Cook County Female Detainees’ Knitting Program

JoAnne Smith, Alan Miller, Lisa Cunningham, and Brenda Meyers-Powell
Knitting Program

The Gabe W. Miller Memorial Foundation presented its 8th Social Service Project Grant on March 18, 2010 at a Cook County, Illinois, jail administrative building. 

This grantee was named the “Cook County Female Detainees’ Knitting Program” by the Foundation. The award is a “mini-grant” or a “seed money” grant, a $1,000 stipend for purchase of equipment, supplies and other expenses of the program.  The Foundation’s Social Service Project Grants are normally contractually-limited to supplement the compensation and benefits of a degreed social worker. Because the needs of this grantee are small and a grant to be used to pay the founder and only “employee” who has worked gratuitously thus far could be questioned, the usual mode of such grants was reversed.

The Cook County Female Detainees’ Knitting Program was started at the beginning of 2008 and remains a totally voluntary initiative.  JoAnne Smith, MSW, Jane Addams College of Social Work of the University of Illinois Chicago, LCSW and knitter, conceived the concept of teaching female detainees in the substance abuse unit to knit, as both a relaxation skill and communications facilitator. Every three weeks, six to eight new women join the program, which is led by Ms. Smith and a knitting compatriot. The female detainees appear to gain a sense of empowerment from the experience, as well as awareness that there remain positive avenues to pursue in life.

A number of the knitters have expressed the desire to continue in groups facilitated by Ms Smith following their release.

For further information, please contact The Foundation.

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1st Gabe Miller GrantE.R.I.C. Family Services
2nd Gabe Miller GrantKeshet
3rd Gabe Miller GrantSchool of Social Work of Loyola University Chicago
4th Gabe Miller GrantThe ARK
5th Gabe Miller GrantSHORE Community Services, Inc.
6th Gabe Miller GrantUrban Peak Denver
7th Gabe Miller GrantMidwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans
8th Gabe Miller GrantCook County Female Detainees'Knitting Program
9th Gabe Miller GrantAdvocates for Survivors of Trauma and Torture
10th Gabe Miller GrantThe Jeffrey Foundation
11th Gabe Miller GrantSHALVA
12th Gabe Miller GrantCJE SENIORLIFE Linkages Program