And What A Month It Was

December 2018 Blog

As I write this, I am thinking about what can be accomplished when one has a working board of amazing and dedicated people.  Each member of our COIPP Board co-chaired a committee this year, and no one disappointed. In a few days, January 11, we will be having our big meeting of the year where we will have a full review of highlights as well as elect all officers and board members.  It is amazing what can get done when everyone participators. Just look at the partial list of activities below.

Christmas Day Sharing Fair

What does one say to a family when they are in tears as they go to visit a loved one and then say thank you for what we can offer?  What does one do when a child tells you that they miss their Mommy in jail, but then brightens up as they go ‘shopping’ for a few extra goodies? How does one feel when a family says that Christmas was difficult, but the resources we give away made it a great day? Several times a year we hold a Sharing Fair outside of the jail during visitation.  Our favorite, above all, is the one we hold on Christmas day.  Those in jail make a big urn of hot chocolate for all of the visitors, Uncle Ralph’s donates cookies, we gave out hand tied blankets, boots, art supplies, new children’s coats, mittens, hats, gloves and scarves and so much more. This year we had many volunteers who joined us for the first time, as well as many returning volunteers. We stood outside the jail from 8-1:00 giving away everything we brought. In all, we served over sixty children and caregivers and stayed until nothing was left.  We received so many thank you’s from those we served, it really made our day as well as the day of the participants. I thank Pat Einhorn who has taken over the organization of these great events, but she could not do it without the support of Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger and all who came to help. Thank you ladies for an exemplary job.

Delaplaine Partnership

Self expression is key for the healing of our participants. Did you know that once a month Coffee With COIPP, our weekly meeting group for those recently released from jail or currently in rehab, go to the Delaplaine and meet with artist David Modler and administrator Caitlyn Gill. There they participate in Visual Journaling classes.  We have sketchbooks, art supplies, use a Delaplaine art studio, and learn from the best.   This is one of the favorite sessions in our twelve week program.  In fact, many of our participants now talk about being artists. Many have received scholarships from the Delaplaine for classes, as have their children.  We even received about twenty art kits, put together by the Delaplaine, that we were able to give out at our Christmas Day Sharing Fair.  What a big hit.  Thank you goes to the Delaplaine and this spectacular partnership.

Staff Training

In November I spoke to doctoral students at Hood College.  Several participants in the workshop asked me to follow up with a visit to their place of work.  December brought me to William H. Farquhar Middle School in Montgomery County.  The entire staff, fifty one teachers, stayed after school to learn about COIPP and the possible effect of incarceration and trauma on children. It was a great group- and the teachers were so very interested in this topic.  Their concerns and insight led me to begin to pursue a formal partnership with Frederick County Public Schools. It was clear that staff in all schools would benefit from this kind of learning. Cindi Diamondstone joined me at our first meeting as we pursue the possibility.

Silent Auction

Usually I highlight special COIPP events for children and caregivers, but nothing this month was as big as our COIPP Silent Auction. It is one of our two biggest fundraisers for the year, and It was a huge success. We had a new venue, the McClintock Distillery, a wonderful downtown treat. For the first time  we had live music and a live auction. The food was once again great, thanks to Renaissance Catering, The energy was incredible, and the place was jammed. Thank you Theresa Posthuma and Cindi Diamondstone for taking leadership for this great event. Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of everyone, we will be able to continue with all our COIPP endeavors, and add more.

We had a very large number of children attend our monthly Bowling activity in December, had many children and caregivers go to see Frosty The Snowman, thanks to Susan Thornton and her generosity, held our regular weekly Parenting From Afar classes for women at the jail and our monthly Reconnecting Class for men, gave workshops, met with future volunteers, and even recruited two newly released Moms for our Adult Advisory Committee.  Our FIIP partnership with the Mental Health Association continues to grow and we are looking forward to starting a men’s Parenting From Afar class. It was a great, great year- but I have a feeling that 2019 will be even better!

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