Blog April, 2020

Hey Guys. I just wanted to personally thank you all for helping out with money on our commissary to go towards staying in touch with our families! With our programs and visits, to be able to make a few more calls to my loved ones means a lot. I know your act of kindness lifted my spirit as well as the other ladies here. Thank you for keeping all of us in your thoughts during these difficult times.

Woman in the Frederick County Detention Center upon receiving
money for the telephone

Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP), along with you, is going through unexpected times. Due to the pandemic, there are no jail visitations, or face to face activities with the families we serve. Therefore, we have had to replace our previous strategies with new ones for the time being. We want to share some of these new strategies. Our entire COIPP Board is working hard to make a difference in the lives of children impacted by incarceration even now. Below we have highlighted just some of our new activities. 

•   Telephone Call Support– COIPP has put $20 on the commissary accounts of those who are in jail, and who recently took our parenting classes. We sent each person postcards letting them know that the money was specifically for making phone calls to help them stay connected with their children. We have already received postcards of ‘thanks’ from several of the those we have helped.

•   Read Alouds–  COIPP sends a daily ‘read aloud’ to the children.  Shari wears a funny hat and carries the same puppet so that there is consistency for the children.  The stories are also being shared with Head Start, City Youth Matrix, The Frederick County Housing Authority, other groups and many individuals. To date, over 30 stories have been taped and sent to our children. 

•    Hygiene Supply Give Away- COIPP filled handmade pillow cases with hygiene supplies and delivered them curbside. They were accompanied by a grocery gift card. The needs are huge- and the appreciation upon receipt was great. Due to popular demand, we just completed our second hygiene supply giveaway. This time we included face masks, as well as the food gift card, diapers when needed, and other items children would enjoy. Both events were great successes.   

•   Staying Connected Activity Books- COIPP, through our collaboration with the Mental Health Association (MHA), has a grant called Families impacted By Incarceration (FIIP). We worked to develop booklets with activities that can assist those in jail and their children to stay connected when there are no visitations. We delivered the booklets to the Frederick Detention Center (FCADC) and also mailed them out to the caregivers and gave them out at our Hygiene Supply Give Away. We have had many additional booklet requests, including one from a jail counselor in St. Louis and even a request from Croatia

•   Books/Game Bundles– COIPP, also through our FIIP grant, has been able to mail out 51 Books/Board Game Bundle to families of those who recently took our parenting classes at the jail, caregivers who attended our workshops, or caregivers who attended our Respite meetings. We worked in collaboration with Curious Iguana Book Store and Dancing Bear Toy Store, to make sure that we chose high quality resources for families. COIPP just learned that we received a grant that will allow us to continue this effort by sending a box of resources called The World Around Us to these and even more COIPP families.

•   Video Tips For Caregivers- On both our FIIP and COIPP facebook pages, we are posting weekly ‘tips’ that are meant to encourage and assist caregivers as they find themselves at home with their children. A variety of topics are being covered, but the goal is always to be the ‘cheerleader’ of the caregiver who may be feeling stress and exhaustion during these difficult times. 

•   Extra Postcards-  Thanks to a postcard from one of the women in the local Detention Center, we realized that there’s a need for pre-stamped postcards. This will help the men and women stay connected with their children. We were able to deliver many of them to the jail so that everyone who recently was in our parenting classes gets postcards to assist them in their connection process. 

•   Help as needed- COIPP continues to supply gift cards, resources, information on receiving emergency assistance, and more as families share their needs.

We continue to write grants, look into fund raising opportunities, plan for a new data collection system, take virtual classes on different aspects of being a non-profit and more. These are difficult times, and they have led us down some new paths.

Please take care, stay healthy, and remain in touch.

Shari Ostrow Scher
Executive Director
Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP)
240 240 578 5662 

Blog March, 2020

I was not sure I would write a Blog for March. However, as is always true, COIPP keeps on working. Therefore I thought it was important to update on the happenings that took place in March. More than any other wish, I am hoping that April and the months that follow will be a safe time for our COIPP family- the children, those in jail, the caregivers, our volunteers and to all of you who support us. 

Thank you ladies so much for your generosity today! I’ve never been good with words
but I am sooooo grateful and appreciative of your help!! 

Note received from a participant in our March resource giveaway 

COIPP had so many plans for the month of March, but our plans unexpectedly had to change, as did the plans of people all over the world. Thanks to an impressive group of board members, we came up with some creative ways to reach out to our families. As of this writing, several new activities are being organized and will take place in April. For this Blog, I will focus on what was accomplished in March.

Pillow Case Resource Giveaway- We know that during the Corona Virus many of our families are feeling isolated, worried and possibly struggling even more financially. Thanks to Gretta Benson and a handful of willing volunteers, on March 28 we were able to host a ‘give away’ at Staley Park targeted to our families. Gretta spent a day packing individually made pillow cases with hygiene supplies, art materials, holiday candy and other items. The beautiful pillow cases are donated to us and are one of a kind. COIPP purchased gift cards to Aldis and Giant Eagle. Gretta and Sue Guissinger contacted all of our families and told them to meet us at Staley Park if they wished to receive these gifts. We had many families come to the event-with all of us being careful to remain socially distant. A few of us delivered some bags to homes when the caregivers couldn’t come themselves. Thanks goes to all of our day’s volunteers: Gretta, Sue, Theresa, Larissa, Pat, and myself. I was a little worried about being out in the community. It was definitely worth it when I saw the faces of the caregivers as we surprised them with the resources we chose. The better news is that Gretta packed enough pillow cases for us to do
it again. 

Read Alouds- What started as a ‘story time read aloud’ for my own grandchildren grew into a COIPP fun activity. Each day the children are home due to the virus, I put on a funny hat, am joined by a puppet, and read a book aloud for young children. At the time of this writing, the daily read alouds are sent to many, but first and foremost the children of COIPP. This has been a labor of love! I have to send a big thank you to Howie Scher who does the camera work, film editing and reviews the final product. Additionally, Marlene England at Curious Iguana Book Store has helped me choose so many of the new books I choose, though I still read some classics. Each story takes about 2 and 1/2 hours to put together. My personal goal is to send one out every day 

so that the children come to know the same reader with the same resources accompanying her. What fun! You can find these read aloud on this website. 

Technology Readiness- In our blogs and newsletters, we often talk about our activities. However, much goes on behind the scenes to make our work possible. A big part of this is record keeping, grant writing, and grant reporting. We are currently working on a new system that will allow us to better track all of our data, such as demographic and family contact for all COIPP participants, number of resources given out at events, number of activities held, which measurable outcomes were met, and more. This will help us greatly as we go forward. Thanks to the leadership of Pat Rosensteel, and the unwavering support of board members, as of this writing we are in the middle of building our technology capabilities for maintaining excellent and necessary data bases. This is something we can plan for during this time of social distancing; we are becoming excellent at video conferencing. I cannot wait to keep updating everyone on how far we go over the next few months. Special thanks goes to The Literacy Council of Frederick County who have helped us in so many ways. 

I wish to end with a positive story. I received a call from my friend Lydia. Since her grandmother’s death a number of years ago, the family gets together each year and purchases books in her memory and donates them to a non-profit. This year Lydia told me they chose COIPP. For the month of March, Lydia worked with Curious Iguana Book Store. We chose some titles, the store set up a plan for giving and choosing from the list, and family from all over called or wrote in to choose and pay for the titles of their choice. Just heard today that over 100 books have been purchased. Amazing. Even now, people are so very generous. Here is to the ‘Books For Bubby’ celebration. What a way to keep someone’s memory alive! 

May we all stay healthy during these, the toughest of times.

Blog For February, 2020

A new participant began to cry. She said this was the first time she felt she could talk with others who really understood what she was feeling.

 Noted by a ‘Respite Meeting’ volunteer about a participant

Several women began to weep as they started their recordable stuffed animals.  One got so excited she had a number of participants vote on which stuffed animal she should use for her recording.  Everyone said ‘thank you’, and one woman said it just made her so happy being here. Another woman said she had been in a few jails, but had never experienced anything like this.

Personal Observation at ‘Stuffed Animal Valentine Day’ recordings

Once again, this has been a month filled with activities. I have chosen just a few to share. 

Recordable Stuffed Animals- I love February for a very good reason. It is the month a group of us go into the jail and work with the women on a very special Valentine’s Day present for their children. We purchase special stuffed animals that have recording devices. The women get a chance to record a message for each of their children. They then choose a stuffed animal for each child and place the recorder inside. When the child hugs it, the mother’s message is heard in the child’s ear.  While the women are making each of their children a stuffed animal recording, others are busy making Valentine’s Day cards.  A COIPP volunteer then puts everything in boxes and prepares them for mailing.  Thanks to everyone working so hard, we had all boxes mailed out for receipt prior to Valentine’s Day. This is an incredible activity.  I cannot thank the following volunteers enough: Theresa Posthuma, Pat Einhorn, Ally Elspas, Donna Quatman Wilder. This activity brings tears to the eyes of the women participants and to those who are helping. It is extra special!  (In case you are wondering, the men get to do the same activity close to Father’s Day.)

Respite Meetings- We are always thinking of activities to serve caregivers in a new, meaningful way. Our ‘Respite Care’ meetings do just that. In February we held our second such event. Past caregivers were contacted and Cindi Powell and others at Lucas Village helped us spread the word. Thanks to Brandon Chapman, we had childcare at the Police Athletic League while the adult participants interacted with us at the adjoining Clara D Harris Community Center.  After dinner was delivered from Paneras, participants enjoyed making bracelets under the leadership of Sally Smith, received personal care packages put together by Larissa Metzger, received a children’s book and gift cards, and filled out evaluative information. However, much more important than any of the formal activities was the sharing that took place throughout the evening. Participants and volunteers talked together about available resources and shared needs.  New friendships were made. What an evening it was.  The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to the next meeting that will take place at the end of March. I must thank Cathy Anderson, Larissa Metzger, Sally Smith, Sally Selby, Barb May, Brandon Chapman and all other volunteers who joined me to make this an evening to remember.  I cannot wait to see what our next meeting will bring.  

Children’s Activities- One of the spectacular things about COIPP is the total dedication of every board member. Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger, the leaders of our children’s activities, are no different. This month I could not attend our monthly children’s event held at Backyard Inflatables and it was my loss. Twenty-five children and about 8 caregivers met Sue, Greta and other volunteers at the event and got ready for fun.  In fact, a friend of mine was there that day and said that the smiles on the children’s faces were dazzling.  Often people do not realize what goes into a successful event. Sue and Gretta contacted Backyard Inflatables, budgeted the cost, got in touch with caregivers via flyers, text messages, and phone calls, planned the afternoon, were present with all of the volunteers, and ensured that everything was both safe and fun. If you see them kindly say ‘thank you’ to them for their dedication and hard work. 

Office Move In- COIPP has started a new chapter. In January we rented a space in the wonderful Federated Charities building.  By February we were officially in our new office. Thanks to the hard work of so many board members, and the extra help many of their spouses/friends offered, we moved in without a hitch. COIPP wants to thank Elin Ross and the Federated Charities staff, who have so graciously welcomed us into the building. We have already been holding lots of our meetings there, and look forward to a long relationship in this gem of a building on Market Street.  Extra thanks goes to Pat Rosensteel who found our conference table, coat rack, pillows, throw, and more. The space is now so homey. 

This month, once again, there was much sharing in the community. I presented at St Peter and St. Paul Women’s Philanthropic Group, Windsor Knolls Middle School, Dana Heaton’s Fifth grade class at Tuscorora Elementary School, and more. Thanks to Cindi Diamondstone and Cathy Anderson, even more groups were reached.  

+COIPP never stops, and I can never capture all of the work of the organization. As I always think to myself, I cannot wait to see what the next month brings our way.

Off To A Busy Beginning!

 “Thank you for today’s fair. Christmas did not come for me this year.
Today it finally has.”

Shared by a Mom at our January Sharing Fair

I often think that some times of the year will be less busy than other times, and I am always wrong. The needs of families only seem to grow. Once again, so many highlights, but I will share but a few.

2019 Report To The Community– While we are busy working on our mission, we have little time to reflect on all we do. This year, for the very first time, we put together a review of the past year. It was written to show our supporters what we have accomplished. However, it has served a second purpose. It has allowed us to reflect as a group and bask in all accomplishments. We have been amazed. I am asking anyone who reads this Blog to go to the front of our website, and find the link. It is a report well worth reading and it has received an incredible number of positive comments. One thing is for sure; COIPP is working hard to reach a large number of children and families and we do so in a wide variety of ways. 

Sharing Fair for January– In January we held our first Sharing Fair for the new year at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. We stood outside giving away hand tied blankets, hygiene supplies, coats, shoes, boots, scarves and more to those children and caregivers visiting a loved one in jail. From the time we opened at 8:30, until we were done about 1:00 when nothing was left, we were busy. In all, we were able to serve about 30 families with a total of over 70 children. People were so excited to ‘shop’; the ‘thank you’s’ were many. It was a very cold morning, freezing in fact, but between the resources we were giving away, the cookies that one of our volunteers, Dawn Aburto had baked for everyone, and the energy of the COIPP volunteers, it was absolutely an amazing morning. Extra thanks goes to Pat Einhorn, our Sharing Fair leader.

Elections and New Board Members– Our January meeting is one of the most important of the year. It is when we elect both the members of the Executive Board and vote on new board members. This seems to be the perfect place to introduce our officers for 2020. They are: Sally Smith, President; Pat Rosensteel, Vice President; Greta Benson, Recording Secretary; Shirley White, Corresponding Secretary, and Jessica Sedjwick, Treasurer. In addition, we have some new Board members. They are Cathy Anderson, Ally Elspas, and Larissa Metzger. We are ready for whatever the new year brings. 

One on One Meetings– We always invite those who we meet when they are in jail to allow us to treat for coffee/lunch when they are released. It lets us have a different kind of conversation, and talk about the issues involved in reconnecting. Many of the participants plan to do so, but they move on in their lives. Some move away. Others want to leave the jail memories behind. However, a few do follow up. January was no different. In fact Cathy Anderson and I were able to meet twice with one of our Parenting from Afar class graduates.  We are so proud of her-and she feels that this is the right time for her to begin a new life.  Nothing is better than witnessing a small victory.  

New Office– In early January, we became the proud renters of a large office in the Federated Charities Building. While it may seem to some that this is no reason for bells and whistles, this is a major COIPP milestone. Since our inception about 16 years ago, we have never had an office space. We have a post office mailbox, a Storage Unit, and the use of my tiny vestibule, where resources are always left off by those who want to give us donations. We meet at one another’s house, at Panerras, and really at any place with Wi-Fi. Now we have an actual office- and it stands for so many things. It is a sign of our having come into our own, it lets us know the overwhelming need in the community for COIPP, and it is a resource for us to grow into.  We are beyond excited, and have already planned how the office space will allow us to expand our activities. Thank you Elin Ross, Director of Federated Charities, Jennifer, one of her staff members, and other renters who have greeted us with so much warmth.  

Much more has been happening. There have been speaking engagements for groups like the Frederick Women’s Civic Club and at the Friends School in Monrovia, there was a January meeting for those who want to help with the Children’s Activities Committee, and there was an invitation to attend and share at the DSS Faith Based Community Meeting. We even had an official signing of our new Memo of Understanding with Second Chance Garage.  

I would call this a very busy, fabulous month!

November Blog

People believe in you and the things you are doing and I truly believe it is only a matter

of time before the organization and the curriculum are recognized nationwide. I know

that you’re all doing phenomenal work and the organization needs to be widely

recognized.  –  Written by an ex Parenting From Afar Mom who is presently at Jessup

Corrections Center

It is November and I cannot possibly capture all of the work COIPP has been doing over

the past few weeks. Much of our time has been spent getting ready for our December

3rd 6th Annual Silent Auction, and preparing a grant application that will allow us to

expand our current offerings. However, this never stops us from doing business as

usual, as well as trying some new activities. There have been our ongoing events, as

well as some new opportunities. However, once again, none of this would be possible

without the leadership of our working board. If you see them, kindly say a word of

thanks to: Sally Smith, Cindi Diamondstone, Gretta Benson, Vanessa Thomas Morris,

Sue Guissinger, Shirley White, Pat Rosensteel, Pat Einhorn, Patty McCardle, and

Theresa Posthuma, as well as our social media team, Melissa Stoey and Mary


I thought I would focus on two new endeavors for my November wrap up:

Respite Care Meetings– Imagine that you are newly retired, on a budget, and looking

forward to the next phase of your life. Suddenly a call comes. Your daughter is in trouble

as is her boyfriend. They are both at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center and

will be there for months to come. Your grandchildren have no place to go. The question

is simple, “Will you help?’ The answer usually starts with an emphatic YES. However,

as time passes and you see your finances dwindle, your fatigue grows and there is no

end to this dilemma, you find yourself in a difficult situation. Can you really do this? Are

you, a grandparent in your sixties, able to raise children 24 hours a day? How will you

keep up with all of the needs the children present? For a long time, we at COIPP have

talked about offering some kind of respite care to those who do the work of angels,

namely raise the children while the parents cannot. Thanks in part to a grant from the

Frederick Women’s Giving Circle (FCWGC) and to the Families impacted By

Incarceration Program (FIIP), done in collaboration with The Mental Health Association

(MHA), we have started just such a project. On November 8 we held our first Respite

Care meeting-and we cannot wait for more. We met at Head Start at Lucas Village,

while the children went next door to the Police Athletic League gym, so we were in a

perfect place. Thanks to Brandon Chapman, the children were able to play at PAL, eat

pizza dinner and enjoy each other’s company, while the caregivers and COIPP

volunteers assembled at Head Start and ‘relaxed’. We had dinner from Frisco’s, a new

clothing give-away thanks to a donation from one of our amazing volunteers, and even

played Bingo for useful household resources. As we ‘played’ we talked, and talked and

talked. The caregivers had so much to share in terms of their personal situations and

frustrations. When done, everyone took a survey about the Respite Care meeting. The

ratings were so high, we decided to do the event again in 2 months and several more

times throughout the year. In fact, we are hoping to get a grant to support and enrich

our Respite Care efforts. I must add that for this event, given that it was our first attempt,

many COIPP volunteers came to the meeting. We all agreed that it was a great Friday

night for us as well as for the caregivers; it was simply a group of friends coming

together to talk about the difficulties of parenting, budgeting, and finding time for


School Counselor Panel session– Every year I am asked to speak to school counselors

about COIPP. This year, Janet Shipman, supervisor from Frederick County Public

Schools (FCPS), asked me to organize a panel discussion for the school counselors. i

included on the panel two grandparents who have raised their children while parents

have been incarcerated, a Mom who has had a husband in and out of jail while she

raised their 3 children, a leader of our men’s Parenting From Afar class, and a leader

from our women’s Parenting From Afar class. Each participant shared why they were a

part of COIPP and then shared the ways they interact with the organization. From there

we talked about what kinds of activities/resources each believed the children and their

families needed from the counselors, and what difficulties they see families going

through when a loved one is in jail. The conversation was rich and honest. We wound

up sharing for two hours with lots of questions coming from the audience. I am

convinced that everyone gained knowledge and came to understand the diversity of the

caregivers who find themselves in this situation. At the end, several counselors came up

to different panel members and talked about how they could individually help each

family. This was a wonderful afternoon. I look forward to more meetings like this with

different departments of the school system. By working together and learning from one

another, we can make a difference in a child’s life.

A Home for COIPP– I am so excited to share that COIPP is reaching a

new phase in its development. Until now, we have not had a ‘home’. We do have a

rented storage unit, a telephone beside my bed, and a rented post office mailbox.

However, we were fortunate enough to be given a Strategic Plan grant from Community

Partnership. This will allow us to rent a space and purchase technology that will help

us with record keeping. Stay tuned; next month we will be sharing our new location.

There were many more highlights in our month. They included my sharing at Dante

Brown’s class on Trauma at Spring Ridge Elementary school, holding our monthly

Reconnecting Class, with Cindi Diamondstone, at the local Frederick County Adult

Detention Center for those dads getting ready to be released on parole, completing a

podcast for therapists who tune in to the Joy Factor, continuing the Parenting From Afar

classes with Cathy Anderson, and more. Of course, books continue to be mailed to

children, one on one meetings and conversations go on with caregivers, and meetings

for overall assistance to those wanting to start an organization like ours in their areas

continue to go forward. One of the biggest pieces of news is our updating our Guide

Star information on non-profit transparency and receiving a Platinum Level designation.

Thanks go to Sally Smith for taking on the update.

I cannot wait until next month when I can report on the success of the auction, offer an

update on the events of December, and share information from our overall review of the

2019 year.

Here is to a wonderful, happy, healthy holiday. May your wishes come true!


October 2019 News

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

that order.

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!

And the Beat Goes On

The parenting class offered at FCADC is amazing. It helps me put in perspective about how to teach my children, and to be a better, more understanding mother. It also helps me, by teaching me ways to communicate not only with my son, but with the caregiver who is caring for my children.

– a participant in Parenting from Afar at the Frederick Detention Center, June 2019+

So much happened last month, it is difficult to pick out the most exciting events. Below are some of the best memories.


Workshops for Caregivers are a large part of what we do and September was no different. In September I had the chance to try out a new Workshop, Building Resilience in Children. I designed this workshop in answer to a request from the wonderful Ann Ryan, Director of the Housing Authority. The workshop included information on Adverse Children’s Experiences (ACEs), looking into one’s own past and the effect of trauma, clues for knowing if a child is suffering from trauma induced behaviors, and, most important of all, what positive things to do if one sees a child showing these traits.

Thanks to the Dancing Bear Toy Store and the Curious Iguana Book Store, each resource given away was right on target. The giveaways included everything from board games for building Executive Functioning Skills, robot balance toys to assist a child in taking risks, and art books and erasable markers for encouraging creativity. Every one of the many participants received a collection of award winning children’s books that are perfect for encouraging resilience., The workshop could not have been better received. In fact, several of the participants asked when we could meet again. In October i will do this workshop for Head Start and afterwards work with our curriculum team to develop it into a ‘Trainer of Trainers Model’ so that any instructor can do it.


The Unity Campaign was in full swing this month and took much of our attention. The fabulous Board members at COIPP all took it upon themselves to have fundraisers of many different types. These included: an ice cream social, an exercise Bangathon, a wine tasting, an evening of dining at La Paz, a sale of bed sheets, a wine and cheese evening, a 50-50 at the Frederick Ski Club— and more and more and more. We are delighted to report that for all of our great effort we raised about $30,000, won an extra $1,000 for having the most donors, and this is without the partial match of money the campaign itself offers. I cannot believe the generosity of all of our friends- and the hard work of the COIPP Board. Our goal had been $20,000, but we went way over our goal thanks to the participation of everyone. Cannot wait to see how this helps next year’s budget.

I would be remiss not to mention the donations from different churches and foundations around town. Extra thanks goes to the Loats Foundation that gave us $1,000 to use for our resources and activities. The Church of the Transformation in Braddock Heights also deserves a great big thank you.They had given us a large donation for the Unity Campaign, but the night of the Frederick Chorale event brought in another $800 due to the generosity of those attending the concert. We are always amazed- and thankful!

Pen Pals

One thing that most folks don’t know is that COIPP continues to work with individuals from the Parenting From Afar Class, even when the participant moves on. I am a pen pal to two of the women who are now in Jessup, and I meet others over lunch or coffee who are now released. it is always interesting and sometimes intense to hear how people are doing, the difficulties in reconnecting to one’s children, and the hardships that often follow incarceration. However, the one thing I can see would make a difference to those who go on to prison are parenting classes. Each of the women I have communicated with wish they had our classes whenever they move on.

International Sharing

In August Cindi Diamondstone and I went to the second International Conference for children with an incarcerated parent (INCCIP) held in Huddersfield, England. I have already been asked to send a copy of our COIPP written Parenting From Afar curriculum to the participant from the Czech Republic, help a Washington, DC non-profit put together a group of Frederick caregivers so that they could get feedback on some books they have written for children and caregivers, and have been asked to meet with a conference participant from Scotland when she comes to America in December. The excitement of meeting those doing the work, but doing them in different cultures with varying levels of support, is exciting to witness.

Community Sharing

Every month brings about sharing the work of COIPP. This month was no different. i got the chance to speak at the Graceham Moravian Church in Thurmont and attend two of their Sunday services. I was the keynote speaker at the Baltimore Grandparents Day Conference held by the Baltimore City Health Department Division of Aging and Caring Services. Cindi Diamondstone and I shared an information table at the FCPS meeting on Homeless Youth. I even got to present at the Frederick 2019 Summit of Intersections Conference that was jointly sponsored by the Mental Health Association, Wells House and Hartley House. Sally Smith spoke at the Church of the Transformation and Cathy Anderson and I shared COIPP’s work at the non profit tent at the County Fair.

Meeting the Need

As always, the phone calls keep coming, Today I went to our storage unit and picked up children’s books that hopefully will ease the pain of a parent’s incarceration for three different families. Another parent called to share that she needs help with Winter clothing for her child. Another call was from an aunt worried about her nephew and his reaction to his Dad going away to jail for a number of years. This work is as important as any other we continue to do.

Please save some important dates:

Saturday, October 26- Noon-1:15- Bowling at Terrace Lanes for children and caregivers.

Sunday, October 27- 8:30-1:00- Sharing Fair at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center

Tuesday, December 3- 5:00-7:30- Silent Auction at McClintock Distillery

Terrific news from The Common Market!

COIPP has been chosen by The Common Market as one of their non profits for this quarter, October through December. Bring your own bag and receive a special coin. It allows you to vote for your favorite non-profit from a group of four on your way out. We will receive the proceeds of these coins, as well as a percentage of the proceeds from the Common Market during this quarter. This is a real Win-Win—- great for the environment and great for us!

August 2019 Blog

 “First of all, COIPP has been a godsend for my grandson and for me.  It gives him normalcy and a sense of belonging. It does this for me as well. One more thing. It gives us a sense of family.”
From J., a grandmother 

August could not have been busier. One of the things i learn each month is that the month we are in does not slow down the needs of the children.  So much to think about. 


One of the most amazing events held in August was the barbecue at Staley Park.  Thanks to the leadership of Sue Guissinger and Gretta Benson, helped by an incredible committee of picnic organizers, the barbeque was a grand success. There were children, caregivers, and COIPP volunteers, all in attendance. Hot dogs were grilled, and fruit, veggies, drinks and chips were shared.  

One of the best parts of the evening was when the animals came to the picnic. Thanks to our friends at Thorpewood, including the Castlemans, we had chickens, goats, horses and a very cute doggie come to play.  All I can say is that even a number of the adults could not get their fill. Children were with animals, playing on several playgrounds in the park, interacting with one another, and just having a great time.

The adults were all involved with children and with one another. No picnic can be complete without ice cream, and this barbecue was no exception. The ice cream truck came, ringing it’s bell, and everyone had their choice of ices or ice cream. This evening event really captured the meaning of COIPP.  We were all together and enjoying each others company. It cannot get better than this.

Other Activities

Of course, there were more than enough other activities held throughout the summer. I will not forget the shoe distribution at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. It started with the “Soles of Love’ shoe giveaway event at Julie Gaver’s fabulous Myrsville home. Several hundred women came with new shoes to donate and we helped collect them. It continued with another event where six or seven non-profits got to to bag and sort the shoes, and take them home. it culminated for us in a late August Sharing Fair at the jail.

In addition to a number of other resources, we distributed new shoes to 69 children so that they could be ready for  school. Thanks for the fair goes to Pat Einhorn who does a great job making them happen several times a year.  It is events like this that make the sun shine for everyone.

Coffee with COIPP

Of course, additional events kept happening. We had Coffee With COIPP on Fridays, we had caregivers reach out for assistance when needed, we had community members get in touch asking about volunteer opportunities and speaking engagements for September.  We continued with Summer Serve, our summer partnership with the United Way, and much more. The list is long.  

International Conference

Personal highlights included attendance at the International Coalition for Children with an Incarcerated Parent Conference (INCCIP) held in Huddersfield, England. Thanks to the Helen J. Serini Foundation, I received a leadership grant that covered almost all  costs. The four day conference included two workshops that Cindi Diamondstone and I did, but it also allowed us to learn from folks representing 11 different countries. They presented on specialized programs they were doing in their countries.

One highlight included listening to student ambassadors, all of whom have a parent in jail, present on their situations and what they want others to know. The conversation included their desire not to be treated differently, not to be pitied, not to be asked what the parent had done, and more. It was a very emotional event for them and for us.

We also got to visit Askham, a women’s jail in York.  This was a very different experience, for Askham is an ‘open’ jail with all of the ‘residents’ having jobs, young children being allowed to live with their parent, ‘residents’ working in key places at the jail, and the goal being to get the residents ready to function well in society.  We came home with so many new ideas. 

Additional August events for me included meeting with different members of Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS)  as we begin this year with our ‘Memo of Understanding’. Thanks goes to Janet Shipman, MaryJo Richardson and Ann McGreevy as we plan for this wonderful new collaboration.  Late August also brought a breakfast meeting for all FCPS partners.  I felt honored to be a part of the morning.  

Parenting from Afar

Curriculum writing is underway.  We will be editing and updating our Parenting From Afar Curriculum. Now that we have a men’s group going, we are ready to ensure that the curriculum we wrote really works for female and men participants. Our initial meeting took place this August with Brandon Chapman and Andrew Murphy, and in September we are beginning to have our weekly meetings to update our present curriculum. Stay tuned.  


On a special note, thanks to artist Christine Wilson we have fabulous Ginkgo Leaf notecards for sale. For only $15 for a pack of 5, they are yours. Just message me or email:  and i will get them to you. Between these and the Ginkgo Leaf Necklaces still available from Stacey Krantz at InBloom Jewelers, interested folks can help COIPP any time of the year- and get fantastic items too.

Christine Wilson holding the Ginkgo Leaf Gift Cards she created for COIPP.

Lastly, we have been hard at work with the Unity Campaign, facilitated for non profits by the Frederick County United Way. All money we raise will be partially matched, so this is the time for your donation. Go to Unity Campaign Mobile app, text UnityFrederick43 at 71777, or send a check into the United Way. If you choose this route, please put Unity Campaign in the subject line and COIPP in the memo line. It can be mailed to: Unity Campaign, c/o United Way, 629 North Market Street, Frederick, Md. 21701. The deadline is September 28 for all money to be in. 

We are looking for a new treasurer. Please let us know if you have an interest and a skill. 

Cannot wait to see what September has in store for us!

– Shari

Summer Does Not Slow Us Down

The parenting class offered at FCADC is amazing. It helps me put in perspective about how to teach my children, and to be a better, more understanding mother. It also helps me by teaching me ways to communicate, not only with my son but with the caregiver who is caring for my children.

A participant in the June Parenting From Afar class at the jail. 

Summer may slow down for some, but not for us.  June was as busy as always.  For this month’s blog, I thought I would focus on just one activity and some of the new volunteers who have come forward to help us.  Without them, we would never be able to do the things we do. 

June Sharing Fair 

In June we had one of our six Sharing Fairs for the year. We always set up right outside visitation at the jail and give away all kinds of items including diapers, hygiene supplies, children’s clothing, books and more.  

This time we added some great new items. The fabulous Gretta Benson thought that balloon animals would be a real treat for the children who were visiting.  She took on the task of learning how to make them.   

Thanks to a new volunteer, Hunter, Gretta did not have to work very hard. This young man, a boy scout and all around caring person, asked her to teach him-and she did. For the whole day at the Detention Center Hunter, accompanied by his Mom, made balloon animals for every child who wanted one. He gave out bottles of water, entertained the children, and even took a young man anxious about his visit with his Dad under his wing and got the child’s mind off his worries.   

In addition, thanks to Cindy Smith and her Brunswick Girl Scout Troop, we had new items to give out- hand tied pillows, made to match our signature fleece blankets. The pillows flew off the table.  I only wish I could recreate the look on children’s faces when they picked out the one for them to keep. Designed with faces of puppies on them, one can only imagine what a treat they were for each child. 

Lastly, we continue to have a wonderful collaboration with the Delaplaine Center.  Cindy Yount, the new Community Outreach Coordinator, came to the fair with bags filled with art supplies, all donated by the Delaplaine. The excitement on the faces of preteens and teenagers as we gave them an art bag of their own was priceless. Lots of smiles!   

As always, the Sharing Fair only happens by having many people volunteer with us. However, key to the execution of a great event is the organization that takes place behind the scenes. Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger work tirelessly to organize all children’s activities for COIPP, and the wonderful Pat Einhorn who calmly and patiently sets up, spends the day interacting with families, and gets everything back to the Storage Unit at the end of the day, has taken ownership of each Sharing Fair.   

We love our Sharing Fairs and the resources we give out change with the seasons.  If you really want to know what the work of COIPP is all about, think about joining us at a future one. I promise you will return for more.

Children Activities 

Of course, we continued to have all of our regular events. The children’s activity for June was bowling, and we had 18 children and their caregivers participate. That is always a lively, fun afternoon. Many of our families have financial struggles when their loved ones go to jail, and these activities, like all of our events, are free and include lunch.  The caregivers and the children adore them.

Coffee with COIPP 

Our Coffee with COIPP sessions keep going on Fridays. In June we scheduled everything from the making of water color cards to personality tests for participants.

Summer Serve with the United Way 

In addition, we continued to have lots of volunteers offer us their services. One of our favorite summer activities is doing Summer Serve with the United Way. Three times during the Summer three different groups of teens who are a part of the Summer Serve Camp get to tour the jail and then make blankets for COIPP.   

The first session was held in June-and it was great. Being able to tour the jail always brings on reflections, surprises and more for the young participants. This first group was very mature and joined in with great enthusiasm when it was time to make the blankets and review some of the books we give out to the children. I am certain that their Summer Serve activity is one that they will never forget. Thanks to Pat Einhorn and Shirley White for helping with the blankets and in the future to Peggy Bishop who will be at the other two Summer Serve programs.  

Parenting from Afar 

The Parenting from Afar work continues to flourish. Cathy Anderson and I continue to get rave reviews for the women in our parenting class, and Brandon and Andrew could not receive higher marks on their end of session evaluations for the men. Cindy and I did the June Reconnecting class together, and once again it was very well received. I continue to do workshops in the community; this month I worked with women who were connected to me through the Lincoln Elementary school Judy Center. Dates are already in the books for a Fall workshop with Head Start.  

In addition, there have been countless meetings with those who want to know more about COIPP. This includes a high school intern and her mentor, Mirabelle and Amy, who want to help us with marketing for the United Way, Jan Elizabeth Hummer who is involved with Social Justice and wants to collaborate in the future, and representatives from other community groups throughout Frederick.  

We also continue to pursue new grants, especially an upcoming one through The Community Foundation. Thanks to Norine Haas who has joined us in this pursuit.  

We also have filed end of year reports for the Frederick Women’s Giving Circle’s last year grant, and we are in the middle of completing the Frederick County Non-profit Grant final report.

2019 Unity Campaign 

I do want to use this opportunity to let everyone know that the Unity Campaign, organized by United Way, is now underway. Please think about making a donation. For every dollar we raise, we get partial matching money. This is the biggest fundraiser for us of the year.

Here is a link to our page if you wish to make a donation:

You can also text UnityFrederick43 to 71777 to donate.

We need your help so that we can continue to do this important and meaningful work!  If you would like to organize your own fundraiser for this event, please get in touch- We are also looking for sponsors for our upcoming December auction. 

May you all have a wonderful summer.   


Thank you for helping us foster strong, resilient, hopeful children!