Mail Kit activity
What is a Mail Kit?
A Mail Kit is a decorated box with writing supplies given to children of incarcerated parents.
Learn more from this video:
Why is a Mail Kit important?
Being separated from other family members is never easy. That's why it's important for children and their incarcerated parents or family members to stay in touch. Long-distance phone calls are nice but are often too expensive. Mail kits can help families begin writing letters and develop a habit for correspondence.
What do we need to make a Mail Kit?
Large shoebox or plastic file box, stationary, assorted note cards, postcards, envelopes, pencils and pens, colors and markers, postage stamps, small spiral bound notebook, and a copy of the sample form letter. An optional item would be a diary or journal for the older children to encourage practice in writing and for a place to write down daily activities to refer to when writing a letter.
Mail Kit instructions (PDF) | Mail Kit instructions (DOC)
Note: Do not include stickers. Some correctional centers will not accept a letter (even from a child) if the envelope or letter includes stickers.
How long will the Mail Kit activity take?
One to two hours to shop for supplies and time to decorate several shoe boxes.
What do we do?
- Choose a time to introduce this activity to your 4-H club or community group by explaining why it's important for children to be able to write to an incarcerated parent.
- Depending on the ages of the club members, ask for volunteers to shop for the needed supplies.
- Set a date and time to assemble the Mail Kit.
- Make copies of the sample letter to add to the Mail Kit. Some family members may not be able to think of anything to say so they can "fill in the blanks" of the copied letter until they become more comfortable with writing letters.
- Add a "Just for You" label to identify your club/group to the families who will be receiving the Mail Kit (Avery #5160 size labels work well).
- Donate the completed Mail Kits by contacting Tammy Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-882-3316.
Carry On Suitcase project
The Carry On Suitcase project benefits women, teens, and children who come to battered women's shelters with a suitcase filled with personal care items.
When women, teens and children leave their broken homes, many flee with only their life, their painful memories, and the clothes on their back. They have a difficult road in front of them to start over.
You can help by providing a suitcase to carry clothes, belongings, and other personal care items with the hope that it will help these women and their children to "carry on" their lives. The project does more for these battered families than simply providing them with necessities; it shows them that someone cares and they are not alone.
Carry On Suitcase instructions
Carry On Suitcase Project Instructions (PDF)
History of the Carry On Suitcase project
Carry On Suitcase Brochure (PDF)
Original Carry On Suitcase Manual (PDF)
In 2000, the Wal-Center 4-H club in Cass County introduced a project called the Carry On Suitcase project. It was a community service project that consisted of giving suitcases, filled with items for everyday living such as towels, shampoo, deodorant, and other personal care items, to Hope Haven. Hope Haven, the Cass County battered women's shelter, then handed out a suitcase to the adults, teens, and babies as they left the shelter. Wal-Center 4-H gave 160 suitcases in all to match a grant of $400 from the Missouri 4-H Foundation.
In 2001, the Wal-Center 4-H club decided to take the project to a county level. Cass County 4-H clubs were contacted to see if they were interested. The 4-H junior leaders put together a procedures manual for each club to follow, including a commitment form that had to be signed by the 4-H club president and 4-H leader.
Wal-Center 4-H received another grant from the Missouri 4-H Foundation that was consequently split between the six different clubs that participated. For every month that a club wanted to participate, they would receive $37.50 of the grant money which they had to match with $37.50. Every month a club would deliver suitcases to Hope Haven, with some clubs taking on more than one month.
Wal-Center 4-H delivered suitcases for the three months for which no other clubs volunteered. They delivered more than 15 suitcases each time. Together, all of the clubs delivered 160 suitcases. Of those, 60 were for adults/teens, 70 for elementary children, and 30 for babies.
4-H junior leaders providing leadership for the county-wide project included:
- Kelli Barnard, Cass County 4-H member
Wal-Center 4-H club
- Craig Nelson, Cass County 4-H Member
Wal-Center 4-H club
- Alice Roach, Cass County 4-H Member
Wal-Center 4-H club
Missouri Contact: Tammy Gillespie email@example.com
National Contact: Lynna Lawson firstname.lastname@example.org
The 4-H LIFE program is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Initiative, the Missouri Children's Trust Fund, the National 4-H Council and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Program.