view counter

Features (All)

The Anne Arundel Food Bank’s new face looks to get the ­non-profit new space
      No one has ever become poor by giving.
–Anne Frank
 
        Susan Thomas is breaking in some new shoes, walking a path blazed by Food Bank founder Bruce Michalec. 
       Thirteen years ago, Thomas volunteered at the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. Two months into her new position, Michalec ran into health problems. He needed help.
      Eager to give back to the community, Thomas stepped up to learn the ropes from the creator himself. 
      Thomas, though, is no stranger to charitable work.
      She started as a teenager, volunteering as a candy striper at North Arundel Hospital. She also volunteered with Happy Helpers for the Homeless around the holidays. 
      She took notice of the Food Bank and volunteered to answer the phones. One month later, she was offered a job.
       “At the time, the staff consisted of four employees: a driver, bookkeeper, administrative assistant and executive director,” Thomas reminisces. “It was a very close group, and I really liked being part of a team that made a difference in someone’s life.”
       Thomas’s involvement steadily grew, as she added grant writing and bookkeeping to her responsibilities.
      “This is a unique job,” Thomas says. “I knew the harder I worked, the more people we would be able to assist and the more services we would be able to offer.”
       When Michalec retired in January after 30 years of service, he passed the baton to Thomas.
       Her first few months were fraught with troubles. For 14 years, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank worked out of the old Crownsville Hospital kitchen. The sprawling building had plenty of storage and massive freezers to keep perishable food — perfect for a growing pantry. However, their tenancy was uncertain. Then, the roof caved in.
      “We’ve had volunteers come out to patch the roof from time to time,” Thomas says. “But these buildings are very old. We don’t want to spend $100,000 for a new roof.”
       Thomas now has another reason to hold off on the roof repairs: The hospital grounds are for sale. 
      The Chesapeake Bayhawks have their sights set on that property. The Annapolis-based, semi-professional men’s lacrosse team is making moves to turn the grounds into a new stadium with parking and practice fields. Thomas says the Bayhawks are still willing to grandfather the Food Bank into its design plans. But that will take too long.
      “There’s no reason to wait,” Thomas says. “Our goal is to remain on the hospital grounds — but build a whole new space.” 
      They’ll need the room. Last year, the Food Bank handed out more than 260,000 pounds of food. 
      To get the building they need, Thomas is working with the state for a mix of grants and capital bonds. In combination with fundraising, they’ll need government help.
      Thomas hopes that the state will give a 100-year lease on the Crownsville hospital property. She’ll need a senator and delegate to back the plan; who depends on the November elections. Once she’s got backing, she’ll need to meet with Gov. Larry Hogan.
       Of the old building, Stuart Cohen, three-year volunteer truck driver for the Food Bank, says, “we are definitely lucky to have it. But it’s a huge undertaking to maintain. It’s not built for constant truck traffic, either.” 
      Christine Pokorny, a long-time volunteer at the Food Bank, looks forward to keeping up with “growing need in Anne Arundel County. A new space will make us much more effective,” she says.
       Part of growing with the times, Pokorny says, is Thomas herself. “I was really happy when Susan took over,” the volunteer says. “She has a terrific vision for the future, and she wants to try to reach new people in new ways.”
       With a brand new building, Thomas and her team would finally be able to focus on their programs and community — rather than struggling to keep a roof over their heads. 
 
A Remarkable Time
      “This is a really remarkable time,” says Anne Arundel Food Bank Chairman J.J. Fegan. 
       In the nine years Fegan, a local realtor, has led the board, he’s seen demand surge through the Food Bank’s sliding doors.
       “We live in one of the richest counties in one of the wealthiest states in America,” Fegan says. “Too many kids are going to school hungry, and I want to help give back.”
      Michalec felt the same. 
      A champion of charity, Michalec spent more than 30 years building what is now the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and a community around it. 
       The operation began inside a church with Michalec distributing a small federal surplus of food to families in need. Over time, he expanded the Food Bank into a countywide program that gives away more than $1.25 million in food annually. 
       As well as food, people needed resources. Ever responsive, Michalec rose to the need. 
      “Every time I gave away a bed or a wheelchair,” Michalec told Bay Weekly in 2014, “it was like giving people food because they would have been using food money to buy it otherwise.”
      The expanded Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank remains the only free place to go for food and other resources like appliances, furniture, medical equipment, nutritional supplements, personal hygiene products and even vehicles.
        Expansion has meant more programs. So far this year, Thomas has given out 150 bicycles to underprivileged kids. 
       Thomas’ team has broadened its Backpack Buddies program. They used to help almost 1,500 students by sending home backpacks full of food for the weekend. Now they assist more than 5,000 kids. 
       Individual donations, mostly through food drives, account for about 20 percent of the quarter-million pounds of food distributed by the bank to individuals, families and food pantries throughout the county. “The remainder,” Thomas says, “we receive through partnerships with local stores and Feeding America vendors.”
       With greater need and the prospect for a new space, more volunteers will be needed. The Food Bank already gets some help from correctional center work programs. Thomas has three to five inmates who help with daily packing and moving. She gets helpers from the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center and United Way of Central Maryland. But with growing need comes greater responsibility. 
      More volunteers are needed right now, Thomas says, because the Food Bank is “headed into our busy season.” The back-to-school rush begins this hectic period, which grows into Thanksgiving food drives, then holiday gift donations.
      “We’re growing and we’re adapting. We’ve got this new power at our disposal, and we can use it to give more to our community than ever before,” Thomas says of the future.
      Drop off donations Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm at the Food Bank. For large donations or to become a volunteer, call the office: 410-923-4255, 120 Marbury Dr., Crownsville, www.aafoodbank.org.

Nationally certified red-carded firefighters go wherever it burns hottest

       Montana. Colorado. Texas. California. In all those hotbox states and more, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Services are sweating to control fires that have already burned more than five million acres of land and wrecked thousands of homes and businesses.
        Nationwide, says Monte Mitchell, Forest Service state fire supervisor, we’re part of a “dynamic system where when one geographic area has shortages, other states and federal units can provide those resources to fill in the gaps.”
       One hundred and twenty Maryland Forest Service firefighters and other volunteers train to fight those ferocious opponents. These “red-carded personnel are nationally certified to perform on an incident,” Mitchell says. “Forty-hour courses give them their basic firefighter and basic wildland and fire weather training and tactics.” 
      Topping that is an eight-hour physical field day.
      “They go out and construct fire lines with hand tools, they’ll use pumps, they’ll set up hose lays, they’ll be introduced to all the different tools that you use in wildland firefighting,” Mitchell says. 
     Through all this, their most important tools are their bodies.
     “There is a physical assessment that you have to meet, and that’s more of an exam,” says Justin Arseneault, project forester with the forest service. “Every year before firefighters get sent out, we take a work capacity test to make sure that our physical fitness is sufficient to handle the types of duties that we might be called to do.”
      Part of the test is walking three miles within 45 minutes while carrying 45 pounds.
      In Maryland, each crew of 20 people is divided into three squads under a crew boss. Each squad has its boss, three fellers who operate chainsaws and the rest firefighters, Mitchell explains. 
      Once in action, volunteers must be ready for whatever is to come in the 14 to 16 days of assignment.
     “Initial attack is responding to new wildfires as they occur and for the first 24-hour operational period taking the necessary actions to contain and suppress the wildfire,” Mitchell says. “All of the engine and dozer crews Maryland has mobilized are experienced firefighters. But newly trained firefighters can assist with initial attack operations under the supervision of experienced firefighters.”
      Once a fire is fought down, “we’ll make sure that portions controlled but still smoldering are fully extinguished so that they don’t accidentally escape containment,” Arseneault says.
      Maryland volunteers also might work on smaller active fires, “to cut fire lines, brushing out a path where there’s no fuel for the fire to run into so it will extinguish itself.”
     In July Arseneault was sent to Montana, California and Colorado. This month he heads to Texas to help with more fires.
      “It’s a dangerous environment, and we take every precaution that we can to mitigate the hazards that are there,” Arseneault says.
      “There are a lot of fires, like the fires in California, where homes are being threatened, and it can be very humbling to help. Being exposed to those people that are just so grateful that you’re there really makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”

Way Downstream …

Way Downstream comes from Ocean City, where the federal court case over the right of women to go topless may be bare-ly beginning. 

Let us first unveil some facts: Last summer, Ocean City approved an ordinance forbidding women to cast aside their swimsuit tops. 

In January, five women — among them Megan Bryant, of Lothian —- filed lawsuit in a Maryland U.S. District Court challenging the ordinance as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

“This lawsuit is about confirming the legal right of women to be bare-chested in public in the same places men are permitted to be bare-chested in public for purposes other than breast-feeding,” the complaint reads. 

The suit observes that it’s normal for men to go shirtless, an “act associated with power, strength and freedom.” 

In the pokey ways of federal civil suits, it was Ocean City’s duty to respond six months later. 

On July 27, the town filed a defense asserting that the women’s Equal Protection Clause argument is faulty because that provision doesn’t say that things that are different should be treated the same. 

The filing refers to the “indisputable difference between the sexes” and the town’s interest to protect public sensibilities, asserting that bare breasts in public “may not be offensive to everyone” but remain “unpalatable” to society. 

The naked truth is that no decision is expected for some time, perhaps not until chill winds have people so bundled up that there’s no way to discern the difference between women and men. 

Sandy Marron of Heritage Harbour collects books for soldiers.  

Operation Paperback, a non-profit founded in 1999, sends shipments of books to military bases all over the world. Marron is one of 19,000 volunteers under the Operation Paperback umbrella.  

The books go to military families, veterans, hospitals and bases overseas. The books help soldiers learn, pass the time or, on deployment, read to their children via webcam. Romance and religious books aren’t accepted.  

Everyone involved with this program is a volunteer, so Operation Paperback is a true non-profit. Each volunteer must find the books, boxes and the money needed to mail the books out. 

“I have worked with this great organization since 2011 and sent out over 16,000 books, puzzle books, men’s magazines and others,” Marron said. 

The Heritage Harbour Woman’s Club, John Taylor Funeral Home, Heritage Harbour Beer Wine and Spirits and Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits help support Operation Paperback. 

To donate, email: [email protected], subject books. 

         On July 26, the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River opened its gates due to flooding and high river flows. By July 29-30, tree limbs, sea grass and trash had reached Spa Creek by way of the Severn River and piled up on the waters of Annapolis Harbor. 

The City of Annapolis’s harbormasters worked hour after hour to clean up the disaster. Now the city is asking volunteers to help haul the mess out.  

“The debris took up almost the whole harbor this morning,” Annapolitan Joe LaScola told Bay Weekly. “But these guys are getting it done. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this in 40 years,” said LaScola, a daily visitor to City Dock. 

So, you’re ready to venture into downtown Annapolis. Maybe you’re out for a sunny stroll down Main Street. Maybe you and your friends fancy a night out on the town. Whatever your reason, there’s one thing weighing on your mind: parking.  

Many city-goers avoid parking garages in search of cheaper street parking. Starting this month, the city of Annapolis intends to make garages a sweeter option. 

Heading into town on a Sunday? The Whitmore Parking Garage, on the corner of Calvert and Clay streets, now has free parking every Sunday until 4pm. Later in the afternoon, you can park at Whitmore for just $2. Parking is free all weekend at the Calvert Street Garage, across from St. John’s College. If you’re driving into Annapolis after work during the week, you’ll find free parking after 6pm at the Calvert Street Garage.  

If you’re an Annapolis resident, you can now park for free for two hours at any city-owned parking garage. Pick up your parking pass at 60 West Street for the KnightonGotts and Hillman parking garages.

Way Downstream …

Folks in a fishing village on the Arabian Peninsula definitely had more reason than we did to complain about last week’s heat.

In the town of Quriyat in Oman, the mercury set a record, plunging to 108.7 degrees on the night of June 26, marking the hottest low temperature in recorded history. During the day, it was 121.6 degrees. Those recordings combined to give the town of 50,000 another record, the hottest 24-hour period ever.

The United States still holds the record for the highest temperature on record: 134.1 degrees, recorded on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, Calif., according to the World Meteorological Association.

Play to remember — and repay

After Michael Schrodel’s early death in 2001, his family and brothers of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity of Frostburg State University hosted a golf tournament to celebrate his life and memory.

“He wanted to give back to organizations that helped him when he was sick,” says his daughter Carmen, a student at James Madison University. “My dad liked to golf, so we figured a golf tournament would be a good way to bring people together for such a great cause.”

In 15 years, the Michael D. Schrodel Golf Classic has raised more than $100,000. All proceeds from the Classic benefit Calvert Hospice and the Michael D. Schrodel Endowed Scholarship Fund at Frostburg, his alma mater. 

As well as supporting causes dear to Schrodel, it is, his daughter says, “such a fun day, a reunion of new and old friends!”

Friday, July 20, at Compass Pointe Golf Course, Pasadena. Sign up to play or sponsor until July 15: https://birdeasepro.com/Event/Register/8885.

SPCA reprises its two-species Cruise on the Bay

Annapolis is one dog-friendly town, from water bowls and treats outside of Main Street stores to events made just for furry friends.

On July 19, Annapolis further appreciates its dogs when the Anne Arundel Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals partners with Watermark Cruises for its sixth dog Cruise on the Bay.

“A cruise,” says Watermark’s Katie Redmiles “because the dogs can get the breeze from the water and we don’t have to worry about problems with getting them into places.”

Dogs and their people board Watermark’s Harbor Queen boat at City Dock to cruise 6:00 to 7:30pm. Both decks are open air, so the dogs have a lot of room.

Half of the ticket price benefits AASPCA dogs in need.

Liz Herrick of Glen Burnie and her Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix Bodhi and Pomeranian Pippa will be aboard. “My favorite activities are those that contribute to causes that I care about, so this was a perfect choice for my two pups and me,” she said.

Karisa Josephson of Dunkirk is boarding for the first time to help the cause. She is, she says, looking forward to “spending time with my friend [her dog] and the many people who love doing things with their pets as I do.”

Doggie pools afloat with hot dogs add to the fun for pups who can cool off in the water and go bobbing for a snack. 

“I bring my dog every year, and he really loves it,” Redmiles said. “Dogs, believe it or not, like to get out on the water, so I’d say it’s more for the dogs, and they happen to bring their people along.”

Humans will have fun, too, with light food donated by Graul’s Market, an open bar, raffles and silent auction items, the latter two going to the dogs.

Watch for babies and respect elders 

The common snapping turtle’s life history shows extreme longevity and perseverance.

They begin their life by cutting through an eggshell, digging through a half foot of dirt, then crawling up to a half mile to water. Many eggs are eaten by raccoons, and the tiny young are food for many animals, even other turtles. Living on a diet of insects, tadpoles and minnows, the young spend most of their time hiding in dense pond weeds.

The first two years of life are the hardest. Very few, maybe one percent, survive. 

Snapping turtles grow slowly, taking 15 years to reach maturity. Their lifespan is unknown, but some tagged individuals have been over 100 years old and weigh close to 90 pounds. Locally, some have been up to 75 pounds. A large common snapping Turtle may well be older than you.

They are ambush predators, eating almost anything that comes along — and that list is quite long. They have been witnessed killing a raccoon, but generally they eat fish that swim too close to gaping mouths.

Through winter, snappers hibernate under water and frequently under mud.  

In the warm seasons, they mate. The female can store live sperm for several years, waiting until the conditions are right for egg laying. Starting in the late spring, female common snapping turtles laden with up to 75 eggs haul themselves out of the safety of water to find an area suitable for laying eggs. The nesting area can be up to a half-mile from water and uphill.

On their journey, you might see them crossing roads, laying eggs in gardens, hissing at pets and blocking trails. As for human contact, for the most part they are shy, but when cornered they can be very aggressive. Their strong jaws can cause serious damage to hands and feet.

To rescue a large snapping turtle crossing a road, either use a shovel to lift it or toss a towel onto the head and back and pick it up by the sides of the shell. Picking it up by the tail can tear the artery going into the tail and cause the animal to perish. Some people are able to pick them up by the shell at the area where the back legs go in, but there is a risk of getting bitten or scratched. Move the turtle in the direction that the turtle was already going.

Mid to late summer is the time the turtles hatch from their underground nests. They are a little more than an inch long and look like a clump of dirt or a partially smashed acorn. The hatchlings are usually only noticed when they move or are discovered by a pet. If you find a baby turtle, move it to a nearby body of fresh or brackish water. Snappers cannot survive the salinity of the ocean.