Q & A with Cathy Capo Stone: Remember the Children Living in Poverty
As adults discuss and make policy for The United Methodist Church at the quadrennial General Conference, Cathy Capo Stone, executive director at Cornerstone Family Ministries in Tampa, Fla., site of this year’s General Conference, reminds us to not forget the impact of church work on the inner-city children whom she cares for every day. Cornerstone is a United Methodist Women national mission institution centered on the care of children.
We caught up with Ms. Stone as she was reminiscing about her introduction to United Methodist Women. “I was one of those whom United Methodist Women helped, so all of this General Conference hoopla is exciting to me. Tell me where you want me to be and I’ll be there,” Ms. Stone said.
How did United Methodist Women help you?
I also grew up in poverty. There was a bus ministry that came out and drove me to church on Sundays. It was my second grade school teacher who was very active in United Methodist Women who invited me to church. I was a child that clearly needed the church. As a second grader, my teacher saw that. I hope that the church can preserve that social justice emphasis—to reach out to those who don’t feel welcome. The poor are among us, whether they have monetary needs or are spiritually poor.
This reminds me to just be mindful that there are more of those in our community who are hidden—they don’t look like they are poor. The most important thing the church can do is be the body of Christ to the children.
How is Cornerstone reminding General Conference folks to care for people who live in poverty?
On May 1 we’ll break bread with Tampa by helping to prepare free box lunches (with the Ministry With* the Poor luncheon in Cotanchobee/Ft. Brooke Park). We’ll be there with the group to eat in the park that day. At that time, people can sign up to volunteer with our Rosa Valdez Child Care Center to do some volunteer service on May 2.
At [Wednesday’s laity] luncheon, our kids made the centerpieces as part of our Earth Day celebration. We took little bottles of water, learned about clean water and how limited water is in the world. We drank the water … [and] put sands and shells and colored water to make the bottles look like beaches. This was a fun project for our kids to do and created an Earth Day lesson.
What’s interesting is that many of our inner-city preschool children have never been to the beach. We’d just taken them to the Children’s Museum the week before to dig in the sand and use metal detectors to find spare change. Our kids had never been to a museum or to the beach. Our kids did not even know what to do with the sand.
What’s the history and mission of Cornerstone Family Ministries?
Cornerstone has been in existence for 119 years. The building, owned by United Methodist Women, has been there since 1929. We connect with 120 child centers around five counties, of which 70 percent of the people live at or below the poverty level. When the housing market crashed, we downsized and decided on our core mission: to provide care for children so family members could go to work and school.
At Rosa Valdez [Early Childhood Learning Center] in the inner city of Tampa near public housing, we teach 3- and 4-year-olds how to make healthy food choices and how to access that food in their home when food is limited and how to make nutritious meals on a budget. Cornerstone serves 79,000 children per year. We struggle because every single one of our children is on subsidy. While United Methodist Women helps, we’re about $50,000 short of what we need to raise by the end of the year. We keep trusting that it’s going to work out.
Among the 98 national mission sites that make up the caring connection of United Methodist mission institutions, Cornerstone Family Ministries is the closest to the General Conference meeting in Tampa, Fla. Learn more about Cornerstone Family Services, a United Methodist Women national mission institution, at cornerstonefamilyministries.org.
To join with the lunch in the park in Tampa, visit
Mary Beth Coudal is the staff writer for United Methodist Women.