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Learn about the YMCA's partnership with CIC to send kids to camp, provide childcare, sliding-scale scholarships -- and more! -- in this conversation with Mary Britts


On a sunny Friday afternoon, I sat down to chat on the phone with Mary Britts, Vice President and Executive Director of the Blaisdell YMCA in Minneapolis and member of the Children of Incarcerated Caregivers advisory board.

Mary first started working with the Y as a volunteer at camp Manatou in New Hope in 1978. "You're a lifer!" I said. She laughed, and in the background I could hear chatter. Mary took a moment to say, "Hi, sweetie!" to someone on her end. 

Mary initially brought the YMCA partnership to CIC when she met Executive Director Julie Matonich and learned about the organization's mission.  Having once been the caregiver for a friend's children, the personal connection to a family impacted by incarceration piqued her interest, and when she heard Julie's dream to send kids to camp, Mary thought, "Well, we have eight day camps, two power nature sites and eight overnight camps . . . we just need dollars and families."

So, in the summer of 2019, CIC and the YMCA partnered to send twenty-nine kids to a week-long camp in at Camp Icaghowen in Amery, WI for free. This year they hope to send fifty!

Campers spend a full week hiking, learning archery and hatchery, as well as canoeing, fishing and more! They get to take a break from staying in their cabins to sleep in a treehouse and canoe to an island to stay the night.

Soon, CIC and YMCA hope to provide a weekend-long family camp, where the whole family can spend two days and one night "not worrying about cooking or cleaning, just having fun together," says Mary. And, eventually, the organizations have a vision of 150 kids who are dealing with incarceration at a camp together.


But what about when the kids aren't at camp? "The YMCA is for everybody," Mary says. "The Y is a resource for families to heal and have fun." To take advantage of the Y, Mary suggests going to any local YMCA and asking about a scholarship for membership. The scholarship grants funding on a sliding scale based on income. Once that paperwork is filled out, it is entered into the system and affects the cost of any program a family would want to participate in.

There are so many amazing programs offered through the YMCA, Mary couldn't pick just one favorite. "They're all wonderful!" she said.

The Y is the biggest childcare provider in the Twin Cities, with licensed childcare and preschool in several different locations. They offer summer-specific all-day care with Summer Power, for kids kindergarten through fifth grade, and Summer Uproar, for kids sixth to eighth grade.

“I love our camps, I love our sports programs, everything, youth development, youth in government, team thrive programs, intervention programming … Everything’s my favorite and I have a passion for them all."

From the CIC Website:

Mary Britts has been an active, passionate and impactful YMCA leader for 35 years. Holding several positions throughout her career, Mary currently serves as the Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities at the Blaisdell Branch, where she is responsible for the program operations serving the South Minneapolis community. Mary holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin Stout in Child Development and Family Life with a Concentration in Human Resource Management.  She is a single mother of one beautiful young lady, who recently graduated with her MFA in Acting at the University of Essex, East 15 Acting School in London. Mary has made the YMCA a lifelong career and has a strong believe in the 3 pillars of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.


To learn more about programming and resources, click here to visit the YMCA website and find your local Y or email us at

Written by Tess Fahlgren
2020 CIC Researcher

Local Family-friendly Events:

Toddler Tuesdays,
SummerYouth Classes with Sliding-Scale Pricing and Childcare,
and Youth and Family Programs at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Take the kids to the
American Swedish Institute.

Put it on the calendar:

First Free Saturday
at The Walker Art Museum
April 4, 2020 -- Poetry Party!


Free First Saturdays feature free gallery admission on the first Saturday of every month, plus performances, games, art-making, and kids’ films from 10 am to 3 pm. Family friendly food options are available or bring something from home to snack on in the lounge or in the garden.

Follow us on Facebook to hear
about more free,
family-friendly events and more! 


Prepared by the non-profit organization Children of Incarcerated Caregivers, this Resource Guide will be regularly updated and current versions will be shared on the website,

Please feel free to contact us with feedback and suggestions at

Note that CIC cannot vouch for the organizations on this list.

Offers support services to men, including prevention, intervention, transition, connections, and integration. Their services include transitional housing, day reporting, life skills, and employment education.
Minneapolis Headquarters | 236 Clifton Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55403 | (612) 813-5000
St. Paul Headquarters | 1301 East 7th Street, Saint Paul, MN 55106 | (651) 332-5500

Offers low-income and family housing. Some properties accept people with a criminal background.
901 North 3rd Street Suite 150, Minneapolis, MN 55401 | (612) 341-3148

Provides law, entrepreneurship, and professional development to formerly incarcerated people. These
initiatives help allow access to financial support, social capital, and long-term success.
4047 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55406 | (612) 787-7164

Offers relationship-based services that are supportive, respectful, and empowering to anyone with a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor on their record. They provide information, referrals, and specialized one-on-one planning tailored to the specific challenges that come with having a criminal background. They can help with housing, referrals to Project Reboot, transportation, clothing, voicemail, computers and phones.
3041 4th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 | (612) 877-4250

Offers assistance with employment and housing to clients who have a criminal record. This program has their own housing units and job placement work crew.
2620 Minnehaha Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406 | (612) 455-6133

Offers referrals for housing, employment, and other resources.
1121 Lincoln Ave South, Sauk Rapids, MN 56379 | (320) 656-9004

Referral-based Christian residential re-entry program for adult men exiting prison.
Golden Valley | (763) 545-6558 Rochester | (507) 292-1700

Offers support for those who want to achieve and maintain stability. Participants engage with one advocate. Progress is measured by improved housing, increased financial situation, completed education and training, obtained employment, and supportive community.
425 Groveland 55403, Minneapolis, MN 55403 | (612) 435-1315

Offers services related to employment, job training, financial services, and housing. They have expertise in helping people who are re-entering the community after incarceration, individuals who have been unemployed for long periods of time, immigrants, and refugees.
1834 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411 | (612) 529-9267

Offers assistance and training to those re-entering the workforce after incarceration.
553 Fairview Ave North, St. Paul, MN 55104 | General (651) 379-5800 or Re-Entry (651) 900-5274

Offers reintegration support for men and women coming out of prison.
3026 4th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 | (612) 822-0802

Offers training to individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. This training helps formerly incarcerated people support themselves and contribute to their communities.
553 Fairview Avenue St. Paul, MN 55104

Offers a program called Workforce Ways to cultivate positive life change in the disposition of ex-offenders and at-risk youth, creating a foundation for future success.
3003 Penn Avenue North Suite #11, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Programs include an African American Men’s Project (AAMP) featuring life coaching, a re-entry program that addresses the personal developmental needs of ex-offenders re-entering society, and a book club called Black Men Reading. They also offer a Co Parent Court Program for people who are in and out of prison, helping them work with the other parent to find what is best for their child(ren).
1313 Penn Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411 | (612) 543-2500

Offers parenting classes to parents in prison that focus on how to become better parents and restore and strengthen their family relationships. Offered in Faribault, Rush City, Lino Lakes and Hennepin County Detention Center for Women. They also offer a program called Brother’s Keeper/Sister’s Keeper that gives the parent a positive person to support them as they parent from prison or after release. In addition, they offer programs for kids whose parents are in prison. They have a youth mentoring program for children ages 5-25 with incarcerated parents and a monthly support group where peers can support each other and talk about the issues they face.
7111 W Broadway, Suite 206, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428 | (763)503-2892

Offers support to people with a family member in prison and affordable transportation to visit them in prison.
P.O. Box 29502, Brooklyn Center, MN 55429 | 1-800-741-0833

Offers supportive housing for individuals and families who may have a criminal background. Combines rental subsidies with supportive services to restore stability, autonomy, and pride. Offers career training at no cost.
1035 East Franklin, Minneapolis, MN 55404 | Housing (612) 455-5133 or Career Training (612) 455-5300

Offers supervised housing and hands-on work opportunities to those with a criminal record.
515 Farrington Street, St. Paul, MN 55103 | (651) 888-0912

Offers men’s and women’s new and gently used professional clothing, accessories, and personal care items suitable for job interviews and the workplace. Provides individual appointments and personal shoppers for every customer.
815 & 819 Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404 | (612) 872-1509

Provides transitional housing and offers recovery-focused, transformative opportunities for residents to achieve
personal goals, increase skills and income, integrate with the community, and stabilize housing.

Offers support to women re-entering society after incarceration. They hold weekly group sessions and are available for one-on-one support as well.
701 Washington Ave. N, Ste 111 Minneapolis, MN 55401 | (612) 361-4645 or (612) 389-0008

Offers website-based career planning for people with criminal convictions.

Offers transitional conferencing to incarcerated men and their families to help them prepare for reintegration. *This is only offered to men in Dakota County Jail.
P.O. Box 3152, Minneapolis, MN 55403 | (651) 774-8709

Offers support groups that cover a wide range of topics. They don’t offer a specific support group for re-entering the community after incarceration but are very open to anyone who needs support.
3249 Hennepin Avenue #55, Minneapolis, MN 55408 | (612) 822-5892

Offers assistance to individuals on a path to long-term and stable employment.
Minneapolis Headquarters | 1301 Bryant Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411 | (612) 338-0295
St. Paul Headquarters | 1600 University Ave, #8, St. Paul, MN 55104 | (651) 603-8520

Offers a free-of-cost program to help men develop the skills needed to be a successful individual, father, employee, and citizen. They provide coaches that individualize the program to the participant.
1821 University Ave Suite N257, St. Paul, MN 55104 | (651) 528-8006

Offers workshops and support groups that aid in re-entry from the correctional system. Specialties include helping women who are coming out of incarceration and working with children who have experienced the loss of a parent due to incarceration.
P.O. Box 6834, Minneapolis, MN 55406 | (612) 558-5721

Offers membership opportunities, childcare, after care activities, camps for children, and much more.
Multiple locations, please refer to the phone number or website for a convenient location | (612) 230-9622

Copyright © 2020 Children of Incarcerated Caregivers, All rights reserved.

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