April has been quite a busy month, with all COIPP programs growing and flourishing. I must thank the COIPP Board members and volunteers. Without them, there would be no COIPP. I was out of town for two weeks, but everything continued under the leadership that is exemplified every month of the year.
In addition, this month, through a grant from the Ausherman Foundation, we had the wonderful Pat Hanberry continue her work with us by meeting with all Board members for a day and taking us closer to our new Strategic Plan. It was a great day of planning and reflection. I cannot wait to see where this plan will take us. Stay tuned!
For the April review, I will highlight just one activity on one day of the month, but I find it speaks to the spirit of our organization. It was a Friday Coffee With COIPP meeting.
These meetings are organized by wonderful Patty McCardle and Sally Smith, and always helped along by Cindi Diamondstone. This one had the gifted Guidance Counselor from North Frederick Elementary School, Laura Vogtman, come and share. She made calming bottles with all the attendees. These are water bottles with a bit of Elmer’s Glue added, and lots of natural and man made stones, sparkles and twigs added for extra beauty. They are perfect for helping children and adults with focus.
The group participating numbered 10 or more, all of whom have been in jail and/or are presently in rehab. We began by talking about what Coffee With COIPP is all about and offered folks a wide array of hygiene supplies for their families. We than moved into making the bottles, with everyone participating and making material choices from the wide array of items Laura brought to fill their bottles. Folks sat at tables, each helping the other and commenting on the great finished products.
After each participant shared their creation with one another, we talked about how the bottles can be used in the attendees reconnecting quest with the children in their lives. Before everyone left, we had refreshments selected by Tracy Grubb, gave out more hygiene products, and distributed gift cards and bus passes to those who shared a need for them. Almost the whole group was new to this Friday activity, but the evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, so I know that just about everyone will be returning.
As I write this April reflection, I must add that next week, the beginning of May, we are all going to I Made This pottery place. Several of the attendees asked to bring their children to that event, and two of the men asked how they could volunteer with us. In addition, two others mentioned that they needed bikes to get to all of their meetings and job interviews. By the end off the day, two bikes were located. I have to add that the day before, Thursday, I met with administrators from the Delaplaine Arts Center to discuss another Coffee
With COIPP ongoing activity, namely visual journaling, a group favorite. This occurs monthly and is always well attended. The activity leader, David Modler, is a gift to COIPP.
What this blog does not adequately cover is the camaraderie between the attendees and the volunteers. The church room we use is always filled with laughter and talk. In this activity people were helping us clean up, sweep, put away refreshments, and more. It is very touching, for when we are doing our Friday activity there is really a friendship that forms between the volunteers and the attendees; we are all one.
Every activity we do takes lots of planning and more than a few volunteers. As said, the above is only one hour in the life of COIPP. In April alone, in addition to our retreat, we had an art activity at Fired Arts, a Sharing Fair at the jail, weekly Coffee With COIPP meetings, our ongoing Parenting from Afar classes, held separately for men and women at the jail, our monthly Reconnecting Class at the jail, and more. This does not speak to the ongoing work of our Outreach Committee when a parent or caregiver has a special need, our work writing grants, funding proposals and filing updated reports to the grant organizations, and our outreach to the community, for we are always spreading the COIPP word.
A little known thing that we do is try to keep in touch with those we have met in our Parenting From Afar Classes at the jail. I always encourage past incarcerated moms and dads to join me on our Advisory Committee. Two of the women have continued to be my ‘Penpals’ as they serve their time at Jessup Prison. It is so helpful to have advice from these folks, those who have or are experiencing incarceration, as they can lead COIPP in a meaningful direction. I must add that our Parenting From Afar Class with the men is going full steam ahead. Brandon and Andrew, our two great teachers, had over 25 men sign up for the class they just started.
Every month brings us new participants, new activities, new collaborations, new strategies for COIPP. It is too much fun reflecting on our work and sharing the wonderful things we are doing through this blog of our work.