Grandparents Involved From the Start, Inc. (GIFTS) is a non-profit organization that provides resources and support to grandparents who are raising school-aged grandchildren between the ages of 5 to 18 years old. Established in August 2011, GIFTS’ mission is to assist grandparents with sound information, advice, and noteworthy resources about topics that may affect their ability to raise grandchildren.
GIFTS was founded by Dolorez Cobb-Jones, who has decades of experience in public education as a previous teacher and school principal in the Harrisburg and Lancaster school districts. As a principal, Mrs. Cobb-Jones met with many parents and caregivers and noticed that there was a lack of support for grandparents who have become sole caregivers for their grandchildren. Mrs. Cobb-Jones noted that grandparents were struggling with raising their grandchildren and needed additional support to navigate raising children in the 21st century. Mrs. Cobb-Jones also had her personal experience with helping her mother raise her niece. From these professional and personal experiences, Mrs. Cobb-Jones established GIFTS and has been supporting grandparents across the greater Harrisburg community for a decade.
GIFTS offers an array of resources, informational sessions, and programs that cater to what grandparents need and want in their journey of raising their grandchildren. Partnered with Lee’s Good Eats, GIFTS gives away fresh produce every Tuesday from 11 am to 12 pm at the Neighborhood Center located at 1801 N 23rd St. in Harrisburg, PA. They also hold a monthly online forum, The Grandparents Information Forum (TGIF), where they discuss specific topics like kinship care, financial literacy, etc. Depending on the topic, GIFTS brings in experts to provide the necessary information and resources for grandparents. In May, GIFTS organized their second Annual Women of Wisdom Grandmother’s Celebration. During this event, GIFTS identified five grandmothers in the community who were raising their grandchildren and had overcome particular circumstances.
GIFTS has been recognized and received numerous awards and grants for its hard work in the community. In April, Mrs. Cobb-Jones was awarded the Hidden Figure Award from Bethany African Methodist Episcopal Church for her service to her community through GIFTS. In 2020, GIFTS received a grant from the Dauphin County Local Share Program. With this grant, GIFTS was able to purchase grand-pads (i.e., iPads with special features for grandparents) to giveaway to grandparents in Steelton, PA, who participated in GIFTS’ informational sessions. They have also received a grant from the Greater Harrisburg Community Foundation to work with Susquehanna Township and Steelton-Highspire School Districts. Using this grant, GIFTS has organized sessions for grandparents and will be providing gift cards for food, gas, clothes, school supplies, and personal use. GIFTS has been selected to be the 2021 MLK Peace Project Recipient sponsored by the Center for Schools and Communities (CSC). As a recipient, the CSC will work with GIFTS on professional development, technology, ways to support families experiencing homelessness, and more.