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COBA Members Maria FareriJune 6, 2019 – On June 6, correction officers, inmates and administrators from the Westchester Department of Correction kicked-off a new and unique partnership with their “next door neighbor” -- the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.  With both the Hospital and the correctional facility calling the Grasslands Reservation home, DOC staff and offenders have committed to supporting the compassionate care provided to these young patients and their families. 

One phase of the partnership, spearheaded by the correction officers’ union (WCOBA), provides ‘comfort kits’ for patients’ families that contain toiletries, travel pillows, gum, mints and other items.  Mary Delaney, Director of MFCH’s Family Resource Center explained that families may find themselves at the Hospital under various circumstances.

Delaney said: “Moms and dads often arrive at Maria Fareri in an ambulance following a trauma-related event or due to a sudden illness. They may have forgotten their wallet or purse.  Additionally, we have families who may be at the Hospital for months at a time, perhaps when their child is undergoing extensive medical treatment.  While it may seem like a small thing, being able to provide the family with the gift of a fresh toothbrush, deodorant or a travel pillow lessens the financial burden on families and provides them with comfort which, in turn, allows them to focus on supporting their child in their journey of healing.”

In discussing the donations, WCOBA Union President Neil Pellone said: “We recognize that many members of our community face very challenging medical situations and other hardships. We hope to lessen their loads -- even if it’s just for a day. Random acts of kindness are a way of showing that Corrections cares.”

The second phase of the partnership involves ‘giving-back’ by female offenders housed at the County jail. Over the course of the past several months, volunteer Carol Berton taught them to crochet baby blankets, hats and booties, which were donated Thursday to the Hospital for use by newborns and toddlers. 

Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano said: “The crochet give-back program aligns with our mission of ‘restorative justice’, in which offenders focus on repairing broken communities and being accountable for past acts.  In learning to crochet, our female offenders -- many of who are moms themselves -- learn a lifelong skill.  Using their time in custody to provide comfort to a child that they may never meet can have a tremendous impact on personal growth and reflection.”  

Jail Crochet in the 70sThe revitalized crochet and comfort kit program harkens back to the 1970s, when correction officers conducted toy drives for disadvantaged children and offenders knitted blankets for what was then Grasslands Hospital. 

Tracy T. 55, of Port Chester stated, “I first learned to knit from Captain Marva Brown in the early nineties.  When I am sitting and making a blanket it gives me a sense of peace and helps take my mind off other things.  I like to keep my hands busy, and is nice to know that I am giving something back.”