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: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/UnityFrederick/team/COIPP.

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- Scher12345@comcast.net. We are also looking for sponsors for our upcoming December auction. 

May you all have a wonderful summer.   

Shari

 

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

 

 

 

 

What a Month We Have Had!

 As I woke up this morning and realized we were already beginning the month of June, I could not have been more amazed at how fast the month of May rolled by.  Once again, there have been so many highlights, I will take this opportunity to speak to only a few. These really stood out for me. 

Trip to Thorpewood

Have you ever been there?  Tucked away in the woods of Thurmont, there is probably not a more beautiful place in Frederick. Thanks to the support of Julie and Sam Castleman and the wonderful Katie, we were able to bring a group of children up there to spend the day. I got there after our bus had arrived and the first participants  I saw were two children I have known for many years. They were suppose to be visiting with their Mom that day who is in prison, but due to a situation that came up, she was not allowed to have visitors.

Her Mom, the children’s grandmother and caregiver, showed me some photos revealing how heart broken they were when she shared the news with them that they could not visit. What I saw as soon as I arrived were two girls who could not have been wearing bigger smiles. One had just taken a hay ride and the other was showing me some fresh warm eggs that were just laid by the resident chickens. As the day went on, all the children ran around the farm buildings, played with the many animals, and found sticks to roast their individual hot dogs and later their marshmallows for s’mores.  I am never sure if we are changing lives, but the visit to Thorpewood certainly opened some doors for children that are usually not available to them. What a day! 

Recordable Stuffed Animals For the Men

Every Valentine’s Day, the volunteers of COIPP go into the women’s section of the jail and help them record personal messages to their children. These messages are then placed in special stuffed animals that we purchase. Whenever the children hug their stuffed animals they can hear their Mommies’ voice in their ear. In May we had the great opportunity to do the same with the men in the Parenting From Afar class that is facilitated by Brandon Chapman and Andrew Murphy.  It was amazing. There was something incredible about seeing grown men record special messages for each of their children, embrace soft stuffed animals, write kind, supportive messages to their children and be touched by this whole process.  One man said he felt he was giving himself a gift. Another had difficulty giving up his stuffed animal as we prepared the box for mailing. He just enjoyed hugging the bear!  Several men wanted to know how they could help us when they got out, and all of the men kept thanking us. 

One particular moment stands out for me.  One man was recording a message for his daughter. He was so touched by this experience, he was close to tears and therefore his voice was a bit down . Another man looked at him and said: Don’t do that. She will be worried about you. Make your voice upbeat. Let her know you are okay.  The first man immediately redid his message, and thanked the other man who gave him the idea to send a different kind of message. Their camaraderie was so incredible to me. I know there are many stereotypes out there about men in jail.  If you want to break those, just join us for one of these evenings.  

Community Sharing

One of the many things I continue to learn from COIPP is how much our community wants to help us. This is especially touching when the help comes from our Frederick County students. I often do speaking engagements for some school staff members, or am invited into classrooms to share the work of COIPP. The next thing I know is that the children are asking just what they can do.

This month a number of schools did projects to assist us.  Thanks goes to Brian Dwyer, Guidance Counselor, and T.J. Middle School for their enormous collection of family hygiene products. Thanks goes to Ashley Freshour, Guidance Counselor, and Middletown Middle School for making blankets for us. Last, but not least, thanks goes to Media Specialist Ann Duncan and the students of Oakdale Middle School, for donating Board books and Spanish books to us. They are perfect fits for our ‘Giving Library’ at the jail and are always needed. In May I continued sharing our mission and vision with the Frederick  adult community. One high point was sharing at the Frederick Flute Choir performance this month.  Not only was the concert great, but donations to COIPP came to over $700.   

As said, lots more went on in May.  Thanks to our Ausherman Foundation Grant, we continue to work with the wonderful Pat Hanberry on our Strategic Plan.  Every time we meet with Pat, we learn more and more and go farther in our planning.  We cannot wait to complete our final plan for all we wish to accomplish in the next five years. 

The women’s Parenting From Afar Class had their graduation in mid-May, with many receiving certificates showing that they had attended and contributed in ten sessions. The wonderful part of this is helping the women ‘go shopping’ at the last session and helping them choose books for their children based on their child’s needs, interests and age. We hand pick every book and often have the women do focus groups to see if they think we made good book choices. It is always a treat to have the shopping time. We are sure to mail out the books the very next day- and we only hear wonderful things back.  

Again, I could go on and on. Instead I will say that the work of COIPP just fills my heart.  If you are  interested in helping us, let me know by messaging me through Facebook or writing an email: Coippfrederick@yahoo.com.  Lastly, if you would like to support our efforts, be sure to donate to the Unity Campaign, making COIPP recipient of your donation.  Our yearly Silent Auction is also coming up on Tuesday,December 3, at McClintock Distillery.  Our planning work is already underway and this year’s event is bound to be the very best ever!

We Keep Growing!

April has been quite a busy month, with all COIPP programs growing and flourishing. I must thank the COIPP Board members and volunteers. Without them, there would be no COIPP. I was out of town for two weeks, but everything continued under the leadership that is exemplified every month of the year.

In addition, this month, through a grant from the Ausherman Foundation, we had the wonderful Pat Hanberry continue her work with us by meeting with all Board members for a day and taking us closer to our new Strategic Plan. It was a great day of planning and reflection. I cannot wait to see where this plan will take us. Stay tuned!

For the April review, I will highlight just one activity on one day of the month, but I find it speaks to the spirit of our organization. It was a Friday Coffee With COIPP meeting.

These meetings are organized by wonderful Patty McCardle and Sally Smith, and always helped along by Cindi Diamondstone. This one had the gifted Guidance Counselor from North Frederick Elementary School, Laura Vogtman, come and share. She made calming bottles with all the attendees. These are water bottles with a bit of Elmer’s Glue added, and lots of natural and man made stones, sparkles and twigs added for extra beauty. They are perfect for helping children and adults with focus.

The group participating numbered 10 or more, all of whom have been in jail and/or are presently in rehab. We began by talking about what Coffee With COIPP is all about and offered folks a wide array of hygiene supplies for their families. We than moved into making the bottles, with everyone participating and making material choices from the wide array of items Laura brought to fill their bottles. Folks sat at tables, each helping the other and commenting on the great finished products.

After each participant shared their creation with one another, we talked about how the bottles can be used in the attendees reconnecting quest with the children in their lives. Before everyone left, we had refreshments selected by Tracy Grubb, gave out more hygiene products, and distributed gift cards and bus passes to those who shared a need for them. Almost the whole group was new to this Friday activity, but the evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, so I know that just about everyone will be returning.

As I write this April reflection, I must add that next week, the beginning of May, we are all going to I Made This pottery place. Several of the attendees asked to bring their children to that event, and two of the men asked how they could volunteer with us. In addition, two others mentioned that they needed bikes to get to all of their meetings and job interviews. By the end off the day, two bikes were located. I have to add that the day before, Thursday, I met with administrators from the Delaplaine Arts Center to discuss another Coffee

With COIPP ongoing activity, namely visual journaling, a group favorite. This occurs monthly and is always well attended. The activity leader, David Modler, is a gift to COIPP.

What this blog does not adequately cover is the camaraderie between the attendees and the volunteers. The church room we use is always filled with laughter and talk. In this activity people were helping us clean up, sweep, put away refreshments, and more. It is very touching, for when we are doing our Friday activity there is really a friendship that forms between the volunteers and the attendees; we are all one.

Every activity we do takes lots of planning and more than a few volunteers. As said, the above is only one hour in the life of COIPP. In April alone, in addition to our retreat, we had an art activity at Fired Arts, a Sharing Fair at the jail, weekly Coffee With COIPP meetings, our ongoing Parenting from Afar classes, held separately for men and women at the jail, our monthly Reconnecting Class at the jail, and more. This does not speak to the ongoing work of our Outreach Committee when a parent or caregiver has a special need, our work writing grants, funding proposals and filing updated reports to the grant organizations, and our outreach to the community, for we are always spreading the COIPP word.

A little known thing that we do is try to keep in touch with those we have met in our Parenting From Afar Classes at the jail. I always encourage past incarcerated moms and dads to join me on our Advisory Committee. Two of the women have continued to be my ‘Penpals’ as they serve their time at Jessup Prison. It is so helpful to have advice from these folks, those who have or are experiencing incarceration, as they can lead COIPP in a meaningful direction. I must add that our Parenting From Afar Class with the men is going full steam ahead. Brandon and Andrew, our two great teachers, had over 25 men sign up for the class they just started.

Every month brings us new participants, new activities, new collaborations, new strategies for COIPP. It is too much fun reflecting on our work and sharing the wonderful things we are doing through this blog of our work.


It Takes a Village

As I reflect upon the month of March, i keep thinking about our village, our Board members, and how hard everyone is working. Let me share some highlights that may offer insight to our organization. If you’re interested in helping us, please fill out the volunteer application found on this website.

Coffee with COIPP

We recently started this initiative for those recently released from jail and already it is keeping us very busy. We have had groups of 15-18 participants come to some of our weekly Friday meetings. March brought presentations on trauma affected lives, steps for securing a job especially when one has a felony conviction, Visual Journaling, a monthly class held at the Delaplaine Arts Center, and much more. Week after week we continue to receive very high evaluations from participants and we also continue to see the group grow. Hats off, once again, to Patty McCardle, Sally Smith, and Cindi Diamondstone for organizing the weekly sessions, and getting additional assistance from Tracy Grubb and other available volunteers. It takes lots of work for this part of our village to run-and these women continue to be up to the task!

Parenting from Afar

This is a ‘flagship’ part of our program. Cathy Anderson and I have been holding the weekly women’s group for years, and it continues to be a program we could not be prouder to facilitate. As of this writing there are only 19 women, total, in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, (FCADC). We continue to have classes with participants numbering seven or eight. What is striking are the stories the women share.

For example, one very caring participant talked about her son’s depression since she has gone to jail. This is her first time away from him, and her pain each week is palatable. We cry with her. Another woman, a participant who has returned to us year after year, takes leadership in the group and has become a parenting mentor to so many. Whenever we share a situation for discussion, the women listen to her very intensely.

However, the addition of the men’s group has really altered the way we see parenting classes. The same curriculum that we wrote is being used by Andrew Murphy and Brandon Chapman with the men. Both Cathy Anderson and I attended their last session with their first group of men, and it was fantastic to hear what the men had to say. One participant shared that when he gets back to his cell block, he does a mini lesson with the men who are not attending. He also uses what he is learning for discussion points with his wife and children when they speak on the phone.

One observation I made happened when I read the book The Dot aloud to the men. Though it is a children’s book, the men were mesmerized and later really understood the discussion point which is that we all want our children to leave a positive impression on the world. I cannot wait to meet the next group, and, more importantly, meet with our curriculum committee and Andrew and Brandon to see what we need to edit in order to ensure that we serve the men as well as we serve the women.

Families Impacted by Incarceration Program (FIIP)

Our collaboration with the Mental Health Association (MHA) keeps growing. We are proud to have them as a part of our village. While I have mentioned them in past blogs, it’s important to share their role once again. Through our Maryland State Governors Grant from the past Maryland Office of Families, Children and Youth, our collaboration allows us to do so much. It allows for purchase of resources that we use in the jail, as well as for our workshop materials. It pays for curriculum writing, and, most important of all, it allows for a ‘warm handoff’ between MHA and COIPP. Mel from MHA attends some of the parenting classes, as well as our activities and workshops, and tells parents about how MHA can offer one on one assistance as families work to reconnect after a parent comes home. We love having MHA as a part of our village.

Children’s Activities

Our monthly activities continue with gusto. This month is was bowling, always a success. Thanks to leaders Sue Guissinger and Gretta Benson, as well as a wide array of volunteers like Theresa, Mark, Delaine, Peggy, and more, we were able to have a great March afternoon. The children,18 in attendance, had a fantastic time with the bowling, pizza and drinks that followed, and the camaraderie of the friends they make as they bowl. We never mention incarceration; this is a time for fun. We love these afternoons and already are planning lots of different activities for the future.

Scholarship Celebration

March was the time for the annual Frederick Community College scholarship tea. This year we are proud to have had many recipients, including one of our members from Coffee With COIPP. We have assisted people wanting their GEDs, moms who are raising their children without the dad being present, and those who have had parents in jail. When we first started it was unclear as to whether there would be enough applicants. Now there are so many, we are hopefully raising the number of scholarships offered next year from 5 to 7. Once again, nothing happens without partners. Thanks goes to the Frederick Women’s Giving Circle (FWGC) who have assisted us for many years in partially funding the needed scholarships.

Community Outreach

This is the area that I enjoy, but March was overwhelming. I spoke to the National Institute of Mental Health, Frederick chapter, the elementary, middle and high school media specialists, caregivers at the Department of Social services, the United Way Leaders on Loan informational conference, Middletown Methodist Church reading group, and more. While this was exhausting, it was also invigorating. From the caregiver I met at DSS who is a great grandmother raising her 3 great grandchildren, to the media specialists who want to help add to our list of books for older children, the audiences were wonderful. The meetings were powerful.

Board Member Retreat

While i saved this for last, it is far from least. We met in March to talk about how we can grow in the next five years. Thanks to a grant from the Ausherman Foundation and under the excellent leadership of our consultant, Pat Hanberry, we spent a day reviewing our environmental scan that Pat had completed, sharing our strengths and needs, and creating a plan that looks to the future for COIPP. We all agreed that it was a long day filled with self reflection, promise and excitement for the future. The list of what COIPP accomplishes continues to amaze me. The most important thing I have learned is that together we are so much stronger than when we work alone. This month really proved that point.

February In Review

Oh what a month!  I know that February is traditionally the month of love, but for COIPP it has been the month of BUSY!  Always hard to know where to begin, but here are some memories that stand out. 

Coffee with COIPP

February was a time of learning! One of our ongoing initiatives is Coffee with COIPP. We meet weekly at Grace United Church of Christ, and are open to anyone who has been impacted by incarceration or is in rehabilitation.  We have a series of twelve weekly classes thanks to the great skills of Sally Smith and Patty McCardle and a number of volunteers.  It is a time of learning, because every session, be it focused on music therapy, art, trauma and its effects, getting a job, self concept building, etc., always include how the the topic helps with reconnecting with one’s children. 

Our group differs in number of participants from week to week, but the evaluations are always great. It is not only the learning that takes place in the session; it is the learning that takes place afterwards. One of our participants, upon learning of our scholarships with Frederick Community College (FCC), is now going for her GED. Another one of our participants was given our Fall scholarship for classes and a different participant, who learned about us by being at the original office space we used when we got started, received another. This is all done with the support received by the Frederick Women’s Giving Circle.

Three members of the group went with Patty to the FCC tea that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the suffragette movement, and many have applied for and received scholarships for themselves and/or their children at the Delaplaine Arts Center, one of our partners.  We are changing the experiences of participants, one opportunity at a time. 

Parenting from Afar   

February was a month of growing! For the first time, COIPP expanded it’s Parenting From Afar classes to the men in the jail.  Thanks to Brandon Chapman and Andrew Murphy, we are trying out our original Parenting from Afar curriculum with males in the jail. Both of our teachers are young, empathetic, have young children of their own- and are non judgmental folks who know how to engage with the class participants. As they share, they are also seeing if our curriculum, created by women of COIPP, can work for the men.

In addition to the men’s group, we are continuing with our Reconnecting Class, for those soon to be released. It is held monthly for the men in jail and for the men and women of Work Release.  The new growth here is that the wonderful Cindi Diamondstone has now joined me in leading these classes.  It is great to have another voice- and to have someone who can do this on her own if I am not able.  In our February class we had eight men who each brought honesty and reflection as they prepared to rejoin the children in their lives.

One of the things i do is read aloud the children’s book: The Rabbit Listened, It is touching when a roomful of men become silent, reflective- and then ask that the book be mailed to their children. What added to this month’s class was when one of the men shared that he is also in Brandon and Andrew’s class, and it has already changed the way he parents his children. He talked about using the curriculum learned to build discussions he has with both his wife and children when they talk on the phone. He encouraged all of the men to sign up the next time the sessions begin. That is just what I hoped would happen.

Thanks Cindi- and welcome aboard to the new classes! This is also a great place to mention that growing for us also meant physical growing. A number of hardworking men and women volunteers moved us into a larger storage space for all of our resources. I was just there last night and cannot get over the fact that we have gone from our original 5 X 10  space to our current one that is 10 X 30—and it is filled. Now that is a sure sign of growth!

Children’s Activities

February was a time of activities! This month we took on two children’s activities for the month, focusing for the first time on one activity for the family and one for the older children. We went to Spinners for the older children, a pinball non-profit establishment on East Street. (Thanks Allie for suggesting it and doing the work to get it going!) We had twenty-one children at bowling and then seven at pinball.  We always welcome caregivers, provide lunch, and leave incarceration behind for the afternoon. These activities are all about having a great time. Mel Rogers, representing the Mental Health Association (MHA) and our Families Impacted by Incarceration Program (FIIP), is often present to share with families and encourage their working with the MHA.  Nothing but rave activity reviews!

February was a time of love 

My very favorite activity takes place in February.  We go into the Frederick County Adult Detention Center  (FCADC) for an afternoon. We bring in stuffed animals that allow the women participating to record a personal message to the children in their lives and, when the battery with the message is placed in the animal, a child can hear their important adult’s voice as they hug the stuffed animal. While some participants work on their recordings, others make valentine’s cards. When done, we take boxes with each card and stuffed animal right to the post office and mail it right out to the children.  I have had children tell me two years later that the stuffed animal is still their favorite- and they listen to the recorded voice time and time again before they go to bed. In April, we are hoping to do the same project with the men. I know it will have the excitement and emotion shared by the women.

February was a time for spreading the word! 

It felt to me that every day was another speaking engagement. These included: Church of the Transformation in Braddock Heights; DSS Kinship Meeting in Hagerstown, MD.; Judy Center Professional Development State Meeting held in Howard County; Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, and the Housing Authority workshop on Loss.  Each group is different, but each is so interested in our work. For some it is a workshop and for others it is a general discussion about this national, state and county issue. I am always happy to share. 

I look to March and wonder where it will take us. We have our retreat with Pat Hanberry, thanks to the Ausherman Foundation, we have new children’s activities, we have a new cycle of Coffee With COIPP meetings, and even more speaking engagements. Stay tuned- I know I will have new things to share!

We Rang in the New Year with Gusto!

There use to be a time when the work of COIPP quieted down- but no more! Once again, it is impossible to cover all we have done this month, but here are some selected highlights.

Parenting From Afar Grows

Great news to share! For several years we have been doing Parenting From Afar classes with women in the Detention Center. As of January, we now have parenting classes for the men. The most exciting part of this is that the men will be using our COIPP written curriculum and seeing how it works. Welcome Brandon Chapman and Andrew Murphy who have undertaken this new part of COIPP.

Also, thanks to our powerful collaboration with the Mental Health Association (MHA), referred to as our FIIP program (Families Impacted by Incarceration Program), we have a vehicle for building curriculum, reflecting on what works, and following up with families that need more. In addition, MHA, working with the Local Management Board, was able to get Ann Adelist Estrin, renowned expert on children if incarcerated parents, to come to Frederick this month and train our two new instructors, as well as Mel Rogers, who will be working with families needing more through MHA. We could never do this alone. Big kudos go to Barb May and Melissa Brown for their unwavering support, and certainly the Governor’s Grant that makes all of this possible.

January Bowling Activity

What changes COIPP has had in ongoing children’s activities in large part due to the Board of wonderful volunteers! We have progressed from a few children’s activities a year to monthly ones-and sometimes even more. The January one was fantastic! Let me set the stage. The day was cold and gloomy, with rain or snow expected. As I walked over to Terrace Lanes Bowling Alley, it occurred to me that probably no one would be there. Boy, I was wrong! We had 17 children, many caregivers and lots of volunteers. We always serve pizza and drinks, but we are now offering the caregivers a few minutes of ‘personal time’. They can go to the food counter and order their own choice of lunch, and sit alone or with other caregivers while the children bowl. Thanks goes to Gretta and Sue for thinking this out- and making it all happen month after month. The January session, like so many, got rave reviews from all attendees. This is what COIPP is all about!

Resource Reorder

Lots of workshops are coming up. We love to offer participant helpful materials- and what is better than books for the children. Thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club, I was able to work with Marlene England at Curious Iguana Book Store to get new books and reorder some favorites. Many of the books offer solace to children. Thanks to the women in the jail and their helpful suggestions, I am always certain to have books on a wide variety of topicsincluding incarceration, feelings and simply LOVE!

Sharing Fair

We have mentioned these special events held outside the Detention Center before, but the January Sharing Fair was a great event. Pat Einhorn, a relatively new Board member, has really taken over this ongoing activity. January focused on the needs of children in the Winter months and concentrated on getting them coats. We started with over 100 new and gently used coats donated by people all over Frederick, and only 4 hours later there were just 3 left. We also distributed hygiene supplies, shoes, stuffed animals, and more.

Once again, the appreciation from those visiting loved ones in the Detention Center was incredible: “I have never seen anything like this before. When I was incarcerated in South Carolina and my family would visit, there was never anything like this” “This started out as a terrible day, and you have changed the day all around. Thank you!” “How can I help? This is just the best”. and more. Kudos to all the volunteers who froze their feet and hands- but warmed their hearts as we talked to Detention Center visitors.

Coffee with COIPP

I have talked about these weekly meetings with those recently out of jail and those in rehab before, but this month had more amazing events. For example, at one of our weekly meetings, the ever fabulous guidance counselor Heather Quill came and talked with our participants. At another meeting, participants went to the Delaplaine Arts Center to work on Visual Journaling. At a third, Guy Huffer, retired FCPS guidance counselor and Attendance Officer, came with guitar in hand to offer some music therapy fun. All of the classes center around reconnecting with children.

Community Engagements

What a busy month it was. I spoke at the Aloha Club, and the Kiwanis Club, that both meet at Homewood. Thanks to an invite from Janet Shipman from FCPS, I also spoke at professional development sessions for elementary guidance counselors, as well as middle and high school counselors. What is exciting is the follow up that happens, be it with folks wanting help and resources for specific children, or those who have students doing community support projects and wanting to assist us.

This list is only the beginning. I cannot say enough what having an active, fantastic Board means to COIPP. Together we get stronger, and stronger and stronger. I just wonder what February will bring.

 

 

2018 Treasurer's Review

As of January 1, 2018, we had $72,363.30 in our account to carry out the mission of fostering the growth of strong, resilient, hopeful children who are impacted by an incarcerated loved one in the Frederick County region. Starting 2019, we have raised our overall amount in our account to $94,562.50. We can attribute a lot of our financial success to the personal donations of: Nicholas Branic, the Roblin Family, the Joseph D. Baker Fund, Marlene England, Ann Walker, and the Network for Good.

We have also received tremendous support from our local community of stores in the Frederick area that include: Curious Iguana, Dancing Bear, The Delaplaine Arts Center, and McCutcheon's Apple Products. In addition to this support we have also greatly benefitted from receiving grants to help us grow; this year we have received grants from: the Helen J. Serini Foundation, Ausherman Family Foundation, Frederick Community Partnership, the Frederick Women’s Giving Circle, Community Foundation of Frederick, The Arthur and Julane Anderson Gift Trust, and have had the help of the Mental Health Association.

COIPP saw major success with the Unity Campaign through the United Way this autumn, and our annual Silent Auction also helped us to raise our funds. Overall, we were able to bring in $88,624.20 to fund the programs that we have in place to support local children who are facing incarceration in their families. This is a significant move forward from our modest beginnings and we owe all of our success to the involvement that ranges from grants and donations to our dedicated volunteers and supportive community members.

COIPP was able to utilize these funds to provide programs to the community that have created a strong foundation for us to carry out our mission. Throughout 2018, we had expenditures that totaled $61,804.73. The most substantial expense we had in the past year were children’s books. We spent $10,031.58 on this portion of our budget and feel that the messages of resilience, love, hope, and understanding that the books bring to the children as well as comfort while visiting family members are worth every cent.

Other large expenses included the $7,111.36 spent on Coffee with COIPP supplies; this new program allows us to facilitate a connection between the child, caregiver, and recently released family members. This program has been greatly supported by the grants we have received. This year COIPP set $5,000 towards our scholarship program with Frederick Community College; this program allows families to build strong foundations for their children.

As a growing organization, we realized that we had many things to learn both about those that we help and how to help them and have had professional development expenditures of $4,925.00; these costs have also been aided by grants that we have received. Many of our other large expenses are programs that include our monthly activity for children, providing crisis outreach, parenting classes in detention facilities, and workshops to help caregivers understand how to support the children in their lives.

Looking forward we see that we are starting this year with more funds than we had available last year and are building up the programs that we have in place with this financial foundation. We have a new grant for strategic planning and will be spending 2019 evolving to be a strong resource in our community. As the treasurer of this wonderful organization, I can confidently say that we have spent our funds well to carry out our mission and I am personally touched by the generosity that I have seen this year through the community and volunteers.

Eliza Funk, Treasurer


And What A Month It Was

December 2018 Blog

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

 

Christmas Day Sharing Fair

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

 

Delaplaine Partnership

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

 

Staff Training

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

 

Silent Auction

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

 

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

 

Wonderful News to Close Out the Year!

I have been thinking about the past few weeks, and there have been so many highlights,  however, i am choosing to begin with one extraordinary event:

A heartwarming story…

At the jail we have weekly Parenting From Afar classes for female participants. Many months ago a woman named Rachel entered the class. She always had great insights and reflections, and soon became someone who was focused on self-growth and helping others. Rachel was released and continued to be active with COIPP. She now attends our weekly Coffee With COIPP meetings, comes to our activities, and even made some items for the Silent Auction.

Recently it came to my attention that Rachel had, all on her own, nominated me for a special award by the Ravens Football team, the Community Quarterback Award.  I became a finalist and COIPP will now receive $1,000 as a part of the award. First, this honor is for all members of COIPP. However, what is the important part of this is that Rachel, all by herself, raised $1,000 for us.  I take my hat off to her and her continued, important, meaningful journey. 


As said, there were many more highlights. They include, but are not limited to: 

Silent Auction Success

This event is one of our two largest fundraisers for the year, and this year it was fantastic. We had a new venue, the McClintock Distillery, a fabulous Silent Auction Committee spearheaded by Theresa Posthuma, the support of Renaissance Catering, an added Live Auction, music by the Matt and Julian Duo and more. At the time of this writing I do not know exactly how much money was raised, but I know that it will be a substantial boost  to our cause. It took countless people to get this together and I cannot thank everyone enough. Each year we have a debriefing meeting to reflect and learn, and this year will be no different. While it was an amazing event, we look forward to even a greater time next year- and that is promising a lot.

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We have Boots! Lots of boots!

Julie Gaver, the wonderful founder and head of Soles of Love, called the other day. She had over 20 pairs of boots for us all tucked away in her trunk.  We met up, and transferred them to my car. They will highlight our Christmas Day Sharing Fair at the jail.  Stay tuned to hear how they are received.

 Outreach Committee

It will come as no surprise that when there is incarceration in a family, the need for assistance for the children rises.  Theresa Posthuma and Vanessa Thomas-Morris make sure that needs are met.  As the holidays approach, the number of requests go up. That is exactly what has been happening over the last few weeks. Our two volunteers are never too busy to reach out, meet with caregivers or those recently released and offer help as needed. Thank you ladies! You help so many. 


Coffee with COIPP

This activity never fails to amaze me! Originally we hoped to have these meetings monthly, but the participants asked for them weekly.  In the past few weeks we had lots of folks come out to hear speakers, make things for their children and for the Silent Auction, and basically share their journey with us and with each other.  It is Sally Smith, Larissa Metzger, Cindi Diamondstone and Patty McCardle who do the leg work and I cannot thank them enough! 

Fired Up About Our Children’s Activities!

Monthly we continue to hold our children’s Saturday activities. This month we went to Hot Fired Arts on 7th Street.  With a great turnout of over 20 participants, we had a blast! Children of all ages attended, and everyone made a fabulous painting to take home.  Of course there was pizza and drinks- it was a total success! Special thanks go out to Gretta Benson and Sue Guissinger and all the volunteers for always getting these events together.  

Giving Tuesday Thanksgivings

We had never participated in this event prior to this year.  Though we were not up and running until late in the afternoon of the day, we raised a substantial amount of money.  I continue to be amazed when it comes to the generosity of Frederick County. In addition, the Englands, owners of Dancing Bear Toy Store and Curious iguana Bookstore, took a percent of their proceeds for that day and donated it to us.  Given all of the participation, we raised well over $2300.  I had to share. It was an extraordinary day of giving!  


Community Workshops

This month, as is true every month, we had many community groups wanting to know more about COIPP. They included my speaking at Hood College for Doctoral Candidates and at William R. Farquhar Middle School in Montgomery County for the entire staff of over 50 teachers. A number of additional workshops are to be held in the coming months and I look forward to each and every one of them.  


In coming months I will be writing about the newly forming Men’s Parenting From Afar group at the jail, the ongoing Work Release and ‘Soon to be Released’ Reconnecting workshops now given monthly at the jail, Coffee With COIPP meetings and so much more.

For now all I can say is that our work is continuing to grow in scope and numbers.  If you have an interest in joining us do not hesitate to get in touch.   We are always looking for volunteers and interest in joining our Board. To find out more and how to apply to volunteer, please visit our Volunteer Page and download our Volunteer Packet and/or Volunteer Application.

Until next time….

Shari

 

 

October Musings

Once again, it has been a terrific month for COIPP. It is always difficult to choose the best things to share, but here are some highlights.

Children’s Activities:

This is the reason we came into being- and we grow, and grow and grow for the kids. Thanks to Gretta and Sue, and lots of great volunteers, this month children and their caregivers got the opportunity to once again bowl, have lunch, ad share conversation. In addition, there were balloons, a birthday party atmosphere, and lots of surprises, such as book giveaways, as well as magazines for the caregivers to look at and take home. In other words, it was a party simply to celebrate the joy of a Saturday activity. Shari was on hand to talk with caregivers about some problems that have come up for them, and Vanesa was there to represent the Outreach Committee and share what they could do to help individual families. This has been a great way to serve children-and we look forward to a new, different activity that we are trying in November.

Coffee with COIPP:

First, a shout out to Larissa, Sally and Patty who organize and run all of our weekly Friday meetings for those in rehab and/or recently released from jail. When we started, we never thought we would grow as we have and October was no different. In fact, at our last meeting where folks from MHA came to present on mindful eating, we had over 20 participants. Our activities this month ranged from art focused to distribution of hygiene products, but all centered around reconnecting with families and how to adapt the activities shared for the children. We are especially excited that many of our participants have been granted scholarships at the Delaplaine Arts Center for themselves and/or their children. What a great connection.

Reconnection Meetings:

Starting this past month, we now have monthly meetings at the jail in both the men’s section and in Work Release. The topic is Reconnecting, and it’s my job to go in and talk with those participating. October was a great beginning. The participants were very honest about their questions and concerns and seemed most interested to talk about this topic. In fact, several said they would welcome far more conversations on this. As a part of the work, I read the children’s book, The Rabbit Listened. It is an early childhood book, and I had no idea how it would go. The men loved it—and most requested that I send a copy of the book to their children. They are already in the mail!

Speaking Engagements:

October was filled with opportunities to share the work of COIPP. Cindi Diamondstone and I spoke at the National Family Involvement Conference, held in Harrisburg, PA, on our Parenting From Afar curriculum and the general work of COIPP. I spoke to Foster Care providers in Baltimore City, library staff at the Frederick downtown library, talked at local churches, and even did a very successful two session workshop on Loss at Head Start. This is one of the favorite ways we have to share our work- and I look forward to every one of them.

Books and the Public Library:

Great news came this month. Thanks to Janet Vogel from the public library, all of the books we now purchase for families, will be available at the local library. We have books on everything from Love to Feelings to Incarceration. We are thrilled that these titles will now be available to all children.

As said, these are only some highlights. The month has been filled with collaborations, individual meetings with families, work in the jail and so much more. Stay tuned for next month’s highlights!