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!
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!
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.
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.