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Cornerstones community action agency assistance programs.

Both short term emergency assistance and long term self-sufficiency is offered by Cornerstones. The organization serves as the local community action agency for Fairfax County and case managers do their best to help families overcome their challenges. A major focus is on addressing housing, assisting with rent and food, and preventing homelessness.

In addition to emergency financial assistance, the agency will also coordinate self-sufficiency, employment, and job training. The objective of that is to help the client regain self-sufficiency. Cornerstones wants to both tackle the short term crisis of the client as well as address the wider challenge of poverty.

Financial aid for rent, housing, and bills

Rent help, utility bill assistance, food, and other basic needs can be met. Cornerstones community action agency emergency services assists qualified low income families. The goal is to help them gain some stability and become self-sufficient. Services include free groceries, one time utility bill or rent help, and zero interest loans. Referrals are also provided for other needs that can’t be met. The Emergency & Self-Sufficiency Services Program is based at 11484 Washington Plaza West, Suite 120, Reston, VA 20190, dial 571-323-1400.

An on site food pantry has non-perishable items, groceries, fresh food, and free personal hygiene items. Whenever possible, the items can be delivered to elderly participants, the disabled and local low-income housing communities. They also assist participants and help them feed their families. This is accomplished by coordinating short-term emergency financial aid to individuals who need help paying bills or rent. They also assist with paying heating and cooling bills, and all of this will free up resources for the family to buy their own food.

Participants of the Cornerstones food bank may also access to other services such as financial counseling or case management. Both of these, and more, can help clients overcome obstacles that may have led to their current emergency situation.




Thanks to donations and the support of the community, Cornerstones have been able to assist the growing population of unemployed and struggling families that need food. Participants from Fairfax County will also usually benefit from life skills classes, which focus on exercise, health, nutrition, cooking, and how to access government benefits such as SNAP food stamps. 703-222-0880.

Direct financial aid or grants is part of the Emergency and Self-Sufficiency Services Program (ESSP). This is partnered along with Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services Coordinated Services Planning. Together they work to help provide access to assist individuals with a goal on self-sufficiency. So participants will be able to feed themselves and their families or to pay overdue rent or utility bills. Eviction prevention, addressing nutrition and addressing basic needs are some of the goals.

Self-Sufficiency is offered to most people seeking help. Applicants must complete an initial phone interview with Cornerstones. If they qualify, and are residents of Herndon or Reston , they are then referred to financial help from ESSP.

Part of this program involves giving people stuff they need to get started as well. As self-sufficiency may require not only training or advice, but also clothes, computers, grant money, and similar support. Cornerstone can arrange this in Fairfax County, and find other sources of free stuff for households.

Anytime that participants receive any financial aid from the community action agency, they are required to attend a financial literacy class held by a partnership between Cornerstones and Herndon-Reston FISH. If the participant fails to attend the class, the non-profit agency will immediately stop further financial support.

Dominion Virginia EnergyShare Program is a key partner of Cornerstones. Together they offer utility bill assistance for low income households in the Herndon-Reston area.





EnergyShare is the main service from Dominion. It is their leading fuel assistance program that is a last resort for those who are facing financial hardship from a family emergency or unemployment. This program is there to provide financial aid, through payments made directly to the vendor, for both cooling and heating seasons.

For any requests for heating assistance, the EnergyShare program assists paying for any type of home heating method such as oil, wood natural gas, kerosene, propane or electricity.  For the cooling season, the program only pays for Dominion Power bills and not gas.

To learn more, dial 703-222-0880 for details and intake. Those who are eligible will then be referred to Reston Interfaith in Fairfax County if funding is available. Once approved for any cash grant, the program pays for one payment per season.

Short term, emergency shelter from Embry Rucker Community Shelter (ERCS) is offered. The site offers guests safe and healthy lodging. Case managers from the center are also dedicated to assisting guests with overcoming the issue that lead to the homelessness and also help clients transition to permanent, stable housing and apartments.

Cornerstones social services at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter can arrange for nutritious meals, child care, medical bill assistance, health check ups, and financial counseling. There is also an employment specialist that works with underemployed or unemployed residents to expand their skills and work experience as they prepare to find employment. In addition to all of that, the non-profit has mentoring and tutoring services that will help clients achieve academic and developmental milestones for children. The ERCS shelter also offers hot meals, shower stations, and laundry facilities for unsheltered homeless.

Locating transitional and permanent housing is also a key function of the shelter. Case managers will help participants transition into stable housing in the Fairfax County region. They can also explore programs or grants that can help with paying for move in costs, the security deposit, or first months rent on the new apartment. The address of ERCS is 11975 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston, VA 20190, call 703-437-1975.

The Cornerstones Housing Corporation works to address the lack of affordable housing and apartments in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. The non-profit has helped families, seniors and others locate and pay for affordable housing.

The community action agency owns, operates, and leases out townhouses in Herndon, Reston and Centreville. The tenants of the sites also receive case management supportive services, counseling, and goal setting. Apartments are also available in partnership with the Bozzuto Group. They are for working poor families.

Various temporary and transitional housing programs are operated by Cornerstones. They work with charities, churches, non-profits and also Fairfax County. They help homeless and the recently evicted families with stable housing.

Case management is offered to those in the transitional housing. They will receive training in goal setting, financial planning, education and job training. Other referrals are also offered by staff to help them toward becoming self-sufficient. Children that are in the transitional housing units will also receive support through volunteer tutors and referrals to meet educational and developmental milestones.





Permanent housing is offered, including from H.O.U.S.E., or the Housing Opportunities Strengthen Everyone. This program is offered by Cornerstones for families who have been homeless in Fairfax County Virginia. The participating households need to be facing poverty or low income. They also need to have had difficulty in paying the rent and maintaining stable and affordable permanent housing in the past. Maybe they were faced with bad credit, high credit card debt, or past evictions.

Some of the benefits of this H.O.U.S.E., program are access to educational resources, case management, financial education, training and employment. All of these services, and more, are vital parts of this permanent housing program and have helped participants with life-changing achievements. H.O.U.S.E. support services for adult participants focus on such things as completion of vocational training, increasing annual household income, reducing their debts, managing financial assets, finding support from the community, and also maintenance of their health.

Free Foreclosure Prevention counseling is arranged by Cornerstones. They offer clients trained, HUD approved professionals. The staff work to provide strategies to prevent housing crises, offer referrals to other area supportive services, and give options for affordable housing and apartments in the county.

By participating in the Housing Counseling program, the community action agency will provide face-to-face foreclosure prevention counseling with a HUD-certified counselor. All services are offered in Spanish and English.  This program is primarily offered to resident homeowners in the Centreville, Herndon, Reston, and Chantilly regions, but sessions will also be held in other towns in Fairfax County.

Other housing counseling services include VHDA First-Time Home Buyer classes, information on federal government mortgage assistance programs, and legal aid for predatory lending. These, and more, can help those facing a foreclosure. The number for VHDA First-Time Home Buyer Classes and other services is 703-956-6722.

Low cost childcare is arranged by Cornerstones. Some working families, or those in job training, with small children have difficulty paying for childcare bills. In many cases it can be a large portion of their monthly income going to day care providers. Cornerstones understands that low to moderate income residents need access to high-quality, safe, affordable childcare. A majority of childcare slots at Laurel Learning Center are reserved for working families that currently receive childcare subsidies from Fairfax County. The non-profit provides a service while enabling parents to maintain steady employment. The Laurel Learning Center is located at 11484 Washington Plaza West in Reston. Call 571-323-1414.

Assistance is offered as part of the Laurel Learning Center. It coordinates comprehensive family services and developmental childcare programs. Examples of services include the following.

  • Before and after-school care for school age children up to 6th grade.
  • Academic enrichment programs and Developmental screenings.
  • They offer full-time childcare for toddlers, infants and pre-schoolers.
  • Full-day summer programs for school age children as well as summer activities.
  • There are other government funded day care and free child care programs in Virginia as well.







Seasonal Drives include Christmas assistance, back to school items, Thanksgiving meals and more. These drives and seasonal assistance programs can do many things. Among them it can children prepare to go back to school, sharing holiday joy by fulfilling a child’s individual wish list, or providing a complete Thanksgiving meal to a Fairfax County family in need.

The receiving of basic needs such as food, backpacks, gifts, meals and gift cards is a welcome change for many lower income families. It will free up their income so they can pay rent, buy food on their own, and use the remaining balance on their homes. Some examples of the Cornerstone programs include Back to School, Winter Coat Closet, Thanksgiving Baskets, and free Holiday Gifts for Kids.

Education, job training, budgeting and development from Cornerstones

English as a Second Language (ESL) will assist students with improvement of their English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Volunteer teachers work with Cornerstones and partner to offer curriculum and flexible classes. These Fairfax County sessions allow students to choose how often they come to the class. The classes are free, and meals are also provided too.

The sessions offer English language instruction within the context of learning life skills and about American culture. The course themes include nutrition, health, citizenship and community. Sessions are held at Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center, 1086 Elden Street, Herndon, VA 20170-3803.

Financial Literacy is part of CreditSmart. This free class offered by non-profit Cornerstones will help people learn about financial matters. It was created in partnership with Freddie Mac. It will assist customers to build and maintain better credit, and help them reduce debts. Counseling is offered in an effort to help them make sound financial decisions and to understand the steps needed to become a homeowner. Both dinner and childcare are provided. Books and tuition are free of charge.

CreditSmart also focuses on housing issues. It will teach clients life-long money management skills and showing them how to avoid foreclosure. In addition, transitional housing participants can take the CreditSmart class and set goals to increase their savings, credit and income while decreasing their debt. Herndon-Reston FISH and Cornerstones work together on this class. Call 571-323-9555.





How to apply for financial assistance from Cornerstones in Fairfax County

Cornerstones has a few main offices in the county. Everything from grants for bills to free employment or credit counseling, referrals and more is offered from the non-profit. Locations include.

Emergency & Self-Sufficiency Services Program center, which offers Food, Financial & Urgent Assistance, is located at 11484 Washington Plaza West, Suite 120, Reston, VA 20190. Call 571-323-1400.

Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center, 1086 Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia  20170. Phone 703-435-6830

Connections for Hope Partnership, 1141 Elden Street, Herndon, VA 20170, call 703-435-6830 for information.

Emergency Shelter is located at Embry Rucker Community Shelter, 11975 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston, Virginia 20190, telephone 703-437-1975.


By Jon McNamara

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