Cornerstone Community Center in Bridgeville got its start in April 2021 when founder Latoya Harris saw needs that weren’t being met.
“I saw there was a need. We were in the middle of COVID,” said Harris, who added that state service centers were closed at the time and people who needed help were upset.
Latoya Harris of Cornerstone Community Center is shown during one of the organization’s tobacco education and prevention programs. Submitted photo
A lady who needed help was told to go to Harris. There were more people like her that needed assistance.
“I started thinking about how I could fill a void,” Harris said.
Latoya and her family were serving food at Love INC in Seaford twice a week, but there was nothing like that in Bridgeville. So she invested $1,200 of her own money to get the non-profit started.
Her daughter Bryana, who will be turning eight in December, had already started Bryana’s Donation House and was asking church members for clothes. Latoya made her daughter’s charity part of the community center. The donation house helps homeless, those in need, and hurricane victims.
“She says that I’m her employee,” Latoya said of her daughter.
Donations are needed to keep pantries stocked. The organization will take all donations. Cornerstone recently gave a bike to someone who needed it to get to work. A donor recently gave the organization a TV.
Harris said Cornerstone recently provided furniture to someone who they helped get housing.
“We try our absolute best to help people get to a place of stability,” said Harris.
Cornerstone got its first mini grant from the Sussex County Health Coalition, which is still a large supporter. The community center moved to its current location (behind Dollar General in Bridgeville) last May.
Latoya worked for the state service center in Bridgeville two years ago before it converted to a call center. She is licensed in social work and is an in house counselor, helping families with substance abuse and mental abuse and helping children get reunified with their families.
Among Cornerstone’s annual events are: Back to School event which took place recently, Juneteenth, and Springfest (April). Juneteenth is its biggest community event, drawing over 300 people this year.
Harris and her organization are gearing up for its Christmas event. Last year Cornerstone gave out 100 toys and adopted three families. It also gave parents gift cards and donated 30 toys to the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club.
“This year we’re looking to do more,” Harris said, adding that she is looking to adopt 4-5 families.
Cornerstone offers a tobacco education program for parents. Funded through the American Lung Association, the parent academy runs for eight months with eight speakers making presentations on how to quit, ways to quit, vaping, and other topics. There is also an area for the kids while the presentations are taking place. At the end of the program, the kids were brought in to educate them.
The Kids Against Tobacco (KAT) Force, a tobacco prevention program, kicks off on Sept. 18. The program, part of the Kick Butts Generation (KBG) youth program, targets children in grades 3-8.
Among Cornerstone’s other programs is a senior program in which it goes to senior apartments every Tuesday morning to do chair exercises. Game day is also held every other Thursday.
Twice a month Cornerstone delivers home cooked meals to seniors in the Market Street Apartments. The organization also checks on the seniors to see if they need a bag of food so they can prepare their own meals. Cornerstone also works to set up with meal programs for those that don’t cook.
Cornerstone also offered a paint class at the senior center. “It was really great to see them engage with each other,” said Harris.
Even after COVID, with state service now open, Harris said the need for help is still there, especially with rising food prices.
“The need is even greater, for the senior population especially,” Harris said, adding that seniors no longer get extra food stamp benefits,
Cornerstone Community Center also offers free popup shops once a month, in which it opens up its food and clothing pantry. Twenty-two families came out to the last popup. The next one will take place on Sept. 24 at the Elizabeth Cornish apartments.
Cornerstone will hold a Community Health and Drug Awareness Night at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company, located at 311 Market Street in Bridgeville, on Thursday, Sept. 21. There will be free health screenings including blood pressure checks, dental screenings, and mental wellness checks as well as disability service, drug prevention awareness, flu shots, and NARCAN.
There will also be a Think Tank, a mental health support group for adults, starting on Sept. 26 at 10 Elizabeth Cornish Landing #100 in Bridgeville. The group will meet from 6-7 p.m. with the inaugural session dealing with grief.
In addition to food, clothing and supplies for the pantry, Harris said her organization also needs volunteers. She works full-time, her husband is a teacher, and the organization’s outreach coordinator works full-time. She would like to have someone in the office every day and is also in need of help with sorting and storing donations.
For more information on Cornerstone or to help out, visit https://cornerstone-bridgeville.com/ or see their Facebook page.
Editor’s note- This is the third in a series of four stories on local organizations that the Star is collecting donations for during the month of September. Bring school supplies, new toys, personal hygiene items, and non perishable food items to the Star’s office at 951 Norman Highway in Seaford (Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Next week- Good Samaritan