FY22 Annual Report: Success looks like Mandie

Moving upward: finding success through Cornerstone

Cornerstone is Four Oaks’ Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) Program in Benton, Johnson, Washington, Iowa, Delaware, Dubuque, Linn, and Jones Counties. The foundation of the program is regular home visits where a Family Development Specialist works closely with families to break down goals into small steps that will lead to their success.

Currently, barriers such as generational poverty, job loss, or inaccessibility to needed services keep many Iowa families from living stable, healthy lives. Cornerstone helps individuals and families overcome barriers to help them toward success.

One such family is Mandie and her son, Jaxsin. “I was a single mom with a fully disabled son, struggling with rent and support,” said Mandie. “I was worried about being homeless. I was in an abusive relationship. I felt like my life was falling apart and I didn’t know what to do. My mental state was not where it needed to be.” Then Mandie found the Cornerstone program at Four Oaks.

Mandie and Jaxsin’s first step in their journey with Four Oaks began by connecting with Allison Cortez, a family support specialist with Cornerstone. “Allison sent me a letter with the program information and a scheduled time to meet. I agreed to meet with Allison and go over the program to hear more about it. Allison met with me at my house to discuss the program and I agreed to enroll.”

Amber Mercil is Cornerstone’s Program Manager in the Cedar Rapids area. She has been with Four Oaks for 19 years. She explains that the Cornerstone program helps Iowa families with many different needs. Some of these include helping clients with job applications, interview skills, and other services to get them back into the workforce. Cornerstone also helps adults get referrals for treatment and case management services they may need.

Another vital role Cornerstone plays is screening children for physical and developmental disabilities at a young age so that they can have early intervention and be connected with services that they need as soon as possible.

There are many contributors to Cornerstone’s success. Cornerstone services are voluntary, so participating clients truly want to make positive changes for themselves and their families. Another reason Cornerstone has been so successful is its dependable staff. Amber says that they are always willing to go the extra mile to help their clients and get them the resources they need.

“My life has been great since Cornerstone,” said Mandie. “Allison has been able to help me find resources for things I need help with. She has helped me handle stressful situations calmly. She has helped me with moving into my new place. Allison has helped me look for resources to pay bills.” Mandie continued, “She has reassured me that leaving my ex was the right choice and I am doing the best for my son. Allison has been a great advocate for my family and me.”

Allison continues to provide support to Mandie and Jaxsin. “It has been great to have someone I can reach out to when I am need help and guidance. Allison has helped me with setting goals and even if I don’t achieve them, she isn’t mad or upset; she just helps me work through them and lets me know that I am doing a good job,” Mandie said. “Things for my family are better. I still have stress and worry, but things are moving upward for my family and me. My son and I are in a safe living situation. I am looking into getting my son into school. I continue to have Allison’s support and I know if I need anything, I can reach out to her.”

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