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Individual Honoree Shari Ostrow Scher (Frederick)

Shari Ostrow Scher is the founder of Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP) and volunteered more than 1,500 hours, and was selected for the Governor’s Service Award in the Individual category.

Seventeen years ago, Ms. Scher’s dream of mitigating the impact on a child whose parent was incarcerated came to fruition. Her own father had been sent to prison when she was a teenager. She would take the train to visit him at Sing Sing prison, and vividly remembers watching younger children get into trouble because there was nothing for them to do while waiting. She knew that children suffered trauma and negative effects when a parent went to jail, often leaving with no warning or explanation. As a result, she and a small group of volunteers in Frederick began to create Care Bags that contained a snuggly teddy bear, books on emotions, stationery and stamps for children to write to their loved one, art supplies, a picture frame, a disposable camera and a gift card for processing the pictures, and more. From this humble but heartfelt beginning, Shari branded the unique organization to fulfill her long-ago dream that is now known as Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP). We later learned that no one else in the U.S. was doing exactly this combination of work for this population with an all volunteer group.

Under Ms. Scher’s leadership, COIPP’s all-volunteer members served over 700 individuals, their children, and caregivers with thousands of hours of service in 2019. She developed strong community partnerships to enable COIPP to provide services to this population at little to no cost. Between June 2019 and August 2020, COIPP provided 20 activity events for the children, 4 sharing fairs, 6 visual journaling classes, 48 parenting classes in the Detention Center, 8 caregiver workshops, 35 after-release support group sessions, awarded 5 scholarships to the local community college, and answered more than 40 crisis calls. COIPP’s ongoing successes include creating a child-friendly book nook at the detention center, developing curricula for parenting classes, awarding scholarships to colleges, and conducting workshops at national & international conferences.

Testimonials: 

“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”

 “I would like to address how amazing Ms.Shari and Ms.Cathi are. The kindness, love and support they show to us and our children are endless. Their support doesn’t stop at the facility. It continues when we’re released.”

Learn more at www.coipp.org.