February, 2021

Oh What A Month It Was! 

“Thank you Ms. Shari for all of the boxes you have given me. The resources really 
helped me during quarantine.  If you didn’t give me any of these toys/books I would probably be even more bored. I really appreciate everything you have given me
during these hard times.”

Written by a child upon receipt of the newest Family Resource Box

Meet some special COIPP supporters:

You have often read about the extra support we get from Marlene and Tom England, owners of Curious iguana Book Store and Dancing Bear Toy Store in downtown Frederick. While we cannot say enough about the quality of the resources we purchase from their stores and the discounts they send our way, it is how they go far beyond the usual work of similar stores that make them true COIPP heroes. They fundraise for COIPP, call when new, appropriate resources arrive, keep us apprised of new books that are published on topics of particular interest to our children, individualize the contents of Family Resource Boxes we mail out, donate money to the cause and even take extra time out of their day to talk with COIPP participants who drop by. I would be remiss not to mention that not only Tom and Marlene deserve big thanks. Their entire staff works tirelessly to help COIPP.  This has been a team effort. Thanks to these cheerleaders who help us every day.

Unity Campaign

We are once again part of the United Way Unity Campaign. This fundraiser for Frederick’s non-profits is our largest fundraiser of the year. There is a partial match of money thanks to the generosity of corporations and businesses throughout Frederick.  Due to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to increase the goal originally requested for this year. If you help us, we will not only be able to continue our present work, but expand programs and add to the resources we distribute. Please consider making a donation. Text Unity202156 to 71777 or go to the following link to make a donation:


Highlights of This Month’s Activities

Gail House Classes- Through March of 2020, we offered classes at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center (FCADC) for parents who were incarcerated. Due to COVID, all in person visits and classes were ended.  However, this month we started on a new journey. We are now teaching Parenting From Afar to women at the Gail House, a residential drug treatment program in Frederick. We do this via Zoom. We hope to bring the same course to the men at Olson House. A huge shout out goes to our colleagues at the Mental Health Association and our collaborative program called Families Impacted by Incarceration Program (FIIP).

Expanded Children’s Activities- February was the month for some new beginnings. We added juggling lessons and demonstrations by Christian Kloc, an amazing, talented, patient young man. Katie from Thorpewood created some videos about the Thorpewood Farm and allowed us to send these fabulous videos to our children. Add in a nature walk we were able to do at Staley Park with both children and caregivers, all of whom wore masks, and we have a month filled with success.

Workshops- This month we had the honor of doing the first of a two-session workshop for Healthy Families. It was all about Children and Their Feelings and was designed to share strategies and resources to help children through anger, sadness and trauma. We are very excited to have this opportunity through the Mental Health Association. We have a number of additional workshops planned and always enjoy the opportunities this brings.

Respite Meeting- This month we held our always popular Respite Meeting. We focused on Family Activities and things to do during inclement weather. We were able to purchase a high quality age appropriate board game for every family and a gift card to a grocery store.  These have become favorite monthly events and we are always looking forward to the next one and we hope to expand these opportunities.

So much more is taking place. We spoke to the Board members of Standing Firm Against Frederick’s Homelessness (Steadfast), to mentors at I Believe In Me and more. We added an Advisory Committee to COIPP and completed our 2020 Annual Report To The Community. Our fundraising committee and social media group kept going forward. We staffed our office every Wednesday and kept working on website migration and data collection. We had the honor of picking up a collection of hygiene supplies donated by Lisa Barber and the staff at La Petite Childcare Center. In all, as much was happening behind the scenes as in front.

Ongoing Fundraisers

  • Gingko Leaf Note Cards designed by Christine Wilson (5 for $15). If you are interested in purchasing a packet, message Shari or email coippfrederick@yahoo.com
  • Stacey Krantz, InBloom Jewelry, has designed a one-of-a-kind Sterling Silver Necklace, Resilience. The pendant is in the shape of a gingko leaf. Profits from the sale of these necklaces are donated to COIPP.

If you are interested in attending our Board meetings, please let us know. We meet via ZOOM, the second Friday of each month fromnoon-2:00. Just get in touch so we can share the specifics: coippfrederick@yahoo.com

Check out our Website, coipp.org if you are interested in volunteering with us. It does take a village, and as always, we are truly grateful for your support.

In the meantime, please continue to take care, and stay safe and healthy!

January, 2021

“They help out children who have an incarcerated parent and also also help out the caregivers who are caring for the children of incarcerated parents.  Truly an amazing organization.”

Participant in COIPP and present board member

Attention! Attention! Attention! An Important Fundraiser is here!

A committee, led by Sally Smith, has been working hard on fundraising ideas. We know that given the plight of our families and our need to pivot in recent months, we have to keep fund raising and hopefully raise more than ever before. Our biggest fundraiser of the year has started- and our fundraising committee is ready. Through the Unity Campaign, facilitated by the United Way, we not only raise funds, but we receive a partial match for all donations we receive. Board members are busy attending workshops on fundraising, coming up with new and exciting ideas, publicizing our events, and initiating lots of creative activities.  Please note that anyone who wishes to donate to the Unity Campaign, should do so by going to www.Unityfrederick.com, find Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP), and make a donation. Donations can also be be made by texting Unity202156 to 71777. A check written to Unity Campaign with COIPP written in the memo line, can be sent to us at: COIPP, 22 South Market Street, Suite 101A, Frederick, Md. 21701. We will deliver it to the United Way.

Highlighting Members of the COIPP Team

In the next few weeks I want to highlight some amazing people. This month, we wish to say a huge thank you to Sam and Julie Castleman. They have attended events, brought their farm animals to picnics, donated used appliances and desks to some of our participants, and opened their farm to some of our families. Katie, who works with them, has even created some fabulous ‘farm’ videos for us to share with our children. We highlight them not only for what they have done, but for how they do all of this in their humble way. Never judgmental, they follow their hearts. I post this for I hope it will make each of us think about what we can do to help a family.

While many are finding the time of COVID to be one of personal boredom, this is not true for the members of COIPP.  We are busy-and we keep finding new ways to help.  Some January highlights are below.

Covid Emergency Giveaways (CEG)– Once again we held another COVID Emergency Giveaway (CEG) this month.  We had close to 45 participating families who drove by as we placed bags of goodies, children’s books, handmade quilts in their cars- and followed with a gift card for groceries.  What always impresses us is how very appreciative the participants are. There are always words of gratitude and some tears. A wonderful addition to CEG over the past few months is the work of Sally Selby. She has been volunteering with us for a long time, but now she is really digging deep. She finds out not only the ages and genders of the children, but also their personal interests. She then finds books for that specific child.  This month she bagged 163 books and gave them out to 39 caregivers. Amazing! 

Staying Connected- Can you picture yourself as a child with a parent in jail? Your family has little money, and you cannot visit your loved one due to COVID restrictions. We are very aware of the trauma this can cause. We  once again stamped our logo on hundreds of pre stamped postcards and delivered them to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. All the research tells us that staying connected is what keeps people from recidivism and keeps families together.  Hopefully the postcards will help. I just ordered 600 more; this is an ongoing COIPP project in the time of COVID. 

Respite Meeting- Each month we have a Respite Meeting for a group of caregivers. January was no exception. This month we focused on getting ready for Valentine’s Days, imagining a perfect day, and sharing how one can take care of oneself during these difficult times. The women in the group are fantastic- and the sharing never stops. Thank you goes to all the participants and the group of volunteers who work each month to make this happen. It is one of my very favorite activities- and we are working to expand to other caregivers through workshops over the next few months. 

A Growing Collaboration with the Mental Health Organization (MHA)- We have had a collaboration with MHA for a number of years. However, it seems to grow stronger and stronger as we continue to work together.  Weekly four of our COIPP members meet to review and create workshops and parenting curriculum. We then meet regularly with MHA staff to plan and share. We have been very busy working with MHA so that we can begin to teach Parenting From Afar at the Gail House, a residential drug treatment center in Frederick.  Our new work at Gail House begins as February begins- and given all of the support we get through this collaboration, we are ready and raring to get started. 

Time For Bingo– As we keep finding ways to stay connected with children, we continued to have a monthly Bingogame in January. And what fun it was! Thanks again to Howie for assisting me with the number calling- and special thanks to Gretta Benson for once again organizing the event. We had a great time- and the winners all received small prizes for their winning ways. At the CEG, Gretta gave out more bingo boards and chips to all of our families. We want to make sure that we have more games- and that everyone has the resources they need to attend, or to play within their families.

There continues to be so much more work completed behind the scenes. This month we focused on applying for more grants, putting the final touches on Family Resource Boxes, funded by both the Delaplaine Foundation and the Rotary of Frederick, working on the building of our data base, migrating our website, attending workshops on equity and much more. In addition, I had the honor of speaking at the Frederick County Retired School Personnel Association. The work never ends- but neither does the fun!

Are you looking for a perfect book for the child in your life? Marlene England and Curious Iguana Book Store has stepped up. A new book called Milo Imagines the World, written by Matt de la Pena, Newberry ward winning author, and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Caldecott honor-winning illustrator, has just come out. The Curious iguana Book Store in downtown Frederick is giving us $5.00 for each book sold- and they are donating 25 autographed copies of the book to COIPP. I just bought several copies for my grand daughters. I hope you will do the same; the book’s message is important.

December 2020

“And the year finally comes to an end”

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to be… I just want to thank you guys for everything you all have done for my girls and I. Love 🙏🏾❤️ Please stay safe.” 

Like all of us, I look forward to the end of 2020. What a year it has been! Our most used words seem to be “pivot”, “doing a 180”, and “Zoom”. With all of that said, we never slow down. We have been up to the new challenges by adding new activities, as well as altering old activities. Below are just some of the December highlights. However, first a huge thank you goes to every member of the COIPP board. Our officers are: Sally Smith, President; Pat Rosensteel, Vice President; Theresa Posthuma, Treasurer; Gretta Benson, Recording Secretary, Shirley Smith, Corresponding Secretary and Cindi Diamondstone, past president.  Others on our board include: Ally Elspas, Cathy Anderson, Pat Einhorn, Vanessa Thomas-Morris, Sue Guissinger, and Larissa Metzger,  

Respite Family Meeting– What could be better than children and caregivers, Santa and lots of helpful elves? 
December brought us a new twist on our ongoing monthly respite meetings. This time we asked the caregivers to bring their children to the meeting, and we centered it around giving, great memories, and wishes for the future. Unbelievably, Santa stopped by. (Thank you Mark Posthuma who seems to know Santa personally.) We all had a great time and look forward to repeating this activity for years to come. 

Covid Emergency Giveaway– Picture a long line of cars and happy, thankful caregivers and children, all with big smiles.
We held another giveaway this month. This time we had 42 participants drive by to get bags of resources, cookies donated by Milk Bar, and a gift card for food. Our numbers continue to grow each month. By the way, Santa was ever so kind and even made a stop at this COIPP event. What was interesting was the number of children who asked Santa to take a photo with them, something they have missed out on this year. We love having friends in high places. 

Zoom Bingo– What a great afternoon with COIPP. 
This month we tried our first Zoom activity with the children. Thanks to the organizational skills of Gretta Benson, and the Bingo assistance of Howie Scher, we were able to hold our very first Zoom children’s activity –– and it was a great success. On a Saturday in December over 35 caregivers and their children joined in the fun. We already have planned our second such fun time and hope to do many more. 

Hooray for City Youth Matrix– There is nothing as touching as one nonprofit giving to another. That is Frederick collaboration. 
Aaron Vetter and City Youth Matrix came up with a kind offer that amazed us.  They were given a donation of 50 gift cards for $175 each from a Clarksburg church. City Youth Matrix had the need for 30 of them, and offered both us and I Believe In Me the rest of the cards. We used them for our families that have been attending Respite meetings. Frederick is a community that prides itself on its giving.  This is a prime example. We cannot thank City Youth Matrix enough! 

Holiday Donations– Even during Covid, hearts are huge.
Thanks to the generosity of others, many of our families have received extra assistance for the holidays. This has come in the form of face masks, books, hygiene supplies, and financial donations to COIPP.  I will share the donations of just two community members.  A huge thank you is offered to a local music store owner who called with a brand new music jam set. I later told him that it was difficult deciding between two COIPP volunteers who both have  incarceration in their families. Days later I received another call from the same owner who had an anonymous donation of a brand new keyboard.  We were able to bring joy to both families.  We also had a huge monetary donation where the donor asked that families be directly assisted for the holidays. We have been able to use this money to help us with gift cards for January, a time when donations are usually down. There have been so many donations –– too many to name. 

Fundraising Video– Difficult times call for new strategies. 
Thanks to the hard work of the fundraising committee, and specifically Pat Rosensteel, we have produced a video for potential donors. It focuses on how each donation can help our families meet their basic needs. We are hoping that this video will encourage those who already support us to think of us again, and for those who do not know about what we do to come forward with a monetary donation. 

Postcard delivery– We help keep the communication alive.
There are currently no visits at the local jail. While some have been able to remain connected to their children through the use of iPads now available at the jail, some have not. We therefore continued to deliver pre-stamped post cards for the current jail population. In this way, all can write notes to their children and keep the bond that helps all. 

Governors Award– COIPP has had a year of recognition, ending with the following.
I would be remiss not to share my excitement about receiving the Governor’s Award for  Outstanding Volunteer in Maryland. This award may have been given to me, but in truth, it is a recognition of the hard work done by the COIPP board and volunteers. Without their everyday work and ongoing efforts, this never would have happened. I want to say “thank you” to Pat Rosensteel for the nomination and a “thank you” to everyone who makes COIPP just what it is –– the best nonprofit in town! 

There have been so many additional COIPP activities. Our office has been open on Wednesdays from 11am-1:00pm so that we can welcome those who stop by. I was on the University of Maryland podcast in the Center for Ethics and Justice talking about COIPP and all we do. I spoke at Orienda Center in Sabillasville to those who are in drug rehab and working towards reunification with their children. A group of us have been in planning meetings with Gail House so that we can begin doing weekly parenting classes with the women who reside there. We are working with at technical support program, CIVI, and are just about ready to migrate our web. Our list is long, but the blog only covers the highlights.

November, 2020

“Thank you so much for the help you all don’t know how much it means to me and my family. Especially that gift card we can get so much things with that and I been struggling financially bc I have no job and it’s the holidays and I don’t want to not be able to get anybody presents. My girl has money but I hate not being able to contribute so from the bottom of my heart thank you so much!!”

Testimony (Following November Covid Giveaway 2020)

How can it be November? I feel as though the months are passing at breakneck speed. Here are just a few of our highlights; they never capture all of the work that is being done every single day.

Sharing Fair– Our monthly numbers for our COVID Emergency Giveaways keep growing. In November we had 42 families participate, up from the original 11 several months ago. These are tough times for sure, and we know how important these events are. We have also learned how to do the giveaway quickly, following the rules of COVID. The line moves right along, starting with receiving a bag of goodies, and a gift card, diaper pickup when needed, ending with book pickup for the children. All of this begins and ends in one hour. Interestingly, there is a group of cars always waiting for us even before we open. What is also of interest is that families must sign up in advance. Just about every family shows up. This shows the importance of the event.

Workshops– One of the activities we continue to have is our Workshop for caregivers and others. Our Respite Meeting this month was dedicated to Part 2 of a workshop we began in October on “Helping Children Manage Their Feelings”. Our participants gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up. This month I presented at I Believe In Me and offered the same workshop. It was extremely well received by the 15-20 participants. Because of COVID, we decided to postpone Part 2. In truth, so many folks liked it that they did not want to lose momentum by moving it all to Zoom. This turned out to be a great collaborative event. Earlier this month I made my second visit to Orenda House, a drug rehab house Sabillasville. Initiated by Brandon Chapman, this will be a monthly happening. It is a great way to introduce the residents to COIPP, and to share with the 30-or-so women some information on child development, including trauma, ACEs and each of their effects on children.

Fundraising– Though it is not always “sexy”, fundraising is one of the biggest things we tackle. Without it, we would not have all of the great activities that COIPP is known for. This month we have been working on a script for an “Animoto” video that we will air in December and a Giving Tuesday request for Facebook and Twitter. Prior to this, we sent out our first attempt at a fundraising letter, mentioned in a prior blog. Thanks to all of those who wrote and edited (and edited and edited) the letter; as of today, the last day of November, we raised almost $9,000. This is amazing! However, the needs of our participants are many, and we are not having any shortage of ideas on how we can add COVID restricted activities so that we keep giving our families all that they need.

Grant Writing– The life of a nonprofit can depend on grants. We are no different. This month and in recent months, we completed or worked on our application for grants from the Delaplaine Foundation, The Frederick Rotary, Fredrick County CPG requests, and more. We have also been busy advertising for a grant researcher, a part-time job for the coming year, thanks to another grant we received. It was recently shared as a national statistic that, as a result of COVID, only 1/3 of nonprofits will remain active. We have been fortunate to receive many of the grants we have applied for, but this work never ends.

In addition to all of the above, many of us have attended workshops on a variety of topics including science of the brain, cultural sensitivity, FIIP discussion with author and professor
Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, grant writing and much more. In addition, we continue to work on preparing for the migration of our website, preparation for creating a database for both our caregivers and our donors, learning about fundraising approaches and so much more.

Now let’s see what December brings our way. I know it will never be boring.

Have a very happy holiday season-and stay safe!

Shari Ostrow Scher
Executive Director

October, 2020

Thank you Gretta, my grands, and their father really appreciate you being here for us.💖🙏 NO ONE ELSE even considers helping men, women, and the children of these people that are incarcerated. Trust me when I say, your kindness goes a LONG WAY!🎉😊🎁 Looking forward to seeing you on the 14th.

Sent from a caregiver after our October Covid Emergency Giveway

Throughout the Pandemic, I have felt as though the days are melting into weeks and the weeks into months. How can it already be November? The good news is that COIPP has remained active, creative and busy meeting the needs of our families. Below are some October highlights.

The Office Is Open- Starting in October, we decided to open our office every Wednesday from 11:00-1:00. Two COIPP board members are there to greet visitors, share some of our resources, and answer all questions. Please stop by with your mask; we would be proud to share our great space with you. The address is: 22 South Market Street, Suite 101 A, Frederick.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Covid Emergency Giveaway- For many years COIPP held Sharing Fairs outside the jail. As we have mentioned before, COVID made the face to face interactions during visiting hours no longer feasible. We started to have COVID Emergency Giveaways- and we have not looked back.  In October we gave away coats, boots, books, hygiene supplies, gift cards and so much more.  We had about 35 participants-and all were so pleased with what we offered. At this time of need, it is exciting to see how COIPP finds solutions to current problems.

Fundraising Event– COVID has made us rethink a number of activities. We will not be able to hold our Annual December Silent Auction. A number of us have been attending different podcasts and Zoom meetings on alternative ways to raise money during this pandemic. Thanks to the hard work of both a special fundraising committee and our board, we came up with the idea of putting together a letter outlining what we have been doing for the children and their families in the past months.  We are proud to say that our fundraising letter raised about $8,000- and the money continues to come in. Thanks to all who helped. We are now on to our next fundraising idea. Stay tuned.

Respite Meeting- I have mentioned in the past that we have continued with our Respite meetings, but this time on Zoom.  In October during our Respite Meeting we did Part I of a two part series on Helping Children Manage Their Feelings. We included strategies, discussion and gave out many appropriate resources. The caregivers attending loved it. We do Part II in November. We hope to offer this session to more caregivers and offer new topics to those who attended this workshop. Since we know our caregivers and the families, we are able to individualize the resources we give out based on the interests and ages of the children.

 Wertheimer Award- Thanks to the nomination by Pat Rosensteel, I have been named the Wertheimer Fellow for Excellence in Volunteerism. by the Community Foundation.  Clearly this award was for Children of Incarcerated Parent Partnership and also belongs to so many board members and volunteers who work tirelessly.  The award consists of a grant for $25,000 that may be used to set up a fund of my choice.  I chose COIPP.  This means that the Community Foundation will be investing the money for the next year and then each year after COIPP will receive a check equaling 5% of the fund.  I chose to share this for it means that COIPP will continue long after I am gone. I am so happy!

I do want to welcome Lesha Chandler to the Mental Health Association (MHA). She will be overseeing our collaboration, Families Impacted by Incarceration Program (FIIP). She has already been busy publicizing the FIIP mission statement, creating a new FIIP brochure, and working on the FIIP Facebook page. I know we are going to be improving upon a really great program..

The month has had so much more happening than what is listed above. We have received donations of resources from so many, including beautiful handmade quilts from The Clustered Spires Quilt Guild. We have attended community meetings, including the United Way’s sharing of their newest Alice Report. We have attended meetings on fundraising, and we have worked hard on new grant applications. We have continued to provide the jail with pre-stamped postcards for those in jail so they have a communication tool for staying in touch with their children, and we have mailed off books to the children of several moms who participated in our parenting classes before the classes were ended by COVID. In other words, the work continues!

I cannot wait to see what we accomplish in November.


September, 2020

COIPP Moves Forward!

“I have to tell you when [XXX] put on her new shoes I picked up on Saturday, she said, ‘I love these so much, I’m never taking them off!’ Thank you again for everything you do for all of these children. Your organization truly makes this so much easier and bearable to know someone cares about us.”


Testimonial received from a grandmother after a recent COVID Emergency Giveaway

The COVID restrictions keep us busy as we try to meet the needs of our children and their families, and at the same time follow the rules of social distancing and wearing a mask.
With this in mind, we have continued to go forward in ways we never thought about before.  September has been no exception. Below are some September highlights. However, other than focusing on our usual activities, I am going to use the space to take you “back stage” at the kinds of things we do to keep COIPP alive. 

Fundraising-I would say that this month has had us overwhelmingly busy raising money to support all of our efforts. While this is not as much fun as doing our actual activities, it is a necessity. For one, we mailed out a letter asking for donations, something that is of great importance since we cannot have our yearly Silent Auction. As of today, we have had an overwhelming response, raising $5,990, with more expected. We are so grateful to all of our COIPP friends. I also want to offer a great big “Thank You” to Sally Smith who led this initiative. It took lots of organizing, and she did it perfectly!

Grant Writing– We have been working on grants that will allow us to move forward. For example, we have applied for and received help for a part-time grants manager from the Community Foundation. We have applied for and received help for assistance with data entry from the Ausherman Foundation. In addition, we have written and continue to write grants for more Resource Boxes for families and funding for children’s books.  Pat Rosensteel has taken the lead with this effort, and I could not be more grateful. With her at the helm, lots of others have come forward to assist with editing and doing the appropriate follow up. What a team!  

Spreading The COIPP word– This month brought two interesting speaking engagements.c
Mid- month I was able to do two Zoom meetings with members of education classes at
Mt. St. Mary’s College. I was also able to speak to several groups at Hood college who had an interest in volunteering. As always, young people who care about helping others makes my day!  I heartily thank Stacy Brown Hobbs at the Mount and the team at Hood for making this possible. I have already received follow up requests from both groups. 

COIPP Retreat- Every year we hold one retreat for all board members. This year we focused
on  our Strategic Plan to make sure we are moving forward. We also shared some videos on the effect of having a parent in jail, as well as statistics on this topic, including disproportionality, a key part of our work this year was to brainstorm additional activities we feel our families may need. One cannot thank a board enough for giving so freely of their personal time.  Thank you: Pat Rosensteel, Sally Smith, Shirley White,  Theresa Posthuma, Gretta Benson, Pat Einhorn, Cindi Diamondstone, Cathy Anderson, Ally Elspas, Larissa Metzger, Donna Quatman Wilder, Sue Guissinger, and Vanessa Thomas.

Website Update- We are going to be working with a company to create a database with all needed COIPP information. In order to get ready for this work, we had to begin to migrate our present website. Thanks to a few of us (Sally, Pat, and me) getting together to edit our present site, we were able to make all of the changes needed. However, it was board member Ally Elspas who did all of the editing we needed to do before the migration could best happen. Thank you, Ally. We are very grateful!

Budget Updates- A few months ago, Theresa Posthuma agreed to become our COIPP treasurer. Since she took this on, she has not stopped working. Now we have a smooth financial reporting system, new ways to check on the amount spent on our grants, and a way to repay those who lay out money quickly and accurately. We know that a good organization needs a well kept budget. Thank you, Theresa. 

Looking to the future– It is clear that we need to begin to consider our future, including a paid Executive Director position for COIPP.  This month a few of us met with Michele Nusum Smith of The Word Woman to talk about how we go about planning for this. We took it back to our Board and have decided we will keep planning so that when the right time comes, we are ready. I love COIPP, but also know that it is good for organizations to have fresh leadership. However, I have no plans to step away from COIPP; I just hope to serve it differently as I age out of leadership.

The usual activities keep happening. We delivered over 300 prestamped Postcards to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center (FCADC) so that those in jail can stay in touch with their loved ones. We planned for our next COVID Emergency Giveaway, to be held in early October, and we have continued to plan for our early October Respite meeting. In addition,
we have lots of new initiatives on the table that we hope to pursue.   

Our work is never done, but all our participants keep us going! We thank each of you who takes the time to read our Blog. Please share it with a friend. We want everyone to know about COIPP.

Stay well!


August, 2020

“We received a wonderful package…& wanted to let you all know that it was be packed full
of love and happiness! TY to everyone who puts in the time & energy! COIPP Crew definitely rocks!! ♥️♥️♦️♥️♥️”

Thank you note, as received, from a Mom after receiving a Resource Box

The past month just rushed by. There were COIPP activities happening all the time. For this month’s Blog, I am highlighting just a few. However, I want to start off with one that was rather unique.

Index Card A Day Project (ICAD)– If you don’t already know her, let me introduce you to Gretta Benson, a talented long time volunteer with Kids Activities and a member of our Executive Board. She had a great idea for the summer. She purchased basic art supplies for older children and sent out an email asking who would like to participate in a special project. Every day she sent out ideas about open-ended projects that could be done using the resources given, including index cards. Each email was simple to follow, and presented kids with a myriad of ideas using the simplest tools. She checked in with the kids and kept encouraging them to participate. Some sent her finished projects. The ideas were so fabulous, we convinced her to put them together into a booklet.  Anyone who is interested is invited to request one.  It will be well worth your time.

Resource Boxes– An idea we have shared before just kept on growing this month. In August we were able to send out not just one, but two Resource Boxes. Once again, thanks to Curious Iguana Book Store and Dancing Bear Toy store, the boxes on mathematics named It All Adds Up, were mailed to over 75 families. At the end of August the science resource boxes, The World of Wonder, were mailed to almost 90 families. With each mailing we included an evaluation. The responses written bring tears. It is clear that these boxes really assisted families with limited resources. We have continued to write grants so that we can afford keep up this work. Thanks in part to the following foundations and groups, we have been able to send out such resources to our families: The Delaplaine Foundation, The Helen J. Serini Foundation, The City of Frederick, the United Way COVID fund, and others.

Workshops As COVID has hit, we find that more and more caregivers want to talk about their children and learn strategies for helping them with their feelings. The result is an increase in workshops that we have been doing throughout the community.  In the first week of August, I completed a two-part series on Helping Children Manage Their Feelings for the Judy Center. I also presented on the same topic for Lincoln Elementary School.  This was done with the help of the wonderful Heather Quill, Lincoln Guidance Counselor, and Kari McDaniel; the workshops were a huge success. All participants used distance learning, and managed the technology very well. They each received lots of resources, hand delivered by Heather for Lincoln and Kari for the Judy Center. These included a small library of award winning and high quality books on feelings. The workshops are filled with strategies that parents and caregivers can share  with children so that they can cope with all kinds of feelings during these difficult times. These workshops are done through the collaboration we have with the Mental Health Association, and our program called Families Impacted By Incarceration Program (FIIP).

Covid Emergency Giveaway In the pre-COVID past, we held Sharing Fairs at the jail six times a year. Since COVID hit, and the jail has been closed to visitors, we have had our giveaways as “drive-bys”, with participants driving up and COIPP volunteers giving each a bag of goodies and a gift card.  This month we wished to celebrate the return to school. Thanks to one of our caregiver/grandmothers, who is also a teacher, we had a list of what children might need as they return to school via virtual learning.  Pat Einhorn, Sue Guissinger and Gretta Benson filled bags, and then their cars, with lots of resources.  We met at Staley Park and displayed lots of resources. We had school supply bags filled to the brim under the pavilion’s roof.  We also had new shoes from Soles of Love, baby clothes, children’s books, extra supplies and more. We also gave out gift cards to Wal-Mart and McDonalds. We offered the participants the opportunity to sign up to vote and the opportunity to learn more about the census. It was a great day.  Many thanks to all of the volunteers who joined me. including the aforementioned organizers, as well as Cathy Anderson, Steve Einhorn, Pat Rosensteel, Cindi and Barry Diamondstone, Sally Smith, Sally Selby, Theresa and Mark Posthuma, and Howie Scher who acted as our Spanish interpreter for the day. I never know who has more fun, the participants or the volunteers. One thing is clear; by now we are all friends who care about one another. We had over 30 participating caregivers, and they represented over 60 children.

 August Respite MeetingWe tried our second Zoom Respite Meeting this month, and we are so glad we did. We talked about each participants parenting strengths and challenges in the time of COVID. The talk was honest, helpful and supportive.  When we started respite meetings this way, we had no idea as to whether they would work. They do. Each participant received a gift card for coming, but, more importantly, the book I Am a Warrior Goddess.I think we can say that each caregiver who came is a Warrior 

Goddess for taking on the difficult task of raising a child. We are already planning our September meeting. Many thanks to the following people who joined me in the fun: Cathy Anderson, Cindi Diamondstone and Sally Smith.However, for the second month in a row, big kudos go to Larissa Metzger for all she did to organize the event. 

Far more has been going on behind the scenes. We have been working on a plan for ongoing fundraising in the time of COVID, an additional marketing plan, submission of grant applications for further financial assistance, completion of our 

Strategic Plan. Many thanks to Sally Smith and Pat Rosensteel for leading these efforts.  We had our annual shoe gathering thanks to Soles of Love. Our volunteers Cathy Anderson, Ally Elspas and Peggy Bishop made this shoe collection work. In addition, we have used this time to continue to increase our own knowledge through listening to podcasts, long distance attendance at meetings, and staying in touch with other non-profits.

May you all have a healthy September and may things get back to whatever is normal in the near future.

Most Sincerely,

Shari Ostrow Scher
Executive Director

July, 2020

Where Does The Time Go?

“I have to tell you there’s just no words 2 Express how much your non-judgemental
smiles and your caring for us means not just to [name deleted] and I but
all the people that you help.”

Part of an email shared by a caregiver after our July COVID Emergency Giveaway

I heard a comedian talk about how the months are blending together during the pandemic. That is just how I feel. However, our work at COIPP grows as the needs of our families grow. Each month has different highlights. Below I have tried to capture just some of them for the past month.

Resource Box Distribution- COIPP keeps struggling with how we keep our children engaged academically when schools are out and individual family resources may be dwindling. A highlight of July was the continuation of our Resource Box Distribution. Thanks to many groups, including the Delaplaine Foundation, the Helen J Serini Foundation, the United Way Emergency Relief Fund, the Frederick City COVID Emergency Fund, the Ausherman Foundation, and more, we were able to continue our work distributing high quality resources to our COIPP families. As of this writing, just about all 80 boxes of It All Adds Up, our mathematics themed box, have been mailed out to our families. Each included hands on mathematics materials and a wide array of books on numbers, counting, and mathematical processes. Thanks once again to The Dancing Bear Toy Store and The Curious Iguana Book Store. The contents were configured to fit the ages of the children receiving them. Families love them!  We are already in the planning stage for the next boxes which will be all about science.

Great morning on Saturday. We held another COVID Emergency Giveaway and had even more families sign up to attend. Today we gave away lots of hygiene supplies, diapers for those who need them, gift cards, and art kits for the older children. The caregivers are always so grateful. In fact their reactions lets us know how important this work is.

COVID Emergency Giveaway- COIPP has long known the importance of meeting the needs of our families during COVID. A number of months ago we came up with a substitution for our regular Sharing Fairs, in the past held outside the jail 6 times a year. We decided to put together bags of family resources. The theme of our distribution differs according to the month. In July we stood outside the old Kmart on Route 40, socially distancing, and handed out bags of kitchen goods, such as paper towels, toilet paper, sanitizer, and more. We had diapers and wipes, and art supplies for the children. In addition, everyone was surprised with a $150 Wal Mart gift card for necessities. We started this monthly activity in April and the number of participating families keeps growing. There were huge “thank you” statements and tears as families received just what they needed. Our thanks go out to Cathy Anderson, Cindi Diamondstone, and Gretta Benson for joining me.  However, the organizing and planning kudos go to Gretta Benson, Pat Einhorn and Susan Guissinger. They are AMAZING!!!

Respite Via Zoom- COIPP thought it could not be done, but it was! Last year we had started holding Respite Meetings at the Head Start and PAL Center in Frederick. When COVID hit, we stopped our plans to meet with caregivers. Once July rolled around, we decided to call together some of our caregivers and see if they could meet via Zoom. It worked! We held a terrific meeting, asking the participants how they were doing, what they needed, and how we could keep on meeting by long distance.  Our caregivers shared how thankful they are for all COIPP has done, but they also shared new ideas, even via distancing. The feedback was so great, we already are in the midst of planning for our next event to be held this month.  Many thanks to those who put this together. With me were Cindi Diamondstone and Cathy Anderson.  Special kudos go to Larissa Metzger who organized the meeting, got in touch with the caregivers, and made it happen.   

Summer Art Activities- COIPP is a team effort. One of our amazing volunteers is Gretta Benson. She has long known that many of our older children need more. She put together an art supply kit and kicked off a summer of art projects for children over 10.  Every few days she emails thoughts about the use of the materials.They are creative ideas that really get to the core of a child’s feelings and self expression. We cannot wait to highlight some of the creations over the next few months.    

 Supporting Those In Jail– COIPP has greatly missed our work in the jail, a key to COIPP success. For the past few months, there have been no jail visitations. This means that Parenting From Afar classes are not happening, nor are visits for the children. This month we kept up our support from a distance. Pre-stamped postcards were distributed twice this month so that those in jail can stay in touch with their children. Theresa Posthuma and I also put money on the commissary account of each person in jail who has taken our parenting classes in the past. We know from all of the research that the key to keeping recidivism away is to keep those in jail connected to their families, especially their children.  Our aim is to help keep the families connected. 

Workshop on Feelings- COIPP always works to support the caregivers. During “normal” times, I have the honor of doing workshops on a variety of topics throughout Frederick. The pandemic stopped this from happening.  I decided that there had to be a way for us to do this from a distance.  Voila, July marked my first try, and it was highly successful. We held a workshop for moms and grandmas from the Frederick Judy Center.  The topic was “Feelings,” exactly what was needed during these difficult times for children.  We talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences, the importance of talking about feelings, listening to children and strategies for helping them cope during difficult times. These are two session workshops, and always end with the distribution of children’s books on the topic being discussed.  The final one is this week, but I know from the feedback that Session 1 was a great success. Additional workshop dates are already on the books. This happens with the support of our FIIP program, our collaborative project with the Frederick Mental Health Association.

Additional July happenings include: writing of COVID emergency grants, with special thanks to Pat Rosensteel for her hard work; constant planning for COIPP’s future, with and without COVID, with kudos to Sally Smith and Pat Rosensteel; smooth turnover of our treasurer’s duties, with Teresa Posthuma soaring to the task; completion of 72 children’s read-alouds, with special kudos to Howie Scher for his hard work editing, and continued work on workshop development, thanks to weekly working meetings with Marisel Torres-Crespo, Cindi Diamondstone, Kathy Anderson and myself. 

These are only some highlights from July. However, as I reflect back, I think one of my most important takeaways from the month has been the ability to pivot from regular activities and use creative ways to meet needs. I have learned that our families are willing to try technology, meet from a distance, pick up resources, and be creative, so that they can assist their children during tough times.  Despite COVID, July was a very productive month for COIPP!!!

Stay well!

Shari (Ostrow Scher)
Executive Director

June, 2020

Just had a call from R…. Thanks so much for everything you all did for that extended family today…. This reduces R…’s stress immensely, and the prenatal stress on T….; want to see her through a full-term pregnancy. Onward-

Email received from someone who recommended that a family attend our Covid
Emergency Giveaway

June found us doing more of what we have done so well over the past few months. Our families have many needs, and we continue to do what we can to help our children and keep our families connected. Some of the activities mentioned below may be repetitive of those we mentioned in March, April and May. However, we keep learning, adding new  families, and distributing our resources in a new way.

Fundraising Planning- COIPP has started to plan for the future. We have started spending time building our knowledge base about fundraising in these new times, and beginning to organize our plans. As all non profit Boards know, we are very concerned about our ability to raise enough money given these very surprising times. We have used this month, last month, and probably months to come, to begin to plan how we will raise enough to keep our budget in the black.  We have attended Zoom meetings from non-profit fundraising organizations, met with one another from a distance, attended on line fund raisers for other organizations, talked to other non profits, and started to analyze our needs. Our Fundraising Committee is about to meet. We encourage anyone who has interesting ideas to share them with us via email- coippfredderick@yahoo.com– or better yet join us at our fundraising meetings. Just get in touch and we will send more information.

Fourth COVID Emergency Giveaway- COIPP continues to reach out to our caregivers. The fourth COVID Emergency Giveaway that we held this month was another great success. Thanks to the organization of Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger, we had bags filled with snacks and summer drinks. Theresa Posthuma picked up a gallon of hand sanitizer for each family, donated by McClintocks Distillery. She added squirt bottles, so that the cleaner could keep being replenished by being in a manageable size. This was a very generous donation, and we are very grateful. We added sizable gift cards to Giant Eagle, and McDonalds, and we were ready. Almost 30 families participated- and there was everything from cheers, thank you’s, and tears as we gave out all of the needed materials. Gretta even met with all caregivers with children over 10 so that they can be ready for a journal activity she is leading over the Summer. What a great day. We gave out just what is needed and lifted many worried hearts.

Curriculum Writing- COIPP continues to write curriculum. Every week through our partnership with the Mental Health Association and our joint program called Families Impacted by Incarceration (FIIP), Marisel Torres Crespo, Cathy Anderson, Cindi Diamondstone and I meet to write curriculum. During COVID, we have completed the third in a series of workshop guides. We now have Instructor’s Guides and Participants Handbooks for Building Resilience in Children, Helping Children Deal with Loss, and Feelings.  As of this writing, we are getting ready to present in at least four different venues.  This may take place through Zoom, or in person with social distancing. Either way, we are ready to go.  

Read Alouds- COIPP has stayed in touch with our children through the reading of quality ‘books aloud’. With the assistance of Curious Iguana Book Store helping choose timely, new books, I have been able to read books with themes that are important for today. For example, I just read two, one focusing on inclusion of all, and the other with the theme of always trying one’s best.  I am near completion of 70 read alouds. For the Summer, I am cutting down to 2 read aloud a week, different from the one a day of the past four months. Sue Guissinger and Gretta Benson are quick to get them right into the hands of the families we work with.

Plans for New Respite Meeting- COIPP had just completed the third in a series of Respite meetings for caregivers when COVID hit. Respite was a time for caregivers to come together, utilize the childcare we provided, have dinner and do some simple, fun activities with others who are raising children impacted by incarceration. Thanks to a group that includes Cathy Anderson, Sally Smith, Larissa Metzger, Cindi Diamondstone and myself, we are going to try to do this via Zoom with caregivers.  We have used June to do the planning and advertising. Larissa Metzger, our very talented Board member and also a staff member at MHA, has advertised the event, put together posters and flyers, and is about to send out notice about meeting dates. Stay tuned to find out how our first effort using technology with our participants works out. We are going to use that time with caregivers to find out what else
we can do to serve families.  

Postcards- COIPP knows the importance of family connections. Later this week we will be delivering our fourth round of postcards to the jail. Research tells us that recidivism doesn’t happen as much if the person who gets out of jail is connected with their families. In addition, the children miss their parents and need to stay connected. With this in mind, our Board has decided to keep bringing postcards over to the jail so that all can stay in touch with families. We stamp COIPP on each one. Our plan is to keep doing this until visits are back. 

We continue to attend meetings on building the best Board possible, apply for grants, encourage donations through different types of outreach-and, most importantly, serve our families by getting them what they need when they need it. This past month that meant distributing children’s books to some, giving gift cards to others, and helping find furnishings for a new apartment for another family. One thing we do know: our work is far from done.

If you are interested in attending any board meetings, you are always invited. Right now we ‘Zoom’ meet the second Friday of each month from 1:00-3:00. Just get in touch so that we can share the specifics: Coippfrederick@yahoo.com.

Blog May, 2020

And so it goes!

“Thank you very much for giving me everything. All the things you have given me
will keep me busy during this tuff time. I will be doing every activity you gave
me and I will be reading every book you gave me. All of the stuff you gave
me means a lot to me….”

‘Thank you’ note from a child who received a COIPP Resource Box: “The World Around Us”

As the social distancing continues, and the jail visitations have yet to resume, COIPP continues to be as busy as ever. For the month of May, most of our activities were expansions and con-tinuations of our April activities. Below is an update.

The World Around Us” Resource Box COIPP has added to children’s at-home resources. Thanks in part to a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation, and with the assistance of both Curi-ous Iguana Book Store and Dancing Bear Toy Store, COIPP was able to send out about 70 re-source boxes to our families. The theme was “The World Around Us”, and we worked to fill each box with hands-on materials. They included: a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle of the world, books about other cultures, an inflatable globe, a children’s cookbook with simple recipes from around the world, special markers for drawing one’s place in the world, and much more. Every evaluation received was outstanding. If we receive funding, COIPP is hoping to send out a third book of materials with a new theme. Stay tuned.

Third Hygiene Supply Giveaway – COIPP has taken our regular Resource Fair and turned it into a giveaway of needed resources for families in a manner that fits these times. In May, we had our third event with full respect for social distancing. While the first one brought in about 10 families, and the second had about 14 families participating, this one brought almost 20 families to the giveaway. We handed out handmade pillow cases filled with cleaning and hy-giene supplies, and also handed out food and gift cards. In addition, anyone who had not re-ceived our “Staying Connected Activities Booklet” was offered that as well. Funded by Fami-lies Impacted by Incarceration Program (FIIP), it was our original, creative effort to offer lots of no cost or low cost ideas for children and parents who are in jail to maintain contact. Special thanks goes to Sally Selby, Gretta Benson and Ally Elspas for volunteering their time for the event, and to Pat Einhorn and Sue Guissinger for helping with all the organization this event required.

Additional Postcards– COIPP knows that staying in touch can be difficult without visitations at the jail and with the high coast of telephone calls. With that in mind, we decided to once again buy pre-stamped postcards to distribute at the jail. This time we brought over about 250 cards. Our contact at the jail counted them and called to ask if she could give one to each person in jail instead of the original group who had taken our parenting class. We of course agreed. Research tells us that staying in communication with family is one way to avoid recidi-vism. We liked the idea enough to plan to do this again in June-and keep it going for the dura-tion of “no visitations”.

Read-Alouds COIPP is proud to say that we have just completed well over 50 read-aloud books. Each book is chosen with our young children in mind and cover many topics of interest. We get positive comments from caregivers all the time, and it is clear these are appreciated. We also make them available to groups in Frederick like Head Start, Frederick County Public Schools, City Youth Matrix, and more. In addition, COIPP has heard from others, such as those involved in international work and those working in DC, who want to offer them to the families they work with. We are proud to do this, for one good idea should be copied by others. Thanks to Pat Rosensteel’s good ear, we now do all recordings with a microphone. Special thanks to Howie Scher for his daily, time intensive work filming, editing and getting the stories out to everyone. It takes hours- and he happily does the work.

CNN Article COIPP was fortunate to have been approached by a CNN journalist, Jonathan O’Beirne, who had heard of us and wanted to do an article on what we were doing for families during the pandemic. Thanks to his hours of effort, not to mention his talent, we had a piece shown on CNN. In addition, a group called Newserv picked it up and it was shown in 20 sepa-rate regions. The program highlighted much that we have accomplished, and ended with two of our favorite COIPP family members listening to a read-aloud while studying “at home”. This publicity enabled us to reach so many people who can now emulate the work we have been doing. Of course, a Blog can never capture all the work being done. We continue to write grants, plan for additional resource boxes, attend meetings about alternative fundraising ideas, support families with gift cards, raise money, and work to make sure that every family has what they need to support their children. Sally Smith and Pat Rosensteel, our president and vice-presi-dent, work tirelessly with me to make sure all is being done and done well. We cannot wait to see what June brings our way. We already have started planning.