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Cornerstones of Care is dedicated to partnering for safe and healthy communities by leveraging decades of expertise and a certification in trauma-informed care to provide an array of quality prevention, treatment and support services to children and families. We strive to affect positive change, give a stronger voice to those in need, raise awareness in our communities and deliver a fully integrated approach to care.

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Volunteers Needed to Bring Holiday Happiness to NASB's North Pole

This December, Cornerstones of Care will partner with corporate and individual sponsors and community volunteers to distribute gifts to more than 1,000 Kansas City-area children and families at no cost to them.

November 29, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- Between now and the end of the year, an empty storefront in Leawood, Kansas, will be transformed into NASB’s North Pole, a holiday destination that provides gifts to more than 1,000 Kansas City-area children and families at no cost to them. For over twenty years, Cornerstones of Care has partnered with corporate and individual sponsors and community volunteers to distribute gifts via the Gift Gallery and Sponsor-A-Youth program. For the second year, North American Savings Bank (NASB) is the presenting sponsor of the North Pole and will help ensure that over 200 families are able to enjoy the holidays this year.

“Part of our giving mission is supporting women and children,” said Jenn Cantrell, NASB’s Director of Communications and Community Relations. “It perfectly aligns with what we’re trying to do in the community.”

From purchasing and donating toys in November to shopping with visiting families and hand-wrapping gifts in December, NASB’s North Pole requires a mighty team of committed volunteers to make it all happen.

“Christmas is a time when our most vulnerable can feel even more isolated and unsupported,” said Courtney Craig, now in her fourth year of volunteering with the event.

As part of the Elf Committee, Courtney has helped recruit volunteers, publicize the event, sort gifts, and assist in other areas. In the past few years, she has witnessed a significant increase in the number of children and families served by this holiday event as Cornerstones of Care has expanded its services and picked up more contracts. In 2018, 397 kids were served by the Gift Gallery and Sponsor-A-Youth program. Just three years later, the number of kids who received gifts from these programs more than tripled to 1,200.

“This event is being asked every year to take care of more kids,” said Courtney. “I think it’s really important to stress how far we’ve come in a very short time, but we always need help.”

Starting early in November, volunteers are needed to “help fill Santa’s bags” by purchasing gifts for the Sponsor-A-Youth program. Those who sign up to sponsor a youth in foster care agree to provide items from a youth’s personalized holiday wish list. Key Bank, Community Christian Church, and Red Bags are among those who contribute their time and effort to provide gifts for the Sponsor-a-Youth program. Volunteers can also purchase gifts for the Gift Gallery, a three-day holiday shopping opportunity that serves families who participate in Cornerstones of Care’s community-based programs, such as the Day Treatment Schools on the Gillis and Ozanam Campuses.

Once most of the gifts have been purchased and delivered to NASB’s North Pole, the first few weeks of December are a frenzied, festive sprint to the finish line. From December 7-9, volunteers sign up to sort gifts and set up the venue to make it shoppable and welcoming for families. This year, NASB’s North Pole will take place at a new, larger venue with more space for shopping and storage, thanks to a donation from Block Real Estate and 133 State Line Group LLC.

Two days later, the Gift Gallery will officially open its doors and be filled with shoppers from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. From December 14-16, volunteers will partner with the visiting families as they shop and move through the store, helping them select three gifts for each child. In addition to toys, families receive a selection of basic needs items, including coats, hats, and clothing.

The final act of this holiday extravaganza is wrapping gifts for youth in the residential treatment programs on the Ozanam Campus. Gifts for the youth in foster care are personally delivered to about 1,000 families by Cornerstones of Care case managers and other team members. Once each present has been safely delivered, the clean-up begins.

“It’s not a burden,” Courtney said. “It’s about providing that space of dignity and offering these services without a pitying look. It’s about making sure all these kids are going to have a Christmas morning and that parents can pick out gifts for their kids.”

If you’re looking for an opportunity to spread some holiday cheer this year, sign up to volunteer with NASB’s North Pole or purchase gifts for the Gift Gallery or Sponsor-A-Youth Program. You can also make a monetary donation which will be used to purchase gifts on your behalf.

“Every person should feel seen and heard and celebrated,” said Courtney. “Serving on the Elf Committee allows me to look at my fellow human beings and tell them that in this world where you can feel alone, someone cares about you.”

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40th Anniversary Spirit Gala Brings In $438,000 for Cornerstones of Care

This was the first Spirit Gala for President & CEO, Merideth Rose, who joined the team in July.

The 40th Anniversary Ruby Celebration of the Spirit Gala was a glowing success for Cornerstones of Care, raising a record-breaking $438,000 to fund essential programs and services for children and families in our community. The annual event was held at the Overland Park Convention Center on Friday, November 11. Despite the chilly outdoor temperature, 572 guests gathered in The Ballroom, vested in various shades of sparkling red, to celebrate the collective generosity and care of the community, share stories about the impact of these gifts, and raise a glass to the Spirit Award recipients and honorees.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and energy we witnessed in the room at this year's Spirit Gala,” said Chad Harris, Chief Development Officer at Cornerstones of Care. “While we do our work one child and family at a time, that work is made possible one donor and one contribution at a time – so to see what can be achieved when community members come together to make a collective financial impact for our mission, it is extremely rewarding.”

This was the first Spirit Gala for Cornerstones of Care President & CEO, Merideth Rose, who joined the team in July. Rose was accompanied by several family members, including her husband, Michael Rose, as well as more than 70 Cornerstones of Care team members. In her speech, Rose spoke about the warm welcome she has received in her first three months with the organization and the work the leadership team has done thus far.    

“Our team is reestablishing a commitment to our purpose,” said Rose. “We’re ensuring that our people have the tools and resources they need to work effectively. We’re dedicating intentional focus to harnessing the power of storytelling to underscore the impact of our work, and we’re enhancing our presence in the community. This is our driving imperative: simply, to care.”

The power of storytelling was evident that night as attendees learned firsthand about Jacob, a former participant of the Pathways Transitional Living Program, a supportive, transitional housing program for teens transitioning out of foster care. Following the two-minute video, attendees gave $117,000 to Cornerstones of Care during the Fund-A-Need, another record-breaking feat. Earlier in the evening, the thrilling live auction raised $40,450, thanks in part to a donation of two sets of club-level Kansas City Chiefs 2023-24 season tickets.

There were many reasons to celebrate at the Spirit Gala’s Ruby Celebration. Honored this year as the Spirit Award recipients were two dynamic duos: Sean and Karen Miller and Kevin and Cathay Perz of Dynamic Fastener. Cornerstones of Care also recognized Honorary Chairs, Natalie and Kyle Hartman. The Spirit Award has a rich history in the Kansas City community and is a celebration of the individuals who have made a substantial impact on the legacy of Cornerstones of Care and on our city.

“We are indeed proud of our history, but we are even more excited about our future,” said Rose. “A future that is focused on responding to the needs of the communities we serve through prevention and healing treatment services, foster care and adoption, and education.”

Rose went on to acknowledge the donors and sponsors, including presenting sponsors, Dynamic Fastener and North American Savings Bank (NASB), that contributed to the success of the 2022 Spirit Gala and the ongoing work of Cornerstones of Care.

“Indeed, our work matters,” said Rose, “and it is creating a new, healthy reality for generations to come.”

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If you missed your opportunity to attend the Raise Your Spirit Gala, you can still make a donation to help support the 15,000 children and families served by Cornerstones of Care. 

You can also purchase tickets for our next fundraiser, Savor the Sound, which will be held on Saturday, February 4 at 28 Event Space. Hosted by internationally-acclaimed musician and author, Calvin Arsenia, Savor the Sound is an immersive event for all the senses, featuring a menu by James Beard award-winning Chef Celina Tio. Proceeds benefit the Build Trybe program. 

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Jackson County Voters to Decide on Tax Increase for Children’s Mental Health

Cornerstones of Care CEO, Merideth Rose, and Local Nonprofit Leaders Endorse 'Yes' Vote

Meredith Rose CSF RenewalNovember 4, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) – On November 8, Jackson County voters will have the opportunity to renew the Jackson County Children’s Services Fund (CSF), which will expand support of critical mental health programs for Jackson County youth. If approved, the ballot measure would extend the county sales tax and adjust it to one-fourth-of-a-cent. The extension of the tax will provide significant support for at-risk children and teens, including those who are turned away from mental health institutions, shelters, and other social services due to a lack of funding for these programs.

Since 2018, the CSF has awarded $68 million to area non-profit organizations. Cornerstones of Care has received more than $2.6 million from the CSF to fund critical staff positions for the Family Functional Therapy (FFT) and School-Based Solutions (SBS) programs. Each year, the FFT program provides in-home therapy services for up to 63 families to keep youth out of juvenile detention and residential facilities and at home with their families. The SBS program provides behavioral screenings for more than 300 elementary youth in the Grandview School District. As a result, families are referred to case management and therapy services to address their specific needs.

On October 19, the Cornerstones of Care Governing Board of Directors officially endorsed the renewal of the CSF. The next day, representatives from local nonprofits that receive support from the CSF gathered in Independence to celebrate the impact and success of the Fund.

“We had CEOs from Community Services League, CSF, Child Abuse Prevention Association, Cornerstones of Care, Comprehensive Mental Health, Drumm Farm, Foster Adopt Connect, Truman Heartland Community Foundation, and United Way,” said Merideth Rose, President & CEO of Cornerstones of Care. “Our goal was to issue a rallying cry of support for this fund and to encourage voters to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 on Election Day.”

For more information on the Jackson County Children’s Services Fund, visit the Children's Services Fund of Jackson County. To find your polling location and information about candidates and issues on the ballot, visit Missouri’s Voter Outreach Center.

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Cornerstones of Care Names Merideth Rose New President/CEO

Rose Brings Experience from Community Services League and Independence School District

July 7, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- Merideth Rose has been named the President and CEO of Cornerstones of Care and will begin at the agency on July 25th.

Rose comes to Cornerstones of Care from the Community Services League in Independence, Mo., where she served as the Chief People Officer. Prior to that, she was Director of Neighborhood, Family Services, and Caring Communities for the Independence School District. At Cornerstones of Care, Rose replaces Denise Cross, who stepped away from her role in March.

The hiring was the culmination of a CEO search that began in March. The search committee identified Rose’s experience, passion and commitment to youth and families, which is well suited to lead Cornerstones of Care.

“We were looking for someone with experience and compassion to execute our strategic plan and carry out our vision,” said Cornerstones of Care Board Chair Julie Barnett. “Merideth has all of the qualities we wanted.”

At Community Services League, Rose joined the board in 2020 and helped lead the organization through the pandemic. In 2021, Rose joined the staff in a key leadership position as Chief People Officer. Her work there included oversight of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Community Services League CEO Doug Cowan said in an email to CSL staff that he normally would be sad to see someone like Rose leave the organization but was pleased to see her use her leadership skills as a President and CEO.

“As I said at the beginning, she has ‘it.’ She was born to be a leader, and to change lives,” Cowan wrote to his staff.  “I’m glad that CSL was part of her journey, and she has created a lasting impact on this organization.”

At the Independence School District, Rose led initiatives to provide support services to students and families and aid them to self-sufficiency. Rose oversaw 35 licensed social workers and case managers to support students from pre-school to 12th grade. She led efforts to reduce barriers to student success, including domestic violence, homelessness, abuse and neglect.

“Cornerstones of Care is a leader in foster care and adoption, supporting youth and families, and educating our community,” Rose said. “It is an indescribable honor to be selected as the next caretaker for such a phenomenal organization, and it is an assignment I do not take lightly.”

Rose also served communities as the Public Affairs Officer for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In that role, she served as principal advisor and Deputy to the External Affairs Director on public information involving the development and delivery of both emergency and non-emergency information programs to federal, state and local government officials, the public, news media and the emergency management community. During times of nationally declared disasters, Rose led cross-functional emergency response and recovery teams for FEMA, including the Agency’s largest Community Relations deployment in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, in which Rose was responsible for the operational management of more than 1,300 disaster reservists.

Rose’s work with the Community Service League included overseeing diversity, equity, and inclusion for the organization, which will fit with Cornerstones of Care’s DEI commitment. Chief Development Officer Chad Harris, who served as Cornerstones of Care’s interim CEO, said he is looking forward to the continued commitment to the organization’s DEI work.

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is an important organizational value,” Harris said. “We will continue to enhance our commitment to all people we serve.”

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Cornerstones of Care’s Denise CrossAnnounces Transition from President/CEO Role,Reflects on 15 Years of Serving Children and Families

Chief Development Officer Chad Harris Named to Interim Leadership Role

Feb. 1, 2022 (KANSAS CITY) — After nearly 15 years of serving as Cornerstone of Care President & CEO, Denise Cross has announced her decision to step down from the executive leadership role, effective March 11, 2022. 

In sharing this news with the agency’s team members and community partners, Cross said, “It has truly been an honor to lead this amazing organization and work alongside so many dedicated, caring individuals.” Cross continued, “As an organization, we have had the opportunity to annually impact the lives of more than 17,000 children and families across Missouri and Kansas—what an incredible and rewarding accomplishment!”

“As we emerge from the uncertainties the pandemic has presented the past two years, the organization is well poised to provide strength and stability to children and families through this transition and beyond. This is truly an exciting time for our team, our partners and the people we serve,” Cross said.  

“Cornerstones of Care is what it is today—a leader in trauma-informed care, in communities across the Heartland that helps children and families heal—thanks to Denise’s exemplary leadership as our President and CEO these last 15 years,” said Julie Barnett, chair of the agency’s Board of Directors. “We are so appreciative of Denise’s passionate commitment to children. Her professional contributions will have a lasting positive impact on thousands of lives.” 

Under Cross’ leadership, the agency experienced remarkable growth and milestone achievements in supporting children and families. Highlights during her tenure include:

  • Achievement of certification in trauma-informed care from the Sanctuary Institute, becoming one of the first agencies in the region to hold this designation.
  • Successful merger of five agencies (Cornerstones of Care, Gillis, Marillac, Ozanam and Spofford) and legal affiliation with Cornerstones of Care in 2017, with a focus on better care for children and families through service integration and providing a continuum of treatment.
  • The vision, collaboration, build and launch of Homeroom Health, a pediatric health center at 30th and Troost with KC CARE Health Center, the first of its kind to provide integrated medical, dental, behavioral and social healthcare in one location.
  • Expansion of community-based prevention, treatment and case management services in northern Missouri and eastern Kansas.
  • Three-year partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs as the beneficiary of the Chiefs Charity Game raising $1.6 million for evidence-based approaches to care.
  • Advocacy and public policy support in Jackson County, Topeka and Jefferson City, resulting in the passage of the Jackson County Children’s Service Fund, expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, and implementation and allocation of funding from the Family First Prevention Services Act.
  • Leadership in the organization’s response to COVID-19, focusing on the safety and well-being of team members and the children and families served.
  • And, celebration of the agency’s 150-year milestone, through the “Forward, Together” campaign.

To ensure a smooth transition, a search committee has been established comprised of current Board members. Further, the Board will work to involve senior leaders and key community partners in the search process. In the coming weeks, the Board will retain an executive search firm to assist in helping identify the next President/CEO for Cornerstones of Care. To support the leadership transition, the Board has named Chad Harris, Chief Development Officer, as Interim President & CEO.

“We thank Chad for agreeing to expand upon his leadership role with the agency during this transition,” Barnett said. “He and Denise will work closely with the Board and executive leadership team to maintain continuity with the high level of care we provide.”

In closing her remarks to Cornerstones of Care’s team members, Cross shared, “I am very blessed to have had such a rewarding professional experience at Cornerstones of Care and know you will have many more successes in the future. With much appreciation, thank you.”

Press Release Archives

From Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross Regarding Our Diversity Statement

September 15, 2021

Cornerstones of Care believes in communities where children, families and team members feel safe, respected, and comfortable being themselves and expressing all aspects of their identities – a place where each person shares a sense of belonging. We have worked with team members, clients, stakeholders and volunteers to create a diversity statement that defines our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality.

  • We partner for safe and healthy communities.
  • We cultivate a culture in which children, families, team members, volunteers, donors, and community partners feel welcomed, safe, respected, empowered, and celebrated.
  • We value diversity of race, religion, color, age, sex, national origin or citizenship status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, geographical location, pregnancy, disability, neurodiversity, socio-economic, and military status.
  • We stand for anti-racism, equity, and inclusivity.
  • We insist and affirm that discrimination and violence have no place in safe and healthy communities, including in our organization.
  • We strive toward a more welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable organization through our policies, partnerships, and practices.

 

Statement by Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross to Cornerstones of Care Supporters Regarding Recent Protests.

June 3, 2020

The death of George Floyd that spurred protests across the nation has left us devastated. In helping people heal from all types of trauma every day, we recognize feelings—real feelings—and the anger in our country is real. It is an outcome of generations of inequality and injustice that must come to an end.
 
As a behavioral health organization certified in trauma-informed care by Sanctuary Model®, we are guided by Seven Trauma-Informed Commitments of nonviolence, social intelligence, social learning, open communication, democracy, social responsibility and growth and change. Embracing these commitments drives safety, health, compassion, empathy and inclusion in the communities we serve.
 
Further, our Trauma-Informed Commitments inform our Advocacy Principles, which you see reflected in the work we do, including our advocacy for public policy priorities that:
  • reduce the incidence and impact of trauma;
  • create a safe and healing environment that respects dignity and inclusion;
  • build community to transform systems and individual lives; and
  • take risks in pursuit of valuable gains.
Each of these principles speak to the change we want to see. 
 
But it is not enough to take comfort that we are on the side of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion right now. We must work for change in whatever way each of us can. Change happens through relationships. Become a mentor, volunteer, contact your local, state and federal policy makers, lift up your voice.
 
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

June 10, 2020
Cornerstones of Care Is Awarded Grant from GENYOUth's COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund 

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Statement by Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross to Cornerstones of Care Supporters Regarding COVID-19.

March 17, 2020

As an important stakeholder to our organization, I’d like to provide an update on the heightened policies and practices we are implementing to ensure the safety and health of our children, families and staff during this time.

  • Continuously Monitoring & Adapting
    Our leadership team, including a staff-appointed Communicable/Infectious Disease Officer, is closely monitoring local, state, regional and federal best practices and recommendations and adapting to meet the specifics needs of our organization and the children and families we partner with. Every day, we learn more and consider new ways to safely do our work, including the use of technology to minimize in-person meetings.
  • Collaboration with State Partners
    We’re working closely with the Kansas Department for Children and Families and Missouri Children’s Division to continue meeting the needs of children and families while keeping our staff, children and families safe. Our team is providing CDC recommendations and guidance to families on the best ways to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Limiting Exposure
    In addition to more sanitation supplies and practicing social distancing, we’ve canceled all out-of-state travel and paused all non-essential travel for the next 45 days. We’ve also paused all volunteer activities and mentor meetings on our campuses. All staff are submitting symptoms they may be experiencing to the Communicable/Infectious Disease Officer to help understand impact and provide individualized direction on next steps.
  • Implementing Screenings
    On-campus staff are screening visitors (parents/guardians) with CDC-recommended questions to ensure the safety of our schools and residential facilities. Community-based staff are utilizing the same screening questions to understand the safety of a home prior to visiting. Technology continues to be evaluated as temporary tools for providing services.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at denise.cross@cornerstonesofcare.org. Thank you for your continued support of the 15,000 children and families we partner with every day.

See our staff in action! Staff have been sharing stories of how they are still fulfilling their work on the front lines and helping families who are now facing food, child care, employment and transportation insecurities. Read some of their first-hand accounts.