From a woman representing her cell block at the end of a parenting session:
What keeps us sane is the Parenting From Afar class, the food and television- in
Each month brings so much excitement. Of course, October was no different. As
I sit down to write this Blog, I am torn over which great October activity to write
about. I will try to share some highlights.
Bowling – Each month we do at least one activity for children. One that is a sure fire
success is Bowling. There is something magical about watching the children, many of
whom did not know each other prior to attending our monthly activities, greet one
another. It is not uncommon to see an older child helping a little one, three children from
different families high-fiving one another when they arrive at the bowling alley, or
watching two little ones make each other comfortable by laughing together over a
dropped ball or pins going down. This month our activity was bigger than ever. We had
29 children, all with caregivers, join in the event. We even had to expand to 6 bowling
lanes. Caregivers also are a great part of the activity. For example, one Mom who was
new to this event, bowled with her children. Another took the opportunity to sit back, rest
and eat her pizza in peace. A third bowled along with her children, all the time holding
her phone so she would not miss the children’s Daddy’s phone call from jail. Each
event begins with pizza and drinks, then bowling, and finally ending with the opportunity
for children to choose books from the ‘Book Box’. None of this would ever happen
without the leadership of Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger and the assistance of all
of our fabulous volunteers. Each takes a lane, helps children who need assistance,
helps keep order, becomes a cheerleader for the children and spends time talking with
caregivers. It is a great example of COIPP at its finest.
If this was all we had done this month, it would have been great. However, our activities
do not stop. Below are some other highlights from this past month.
Sharing Fair- Let me paint a picture. It is a rainy Sunday morning and visitation for the
men in the jail is about to begin. In the downpour, several volunteers arrive early. They
empty trucks and cars, set up the display tables outside the Detention Center with hand
tied blankets, hygiene supplies, art supplies, little toys, clothing and more. Peggy
Bishop pulls up with a car full of blankets made by her church, and others come with
donations to add to the table. A past recipient of Sharing Fair resources shows up with a
large box of newly washed, used clothing from her own baby. She was so appreciative
of our help in the past, she wanted to give back. If that was not enough, let me introduce
you to Hunter and Benjamin. Hunter is a teen aged volunteer who comes to many
events, including Sharing Fairs. When there he helps folks choose items, plays with the
kids, and even lends a hand to parents who have too much to carry to their cars. He is
known for ‘balloon animals’ that he makes for every child who is a part of visiting day.
Enter Benjamin. He just turned four. His Mom works with him to ensure he understands
the value of helping others. This month Benjamin arrived with his Mom to share Winter
items he collected from those who attended his birthday party. His Mom wanted him to
see what a Sharing Fair is all about. Well, once these two boys met, it was amazing.
Hunter took Benjamin under his wing, made balloon animals for him, showed him
around, and by the time Benjamin left one would have thought they were brothers. As
all of this was going on, other children were being served, families were gathering
resources, and a great time was being had by all. Kudos to Pat Einhorn. Thanks to her
we have 6 successful Sharing Fairs a year.
Workshops- This month Head Start was the recipient of our workshops. I developed
and presented two sessions to the same audience of adults on Building Resilience in
Children Following Trauma. The participants were great and very involved in the
discussion. One of the best parts of this workshop were the resources I gave out every
step of the way, all funded by COIPP. Thanks to our collaboration with Dancing Bear Toy
Store and Curious Iguana Book Store, we have help choosing and purchasing high
quality resources that assist when taking on this topic and others. This workshop had
me sharing journals, fidgets, worry dolls, handmade books on calming strategies, and
much more. At the end of the second session, each family attending received an early
childhood library of books on this topic, all award winners and all perfect for the age.
This time each received 9 different, relevant titles. This was so well received, staff and
participants asked if I would come back and do another series in the Spring. I can
honestly say that it will be my pleasure.
Parenting From Afar- Our classes in the jail have continued to be great. This session
Cathy Anderson and I had 16 participants when we started out. By the month of
October, a number of participants had been released. However, those who were still in
jail at the end of October were strong, insightful women. For the men, Brenda
Chapman and Andrew Murphy started their new class at the end of October with 25
men. Remember, all participants voluntarily join us. We hold the sessions for ten weeks,
use a curriculum we developed, and tackle topics like: Stress; Discipline; Building
Autonomy; Encouraging Cooperation, and more. Every class begins with discussion/
game about the participants own childhood experiences, segues into a discussion of
children’s situations we have heard from past participants, problem solves those
situations and ends with each participant receiving a pre-stamped postcard for each of
their children. We love these classes and receive amazing feedback about what they
mean to the men and women who participate. I just mailed out the books the women
chose for their children during the last class. Many of the women have multiple
children, with some living in different houses. In all, 72 books in total were mailed out to
the children of those who had successfully completed the class. These sessions have
become favorites of those in jail- and they are one of our favorites too.
So much more happened this month. We were a part of the United Way Day of Action.
Led by Peggy Bishop, we had about 20 volunteers make hand tied blankets. I spoke at
North Frederick to a young group of boy scouts. We attended the annual Do Gooders
Awards fundraising gala and were the recipients of money raised at that event.
Vanessa Morisette Thompson and Raini Blakeslee gave out candy and shared
information about COIPP at Grace United Church of Christ during a downtown
Halloween celebration and and on and on and on.
Save the date! On Tuesday, December 3, from 5-7:30, we are having our sixth
annual Auction. This year, in addition to our wonderful auction items, great food
and music, we are going to have some new surprises. For only $20 ($25 at the
door), you can join in the fun. Just go to Evite and type in COIPP, or check out our
Facebook page and Website to find out more!
May you have a fabulous Thanksgiving!