout the summer. Those who register as participants will receive a One Summer Day yard sign and informational material about our programs to hand out to customers. Locations and times of registered events will be promoted on our website and social media platforms.

“We tend to think of homelessness as a winter problem, but giving support and hope to someone who is struggling to regain a stable life is needed in any season,” Ruth points out.  “I hope people come together, reconnect, and have some fun while helping our most vulnerable community members.”

Summer is right around the corner, so now’s the time to make plans to be a part of our second annual One Summer Day fundraiser. “Repurpose with a Purpose,” as our event tagline says, and take advantage of this opportunity to de-clutter and do some good at the same time! Our goal is to raise $25,000 over the course of the summer, and we need your help to reach that goal!

Season 5 at Prosperity Gardens

In June of 2020, the News-Gazette featured a front-page article highlighting a new growing season at Prosperity Gardens, the first to involve our C-U at Work partnership with the community garden.

“Vegetables are growing again in Prosperity Gardens,” the article’s lead said about the program, which laid fallow the previous year during the transition to township oversight. “[Work began] at the gardens this summer with help from participants in the C-U at Work program, a partnership between the township and C-U at Home that offers employment to the homeless.”

Nicole Musumeci, who had previously overseen the non-profit community garden, was brought on board by the township as the program’s executive director. She remains in that position today as Prosperity Gardens begins its fifth growing season with a new C-U at Work crew.

Over the past couple of years, the program has become a full-blown urban farming operation, adding a second full city block north of downtown (known as North Street Farm) to its original location on both sides of First Street, just south of Washington. The North Street Farm features 80 raised beds, some of which will be equipped with arched canopies this year to extend the growing season.

This year’s crew of a half-dozen employees is a mixture of clients in our Pathways to Progress program with others from the township’s Strides emergency shelter. Acting as lead farm hand for a second year is a former C-U at Home client who is now in his third year with the program.

“This is the best crew I’ve ever worked with,” Nicole says. “They get along with each other really well and are all committed, dependable, and really serious about their work and developing skills.”

The “skills” participants develop go far beyond gardening. They also attend weekly workforce development meetings to learn goal setting strategies and how to navigate the employment barriers they may face in the future.

Two new community collaborations this year include the Veggie Van, which will be used to bring produce directly to local neighborhoods, and plans for stage production at the North Street Farm, “The Secrets of the Garden,” scheduled for June 1. Watch for more news on both of these developments on our Facebook page.

“C-U at Home Fans” . . . and much more!

If you follow us on social media (if not, please do!), you may have noticed the new, dynamic content being posted regularly since the first of the year. We’ve been blessed by the talents of two energetic young women, both now UIUC graduates, who have been working with us during their last semester on campus.

It all began in January in an email with the provocative subject line, “C-U at Home fans here, reaching out!” Reya Samuel (left) and Sanjana Gangadharan had started their own full-service marketing agency, Highway Collective, with a particular emphasis on helping local businesses and non-profits connect with the campus community.

After a couple of meetings and a review of their marketing proposal, we agreed to work with them for the semester. Their efforts on our behalf did not disappoint. They included:

  • Designing a new logo (left) that integrates “Pathways to Progress” themes with our classic C-U at Home font and imagery.
  • Creating and implementing plans for launching our new “Build the Path” sustaining giving campaign (see more below).
  • Creating and producing a social media series, “Heroes behind C-U at Home,” that profiled members of our case management and life skills staff.
  • Organizing and conducting the “The Grocery Story Challenge,” an awareness event that engaged student organizations on campus.

What’s next for these two talented young women? Reya graduated with a degree in Marketing and Information Systems. Sanjana earned her degree in Operations Management and Information Systems. They both are moving to the east coast to pursue careers in marketing. We pray God’s blessings on their future endeavors, and we would like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to work together this semester!

Help us “Build the Path”

Speaking of the “Build the Path” campaign, we have two Big Asks for our newsletter subscribers as we launch this year-long effort to grow our sustained monthly giving levels.

First, if you have made occasional donations over the years, or even have never given before, would you consider committing to a $50/month recurring donation to support our work? You can easily set up a new recurring online donation by clicking HERE, or you can send a monthly check to PO Box 8816, Champaign, 61826.

Second, if you are already a monthly donor, we are so blessed by and appreciative of your support. Would you consider increasing your gift to match either the “Paver” level of $50/month or “Builder” level of $208/month?

Sustaining funds from the “Build the Path” campaign will allow us to continue to expand our efforts to provide a comprehensive 12-18 month rehabilitation program for those working to transition out of homelessness permanently. The program will continue to provide 24/7 , counseling, education, and employment training opportunities to give people the tools they need to get back on their feet. The need is great, and we anticipate expanding our residential facilities to accommodate more clients in the next year. Your sustaining gifts will help us do that, along with providing funds for ongoing maintenance and operating expenses at our seven existing houses.

By walking alongside individuals during and even after they are in our program, Pathways to Progress gives people the stability and support for lasting change. Our goal is not just temporary shelter – it’s to provide pathways out of homelessness. Our new Build the Path program provides an opportunity to support this work on a monthly basis.

A Message from Melissa

Recently, I read an article about a caring college student who built a connection with a homeless man in Washington D.C. She posted videos of herself helping him with medication and covering his hotel expenses, which quickly went viral online. This led to an overwhelming response, with a flood of resources and support offered to assist the student in aiding the homeless man.

However, the story took an unexpected twist. Through a GoFundMe campaign, the student managed to raise $400,000 to help the homeless man improve his situation. Surprisingly, over time, he disappeared, leaving behind almost half a million dollars. The student is now in the process of refunding the donations to each contributor.

This situation raises questions about what might have gone wrong and why someone in need would walk away from such a generous offer. It highlights the complex challenges of homelessness, showing that it involves more than just a lack of shelter and money. Factors such as enduring trauma, mental health issues, substance abuse, circumstances beyond one’s control, and individual choices all play a role.

The student’s commitment to assisting the homeless man was undoubtedly sincere and heartfelt. What she lacked was an understanding of the root causes of homelessness. Our Pathways to Progress program and the amazing staff on our case management/life skills teams recognize how trauma, substance abuse, and mental health struggles affect individuals experiencing homelessness. This experience helps them to respond knowledgeably and compassionately to each person’s unique needs.

We acknowledge that addressing homelessness requires more than just financial assistance; it necessitates a comprehensive approach. This is why we tailor each person’s plan with the input of our in-house team, clients, individuals with lived experiences, and community partners who can help us address everyone’s challenges. While not everyone may complete our program, we believe that with adequate support, many individuals can successfully transition to stable lives. Collaborating with C-U at Home means offering more than financial aid; it means engaging in a holistic program that guides individuals towards positive outcomes.

Become a Path Builder

Join our monthly giving team and help us give hope and extend grace to those in need.