September Blog – Where Does the Time Go?

Here’s to a great Board!

As you look at the month’s accomplishments, please note that nothing would happen without a great working Board. Here is to: Donna, Cindi, Eliza, Shirley, Gretta, Sue, Pat, Vanessa, Theresa, Marisel, Cathy, Sally, and Patty, and Melissa, our head of Marketing.

Our Mental Health Partnership

Thanks to our Governor’s Grant, we have been able to partner with the Mental Health Association (MHA). We have a three pronged approach. We do Parenting From Afar in the jail for women; the grant is able to pay for some of our materials and printing and reimburse our curriculum writers for their time. We then do workshops in the community. Again, the grant pays for the planning and execution, not to mention resources for the workshops for caregivers. We then do a ‘warm hand over’ to MHA for families who need an extra boost as participants either reconnect with their children or struggle with being a caregiver. However, we began to see that this was not enough.

After talking together, we decided to do a deeper partnership. Now the staff from MHA comes to our children’s activities, and our Sharing Fairs held at the jail. They will be attending some of our Parenting From Afar sessions for women in jail, and they are hiring leaders and starting a men’s Fathering From Afar group at the jail that will use the curriculum we constructed. What a partnership! We call it FIIP and it stands for Families Impacted by Incarcerated Program.

Sharing Fair

In late September we had one of our Sharing Fairs, held four times a year at the local jail. Thanks to Pat Einhorn who led the charge, we were able to serve about 80 children either in person or via their caregivers. We set up early with a group of volunteers, and we stood outside the Detention Center giving away all kinds of goodies. This Fair included backpacks, new underwear, hygiene products, books, stuffed animals, hand tied blankets, and lots of other items that help make a child’s visit to the jail fun and meaningful.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who attended, no child or caregiver was left out. We arrived with boxes of goodies and 100 pairs of new shoes- and left 6 hours later with almost nothing left. The next Sharing Fair is scheduled for Christmas Day, where the inmates will be making hot cocoa for the families as we continue to give out goodies. This is always a meaningful day for us.

Monthly Bowling Event

Monthly, thanks to Gretta Benson and Sue Guessinger, we hold our bowling event. We had a great crowd of children and caregivers, a number being grandmothers raising children. We set up as a ‘birthday party’, so that the event is festive. We bowl, we eat pizza, we share and we talk. Of course everything is free.

I was able to meet one on one with a Grandmother looking for some assistance and for resources. Another woman just wanted to talk. However, what I will always remember is one woman who attended both the Sharing Fair and the Bowling Party with her daughter. I had met her months ago at the jail when she was visiting her husband. She had been sad, lost, and looking desperate. At that time she shared that she did not know how she would survive. We went into action. At both of these events she was standing up straight, happy, and reveling in the strength she has shown. She now has a house, and is seeing life through the eyes of anything being possible. It made all of our days.

Delaplaine Partnership

Our Coffee With COIPP meetings, held every Friday for those who are recently released from jail or are in recovery, continue to amaze us. Originally we could not find participants. Now we have 7-15 people coming each week. One of our activities involves our partnership with the Delaplaine. Once a month artist David Modler meets with our participants and teaches them to do Visual Journaling, using quality art resources supplied by both COIPP and the Delaplaine. It is a favorite. In fact, one of the women who took our classes on parenting at the jail and is now attending Coffee With COIPP is starting her own Visual Journaling classes for those in recovery. What a way to spread the word!

The Delaplaine was also able to give many participants full scholarships to classes for both them and their children.T his is a VERY big deal for all involved. And did I mention that the Delaplaine came to our Sharing Fair and handed out Art Bags filled with fabulous supplies to all of the children? Our partnership rocks!

Unity Campaign

This countywide fundraiser takes place every year for Frederick’s non-profits. Each non-profit is asked to come up with a goal. This year’s goal for COIPP was $14,500, the amount we raised last year. However, I decided to challenge each board member to hold her own fundraiser. We had everything from ice cream socials, exercise-a thons, cookie decorating, wine tasting, art auctioning, happy hour, selling of handmade bookmarks, jewelry purchasing, and more.

I am proud to say that through our team effort, we not only met our goal, but we were incredibly successful. In all we raised $20,144 and this is without the United Way partial match which is coming soon! This was successful beyond our wildest dreams but it will enable us to continue our fabulous work.

The list goes on and on as always. From our Parenting classes in the jail that will soon have a men’s component, to the feedback we get from our children and their parents/ caregivers, to the new books on incarceration that have come our way from all over the world to the people who search us out to learn about how they can start a similar group, we have had an amazing month—-and this is only a partial list of all we have been doing.

We are busy getting ready for our December 4th Silent Auction at McCliintock Distillery. Stay tuned and be looking for all of our advertising. Also be sure to check out our new brochure, designed by Melissa Stoey.

I also want to add that the Andrus award I received for being the recipient of the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association volunteer award was for COIPP.

It takes a village and we have it!

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