Woman of Western Wake: Rev. Dr. Rose Cornelious

Reverend Dr. Rose Cornelious’ life might best be described as one of ministry and service, with a side of adventure.

She’s led mission trips to 25 countries, from Laos to Haiti, and seen circumstances of severe poverty such as young girls prostituting themselves and AIDS patients with no mattresses on their beds.

For the past six years, she’s served as development director for Dorcas Ministries. While that role keeps her focused in service locally, Cornelious keeps tabs on what’s happening around the world and finds ways to help.

“My passion is women and children,” she said. “A lot of women and children around the world are marginalized.

“I’ve sat with some chiefs and heads of villages in different countries where women aren’t worth more than the children they can have; then they’re put to the side, and another woman is brought in.”

Perhaps some of that passion comes from her own start in life. She was the sixth of seven children born into poverty in Michigan. Her father was an alcoholic who could be violent, and her mother moved the children to inner-city Chicago to escape their father when Cornelious was seven.

She went to college at 17, where she met her husband. Called to ministry more than 30 years ago, she quickly realized, in her words, that “not every person is called to preach every Sunday,” and instead, felt God was marrying her ability to minister with her ability to raise money.

“I’ve been able to raise dollars for worthy causes all over the world,” she said.

She helped raise more than $10 million in the Congo to support schools and hospitals, but ask her, and Cornelious will say she’s played only a small part.

“I’m just a little dot in the continuum of eternity,” she said with a laugh.

Dr. Rose Cornelious, pictured wearing a pink skirt at a school in Uganda, has traveled widely on mission trips. “I’ve been able to raise dollars for worthy causes all over the world,” she says.

Yet small efforts can have a big impact. All over the world, one of the biggest needs is for sanitary pads, Cornelious says. In many countries, girls don’t go to school when they’re menstruating, because they don’t have the supplies, or, if they do go, they’re ridiculed and never go back. Men and women alike are in need of other basic supplies. In Uganda, a man told her he didn’t get his first pair of underwear until he was in his 20s. Her group was able to bring 1,000 pairs of underwear to his village, along with sanitary pads.
“I cannot put into words how appreciative they were for these things,” she said.

Cornelious admits when she started down this path, she had to step out of her comfort zone.

“Like many women, I’ve always sort of run from leadership,” she said. “You step into the unknown and the uncomfortable when you take one of these trips.

“You have to rise to the level of what is required. Now, I’m not afraid to walk anywhere – I’m not afraid to step in if I feel it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Closer to home, Cornelious serves the local community through Dorcas Ministries in a similar way.

The nonprofit began more than 50 years ago and grew to include a thrift store and food pantry as well as offering job readiness training and financial assistance from rent and childcare to tuition assistance.

As COVID-19 changed the local economic landscape, she says the organization saw people coming to the food pantry who thought they’d never need a food pantry. In June, Dorcas Ministries dispensed $200,000 in aid – about four times what the group normally gives out in a month.

“People who had never had to scramble were scrambling,” she said.

In her role as development director, Cornelious can be working on a grant one day and speaking to potential donors the next. She tells client stories and asks for support from private citizens and large organizations alike.

The pandemic is keeping her close to home right now, but she’s always thinking ahead, already putting supplies aside for a trip to Uganda.

“That’s inspiring to me – I have the resources to help people on the other side of the world,” Cornelious said. “I’m not God – I don’t expect to transform their lives, and that’s where a lot of people just stop. They think the problem is too big.

“I do one bit at a time and do my part. If everyone just did a little more, we could transform the world.”

Married for 42 years, she has four children and six grandchildren. Cornelious says she’s happy to be where she is at this juncture in her life.

“To be considered a leader, and to be a woman – a black woman – and know people in very key positions across the Triangle, I think that’s a high honor,” she said. “I don’t walk lightly, and when I speak, I don’t speak lightly.

“I’m able to be at a lot of tables where I bring my experience, my culture and my voice to the table. I don’t think if you’re called to the table you should be quiet. You’re there for a purpose.”


  • JoAnn Pittman says:

    I am so very proud of you. You have helped so Many people around the world 🌎. I am so happy that you are a part of the PG family. You have such a big heart.

  • Antinobe Evans says:

    Beautiful Aunt Rose!! You are an Great Example to the World also a Blessing to many.. I Thank You and Proud of You!!

  • Brett Venson says:

    Just an awesome testimony of how God can use you if you make yourself available. I truly believe you have a heart for service and it shows in your actions. Blessings to you for as you say the small part that you are doing to help transform the world.

  • David Wolf says:

    Dear Dr. Rose,

    All of us at Searstone are very pleased to be part of what you do every day to improve lives in our area. Covid will pass and we will be able to meet face to face. Then you get a big hug.

    Please stay well,

  • Rosa Grier says:

    Hello Dr. Cornelius! I thought about you this evening. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been in contact, so I decided to google you to see what you’re doing. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am to know that you’re still serving God and His people! God bless you and thank you for the contributions that you made towards my spiritual growth through teaching and mentorship! I will always remember you and your labor of love!

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