Cornerstone Kids, Inc.
Cornerstone Kids, Inc., is a ministry of St. James House of Prayer Episcopal Church, in the Tampa Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. According to census data, 48.2% of St. James’ neighbors live at or below the poverty line. Families are generally headed by single parents, which, when combined with the poverty rate, caused children to face innumerable obstacles in their academic and home lives. This situation, parishioners noted, was untenable. The need was clearly present for a neighborhood program committed to helping the young people of Tampa Heights; this would be the beginning of Cornerstone Kids.
According to their mission statement, St. James House of Prayer started operating Cornerstone Kids in the hopes of helping at-risk students to “rise above their circumstances, and to assist in their educational, spiritual, and emotional development in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.” The needs loomed large; young people would need lessons in nutrition, social development, computer training, math, reading and more. Armed with this information and undeterred, parishioners stood ready to start their work. Young people in especially difficult circumstances would be invited to come to the church for tutoring, coaching and mentoring, in the hopes of giving them a leg-up at home and at school.
Over the years, Cornerstone Kids has grown into a comprehensive and life-giving ministry for the Tampa Heights Community. Nearly 40 students meet during the school year for three hours every afternoon with community and parish volunteers. The program provides healthy meals and snacks, often through the efforts of Teens In Action, a group of young people committed to serving the youth of Cornerstone Kids. This group, among others, focuses on the importance of healthy friendships, manners, and anger management—integral for healthy social development.
Cornerstone Kids is funded through annual events, including the Lincoln-Douglass Ball and Taste of the Islands night, church sponsorships, private donors, and grants, including a 2013 Jubilee Ministries Program Impact Grant.
The Rev. Melanie Mullen
Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care