We invite you to become a Neighborhood Ambassador! (August 2017)
If while reflecting on your summer days, you recall the happy faces of children throughout our community, you may well have been witnessing the manifestation of RestON — Opportunity Neighborhood Reston!
An Opportunity Neighborhood is one where residents, schools, local government, community organizations, faith and business partners work collaboratively to ensure the well-being of ALL children and youth by addressing barriers to their success, increasing their access to opportunity, and building the resiliency of their families.
Recently, a teenage girl came to the Cedar Ridge Community Center, desperately seeking a paid position to help support her family. RestON partners, through a coordinated effort, gathered employment opportunities within and outside of their organizations, followed up on leads, and provided her with available options. Within a week of applying, she secured an administrative position at Reston Association — a role that helps her support herself and her family, and a role she is quite enjoying!
Whether it is in the areas of health, early childhood development, school and job readiness, safety, community engagement or advocacy, an Opportunity Neighborhood is about communities identifying priorities and working together toward positive change.
And it happens all year round! This summer, for example, Cornerstones’ program coordinators and RestON partners like Reston Community Center, Reston Association and the YMCA-Reston worked to creatively and intentionally reach kids who may have barriers to finding and enrolling in summer programs.
Summer Excite engages children and youth across our community, keeping them happily occupied and enjoying enrichment activities, while preparing them academically to be ready for school in the fall. This past summer approximately 125 children participated in Summer Excite’s plethora of programs with the support of more than 20 volunteers.
During the school year, Cornerstones’ offers after-school programming as well as support the Youth Leadership Council, which is an opportunity for teens to develop leadership skills through community service, educational and motivational workshops, field trips and other activities that demonstrate their valuable role in the community.
If you live, work, play or worship in Reston, we invite you to become an integral part of this initiative as a Neighborhood Ambassador. Ambassadors play an important role in Opportunity Neighborhood, improving the lives of children, youth and their families, and creating brighter futures, full of opportunity, for every child and youth in Reston.
The Neighborhood Ambassador program is designed to train volunteers to reach out to other parents and guardians on a one-to-one basis, particularly at neighborhood–based venues such as community centers, schools, houses of worship and civic associations.
In addition to having a hand in creating a safe, prosperous and inspiring environment for all children, youth and families, Ambassadors enjoy receiving a participation stipend and the joy of developing new friendships and camaraderie while working on neighborhood events and activities with others.
To apply or learn more about the Neighborhood Ambassador Program, visit www.cornerstonesva.org/rest-on.
Cornerstones is honored to serve as the backbone organization for Opportunity Neighborhood RestON, a collective impact initiative that includes residents, feeder schools, local businesses, active community members, local government, and faith groups. The following RestON community partners work together in a focused and strategic way to improve outcomes for children, youth and families:
Department of Neighborhood and Community Services
Department of Family Services
Department of Housing and Community Development
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Fairfax County Police Department
Fairfax County Public Schools
Fairfax County Office for Children
Reston Community Center
YMCA Reston/Fairfax County
Kerrie B. Wilson
Equity is Opportunity Plus Access (June 2017)
June is Children’s Awareness Month
As school-age kids wind down their academic year and prepare for summer, we are reminded that some of the best learning can happen outside the classroom. Recreational time, team sports, and programs that stimulate a child’s imagination through art, music or other creative endeavors can inspire kids and prepare them for success in and outside of the classroom and beyond. While Northern Virginia is fortunate to have many summer programs available for youth, Cornerstones is working with its partners to ensure that there are not economic, transportation or other barriers preventing children in our community from taking advantage of these summer programs and camps.
This is just one of the questions being addressed as part of a new initiative in Reston known as “Opportunity Neighborhood: Reston” or RestON, that brings stakeholders together to champion community priorities that improve the lives of children, youth and families.
As Supervisor Hudgins explained at the launch of RestON: “Equity is opportunity plus access.” In a planned community like Reston, we are fortunate to have bountiful opportunities with terrific schools, beautiful public spaces, and countless activities and amenities to enjoy. It isn’t the lack of opportunities that we struggle with – it’s ensuring all residents have access to them. RestON’s overarching goal is to ensure that all children have access to the resources they need to succeed.
The sheer number of partners on the RestON organizing team demonstrates our community’s commitment to achieving this goal. At the table are parents, youth, businesses, nonprofits, residents, health care providers, faith community leaders, civic groups and government partners, all who share this goal.
You will begin to see the manifestations of the RestON initiative starting this summer. The RestON team is working to connect interested youth-who may not otherwise have access-to a wide variety of programs, camps and academic / continuous learning initiatives. Cornerstones’ program coordinators and RestON partners like Reston Community Center, Reston Association and the YMCA-Reston will be working to creatively and intentionally reach kids who may have barriers to finding and enrolling in these summer programs.
Additionally, community program advocates will be hosting outreach events in target “opportunity” communities, hosting events and game nights to engage families, help them find out about resources, and meet their community advocates.
If you are interested in getting involved in RestON, consider joining a Resident Engagement Team. These neighborhood-based teams guide the initiative by providing local perspective on issues that affect children. Membership is still open! Contact Amanda.Caughran@cornerstonesva.org for more information.
Additionally, you can help some of our children in need by volunteering or donating to the annual “Back to School Bash” resource fair. Attendees at the fair can access a range of services, including sign-ups for afterschool sports, bus passes, and other information. Families across the cultural and socio-economic spectrum will attend. Volunteers and donated school supplies are always welcome!
Kerrie Wilson, CEO
Volunteers are our Cornerstones (April 2017)
As CEO of Cornerstones, I am blessed to work with an organization that tirelessly works to serve the most vulnerable Dulles Corridor residents through housing, support services and advocacy. But one of the things that makes our impact possible is the work of our 6,013 dedicated volunteers who together provided 34,282 hours of service (valued at $916,531) this past year. Cornerstones’ volunteers tutor children, plan fundraising events, answer phones, stock the food pantry, and refurbish homes for future tenants among many other things. Cornerstones is honored to welcome all gifts, skills and ideas to further our mission of helping our neighbors take steps toward healthy, stable lives.
In fact, it is the innate desire of its residents to give back that makes the greater Reston-Herndon community a place that is welcoming to all, regardless of race, gender, income, or religion. At Cornerstones, we are fortunate to witness that spirit of our community through our volunteers. I want to take this time to specially recognize just a few of our many everyday heroes:
Leidos has partnered with Cornerstones since they moved their headquarters to Reston in 2014. Since that time, Leidos has contributed funds, helped promote the mission of Cornerstones, and has volunteered time to serve meals and collect and organize donations.
Ginny Pyster volunteers her time in a number of capacities, including tutoring West Glade neighborhood’s children, lending a hand at the food pantry, and leading the volunteer efforts for the annual Gifts for Kids Drive. As was so eloquently explained by Cornerstones Program Manager, Minnie Orozco, “We can’t build the future for our children…but Ginny has the commitment to help build our children for the future…”
Carolina Calderon has been a faithful volunteer for Cornerstones since she learned about the organization at a time when she was in need. Since then, she has volunteered countless hours assisting at the food pantry and the ESL classes at the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center. Without her own transportation, Carolina walks 20 miles a week (regardless of the weather) to ensure that Cornerstones’ programs run smoothly.
Vince Sescoe has been a volunteer teacher for Cornerstones’ job readiness class since 2014. Vince makes clients of all backgrounds feel welcomed and supported as they build skills to lead to better employment opportunities. He gives all the extra time and attention needed to ensure that each client receives the support they need to be successful in the program and beyond.
Leading Effort 4 Poverty (LE4P) engages kids to help fundraise and organize “snack packs” for homeless and low-income children. This year, LE4P made 1,250 snack packs and prepared and donated 250 meals for individuals at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Along the way, LE4P gives elementary, middle, and high school students the opportunity to gain experience in leadership, team building and communication while also instilling the desire to serve others in the next generation.
Our Front Desk Volunteers are vital to the operations of Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Staff and clients rely on them each and every day to provide assistance to all who come through our doors. Be they the most affluent looking to serve or the most desperate in search of a warm place for the night, all are greeted with kindness, understanding and respect thanks largely to our Front Desk Volunteers. This group of dedicated volunteers represent the culture and diversity of our community and prove Reston to be the inclusive, caring home to people of every nationality, religion, culture, station or circumstance of life.
And finally, as CEO, I know the value of our strong Board of Directors—each a volunteer—that often goes un-sung. I want to thank the Boards of Directors of Cornerstones and Cornerstones Housing Corporation. Your leadership has helped us through difficult times and will help us now as we respond to evolving community need and opportunity to serve.
Cornerstones’ volunteers strengthen our community by providing Hope for Tomorrow Today!
Recent CEO Messages
November is Homeless Awareness Month (November 2016)
September is “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters Month” (September 2016)
The State of Homelessness In Our Community (March 2016)
Our Impact FY 2015 (February 2016)
A Place Called Reston (September 2015)
You can make a difference in the lives of children (August 2015)
National Children’s Awareness Month (June 2015)
We applaud our Volunteers! (April 2015)
Investing in families strengthens our community, FairfaxTimes.com, March 16, 2015
Connecting to End Homelessness: Letter to the Editor, Kerrie Wilson and Sara Leonard, Fairfax Connection, September 25 – October 1, 2014, Page 8.
Housing Values On the Rise; Opinion article, Cornerstones’ CEO, Kerrie Wilson, Reston Connection, October 8-14, 2014, Page 6.
On Health and Community (February 2015)
Reflections – Stu Rakoff (January 2014)
Homelessness in Perspective (November 2013)