September 6, 2013

Laura Crain Honored by United Way with ‘Building Block Award’

Posted in Awards, Events, Kids-A-Part, United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 5:41 am by Lund

“The Kids-A-Part Storybook program allows incarcerated mothers an opportunity to ‘mother’ from prison.  It is a wonderful program that gives a mother and her child another avenue to stay connected when they cannot physically be together,” says Laura Crain, who volunteers once a month recording mothers in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility reading stories for their children.    The recordings and the books are then given to the child so that they can play their mother’s voice over and over whenever they just need to hear mom.

Laura is a librarian at St. Michael’s College and she well knows the importance of reading to young children and the power of the connection between mother and child through story telling.  “My favorite part is talking with the moms about their children, hearing the love in their voices as they describe their children’s personalities and achievements.  I also really enjoy preparing these amazing voice recordings of the mothers reading the stories,” she says.  Separation is very difficult for both the mother and her children and Lund’s Kids-A-Part program seeks to reduce the impact of this separation in many different ways.  Laura’s work makes a real and tangible difference in the lives of children who cannot see their mothers every day.

Laura has given much more than just her time to this program.  When the recording equipment broke, she bought new equipment and donated it to the prison, when the program needed books, she solicited donations from a local bookstore.  While Laura does work closely with Jess Kell of Lund’s Kids-A-Part, much of the program is down to her. “This is one of the Kids-A-Part programs that just could not happen without the help of a volunteer and is one of the most important to the mothers and their children.  Laura has made it a priority to donate her time and resources to make this possible,” says Jess.

The program is about reading, of course, but it also about taking time to acknowledge that for these women, they are mothers first and prisoners second.  For the children they are, only and always,  just Mom. “Laura is incredibly patient with the mothers who are not always confident in their reading skills. She is lovely, soft-spoken, generous, compassionate, thoughtful, and flexible within the workings of a correctional facility.  This meaningful and positive way to stay connected to their children is very important to the emotional well being of the mothers as well as their children.   Laura makes this program a point of calm and of happiness in an environment which can be lonely and stressful,” says Jess.

Laura was recognized this week for her tireless commitment to this program with a United Way Building Blocks Award at the United Way Community Celebration and Campaign Kick Off Breakfast.    Campaign Chair Tammy Shannon complimented programs, such as Storybook that “educate and empower our children” and said that she was awed by the love and support in the room as 89 volunteers including Laura were celebrated for their work.

Laura Crain and Jil

Laura with Jill Cunningham, Lund’s Volunteer Coordinator

There are problems in Chittenden County – opiate addiction, hunger, lack of affordable housing, poverty – but there are wonderful organizations supported by the United Way who are working hard every minute to do what they can to give a hand, a voice, shelter or a chance to those who need it.  Volunteers, community leaders, staff from non profit organizations, city and state officials all heard the call from Tammy Shannon and the Campaign committee to give, advocate and volunteer.

Despite these problems and all the work that still needs to be done amidst uncertain economic times, there is a little boy in your neighborhood who is going to reach for his CD player tonight, find that special book on his shelf and close his eyes as his mother reads him a bed time story.  And at the same time down on Farrell Street, behind high walls, there is a mom who can rest just a little bit easier knowing that part of her is with her child as he goes to sleep.  Everyone at Lund is so grateful to Laura for making this possible.

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