August Musings

There was a time when the Summer was relatively quiet for COIPP. That is no longer the case. As I reflect on the past few weeks, I am struck by all we have done. Allow me to share some August highlights.

We have been working hard on the Unity Campaign put together by the United Way. Board members took on individual projects in order to raise money, and the projects were as creative as the people putting them together. We had ice cream socials, online auctions of original paintings, donations given when walks were taken with a Board member, a wine and cheese tasting, a cookie decorating party, and more. The creativity does not stop and all of it is helping us reach our goal. Fingers crossed that by the time you read this, we may have raised the money we hope to earn.

Silent Auction

Our Silent Auction is on December 4th this year, but the work has already started. A committee of folks- Board members and auction volunteers- have been busy at work getting it all together. This year it will be at the McClintock Distillery in downtown Frederick. Auction items are being amassed, the food is being planned, and the ticket system is being organized. Stay tuned; more information will definitely fill our website.

Coffee with COIPP

Coffee With COIPP, our newest program, has proven a success. We have been doing it for a few months, and have learned as we have progressed. We now have decided upon a 12 week rotation of topics. They include everything from a presentation on Adverse Childhood Experiences, to applying for a job when one has an arrest record to building self concept. Three times during this rotation we have participants working with David Modler, Professor from Shepherd University and a Delaplaine artist; the work has focused on visual journals. This is one of the most exciting parts of the series. Thanks go to the Delaplaine Arts Center for their collaboration with us. Several participants have asked for and been granted scholarships at the Delaplaine. We also have had participants from our program go on to Frederick Community College through the scholarships we offer.

We have built the Coffee With COIPP sessions around reconnecting with children and good child-rearing practices. Every week we meet and every week is exciting! Thanks to the interest, we have even changed where we meet. We just outgrew the Federated Charities Conference Room, and now we are at the United Church of Christ in downtown Frederick. This is amazing, since the first time we called a meeting, no one came. Now we have anywhere from 10-15 participants, and sometimes even more.

Parenting Classes

Our parenting classes at the jail continue. However, our curriculum writing committee has been really busy. We have rewritten our Parenting From Afar curriculum a number of times, and we think we finally have it exactly where we want it to be. We now have ten sessions for participants to complete, and an handbook for all participants, filled with meaningful quotes, real situations for discussion, articles of interest, and even homework reflections. We continue to send copies of the participant’s handbook to the caregivers. We now have a partnership with a professor from the University of New Hampshire so that those who are interested can have a newsletter created by their children sent to them, and they can respond via a given postcard. In all, this is one of the most important things we do. In fact, lots of our participants get released and then contact us about coming to our follow up Coffee With COIPP sessions.

Activities for Children and Caregivers

We continue to have our monthly bowling parties for children and caregivers, but now we have a new twist. A member of the Mental Health Association, our partners through our Governor’s Grant, attend the sessions and spend time being available to caregivers who have questions. This is a beautiful partnership and it is taking us in a great direction. In addition, two times during the aforementioned Parenting From Afar sessions, a member of the Mental Health Association staff will be joining us in the jail to begin a ‘gentle handoff’ with participants by building rapport, sharing resources, and sharing information on what MHA can offer. We are in the midst of planning some new activities. Stay tuned to hear all about them.

One of the most exciting parts of the past month was having Jacqueline Woodson, world famous children’s author, come to Frederick County, thanks to the Curious Iguana Bookstore. She shared her newest works at the Delaplaine. We not only had free tickets for Coffee With COIPP participants, but Ms Woodson autographed her books for the children of the women in Parenting From Afar classes at the jail and for the children of participants in Coffee With COIPP. What an amazing author! What an amazing evening! I highly encourage everyone to pick up one of her books at Curious Iguana Book store, one of our favorite partners. These books are so touching and are written from the heart.

Once again, these are only the highlights. The work goes on and on and is always done by volunteers. We now have a volunteer packet, we have a new brochure about to be printed, and we continue to do speaking engagements all over Frederick, as well as the state of Maryland.

I continue to hear from people from around the world who want advice about starting a group like ours or wish to share resources. All I can say is that this is some of the most gratifying work I have ever done and I am so lucky to be doing it amongst some of the finest, most passionate people/volunteers I have ever met. Here is to the COIPP volunteers!