September, 2020

COIPP Moves Forward!

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


Testimonial received from a grandmother after a recent COVID Emergency Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay well!


August, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Sincerely,

Shari Ostrow Scher
Executive Director

July, 2020

Where Does The Time Go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay well!

Shari (Ostrow Scher)
Executive Director

June, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog May, 2020

And so it goes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!