“Go to the people. Live among them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have. But of the best leaders, when their task is done, the people will comment, ‘We did it ourselves.’“
Ancient Chinese Proverb
What we are doing to address generational poverty
Huntsville is a growing city that is full of opportunities. Many wonder why people continue to struggle in generational poverty when so many jobs exist and educational choices are plentiful. The answer is often as simple as one word – hope. Poverty has been aptly defined as “the absence of hope.” An individual who has lived in the culture of poverty for generations often comes to accept that culture as their fate. It becomes all they have ever known and any hope or dream for a better life seems totally out of reach.
CornerStone Initiative seeks to build relationships among people in the low income neighborhoods in Huntsville’s Westside community who have lost hope. We work to build trust and, eventually, friendships with our neighbors there. As we listen to them and grow to care deeply about the issues that affect their lives, we don’t just jump right in and try to solve all of their problems. Instead, we “walk with” our friends, seeking to empower them to find solutions to their problems that utilize the gifts, skills, and resources that God has already given them.
It is amazing to see how God can use a simple friendship to remind someone that they are not alone and that He has given them infinite value and worth, regardless of where they live or how much education they have had. By building on these friendships within the community, CornerStone seeks to awaken this gift of hope that allows a person to recognize that he or she was created with a beautiful purpose and the opportunities that exist around him or her are attainable.
Once hope is awakened, CornerStone works to promote opportunities that will lead to flourishing lives and a flourishing community. We never want to reinvent the wheel and often collaborate with multiple organizations around Huntsville to provide amazing resources. It is our goal to see that no duplication of effort exists and that maximum impact can be achieved. Finally, CornerStone builds “Initiatives” focused in the areas of Education, Employment, and Enrichment that address many of the issues we have seen affecting our friends living in vulnerable communities.
How Can You Help?
What people are saying?
The story of the CornerStone Initiative began in 2010 when a group of faith leaders from Westside Community Church (Previously 100X Church) realized God’s call to become more involved in under-resourced communities. Rather than start yet another non-profit to provide food and clothes in the community, the founders discerned that the best way to engage in the plight of the poor was through collaboration with existing organizations. After much prayer, a specific focus area within the 35805 zip code was mapped out, community conversations began, and non-profit status was granted in May 2013. It was around that same time that those closely connected with CornerStone became involved with the national organization known as CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). This deeper-growing understanding of how to serve under-resourced communities in a way that honored God, honored the people of the community, and made a lasting and sustainable difference for the Kingdom became the basis on which CornerStone now builds its mission and its methods.
Debbi Akers is the Executive Director of The CornerStone Initiative. She has been a team member since 2013 and Executive Director since September of 2016.
Debbi comes to CornerStone after 19 years of investing in the lives of her 3 children as a stay-at-home mom. With the oldest two kids out of the home now and the youngest well on her way to independence, Debbi and her husband Tony felt it was time for her dust off her Social Work degree from The University of Kentucky and respond in a deeper way to her lifelong call of serving within under-resourced and often forgotten communities. She brings to CornerStone many years of experience of serving with Compassion International and other global and local mission efforts. Most of all she brings a love for the people of Westside and a desire to see them flourish. She seeks the Kingdom of God in the neighborhoods of 35805 and is excited about bringing others along on her journey.
Email: [email protected] 256.694.5393
Director of Education
Tina Kelley is a graduate of St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with a BA in elementary / middle school education. She taught middle school in Wisconsin for several years, then transferred into the corporate world as the Training Coordinator for SCI in Huntsville, AL. Tina and her husband Gerry have 4 children ages 16, 18, 20, and 25. She has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 19 years, while homeschooling all her children until the high school level, at which point they enrolled at Buckhorn High School. During these years at home, Tina has been an active member of the community and church, taking leadership roles in teaching, church committees, and various community organizations, as well as extra-curricular activities with her children.
Recently, Tina has taken on the new role of Director of Education for the CornerStone Initiative and will be focusing on collaborating with the multitude of educational opportunities here in Huntsville to strengthen the workforce development within our community. Her most recent initiative is the development of CornerStone’s Digital Literacy program, which brings computer skills and, ultimately, Microsoft certification to the under-resourced community to promote viable job skills for future employment.
Email: [email protected] 256.694.5393
Chairman of the Board
Glenn is a Senior Systems Engineer at Hill Technical Solutions, Inc. He says, ” I have a strong desire to help people achieve more of what they desire for their life. My goal with CornerStone is to connect individuals in the community we serve to businesses that need their skills.”
Vice Chair of the Board
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve others through the ministry of CornerStone. I hope to use my talents and gifts to lift up those around me.”
Treasurer of the Board
“When I was introduced to CornerStone, I was intrigued with the passion, commitment, and service they intentionally gave to the community. The fact that they looked at a community and didn’t point a finger but reached out a helping hand is what drew me to the organization. To be a part of an organization that reaches out while looking up to God for strength is one I’m proud to be a member of.”
Michael is a Senior Systems Integration Test Engineer at Bowhead Cybersecurity Solutions & Services. He says, “I am drawn to serve at CornerStone because of the desire to move from quick-fix solutions. The genuine efforts to develop relationships that transform, thus providing self-directed, lasting, and impactful solutions are compelling.”
Helen is the Director, Software Engineering Divison at Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Inc. She desires “to serve the under-served and to be a small part of God’s Kingdom here on earth.”
Stephen teaches middle/high school at Valley Fellowship Christian Academy. He is happily married with two amazing little boys. “As a member of the Westside community, I am so grateful that God is using the ministry of CornerStone Initiative to grow the Kingdom of God in our neighborhood. I am humbled to serve on the board and am committed to doing what I can to spread the love of Christ here!”
“As a young single mother, I realize that I am so fortunate to have a village of love and support that surrounds my daughter and I. Parenthood has shown me so many blessings and favor; I know that many people don’t have the same background or help that I do, and that is why CornerStone appealed to me. I wanted to become a part of this ministry to help bridge gaps as well as to restore and empower the family unit. Prosperity is about more than money; it also sustains all the things that bring stability—peace of mind, so that living is enjoyable and fulfilling.”