Hogan announces homeownership initiative for veterans, military families

— On Memorial Day, Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary Kenneth Holt announced a $20 million initiative that will give a significant boost to veterans and military families who are looking to buy a home in one of Maryland’s 86 Sustainable Communities.

The “You’ve Earned It!” initiative offers a 2.75 percent fixed-rate 30-year loan through the Maryland Mortgage Program and $10,000 in down payment assistance in the form of a zero interest deferred loan to active duty military, including members of the military reserves and National Guard, and honorably discharged veterans and veterans with a disability.

The first phase of “You’ve Earned It!” aimed at qualified homebuyers with more than $25,000 in student loan debt was announced recently. The initiative is for a limited time until the $20 million allocation is exhausted.

Maryland’s Sustainable Communities program seeks to strengthen reinvestment and revitalization in the state’s older communities through state, local and private sector partnerships.

There is at least one designated Sustainable Community in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

A list of Maryland’s Sustainable Communities can be found at www.mmp.maryland.gov.

If you’d like to see whether a specific property address is in a sustainable community, view this map.

For more information about the Maryland Mortgage Program, as well as other loan specials, participating lenders and homeownership counselors in your area, visit the Maryland Mortgage Program website: www.mmp.maryland.gov.

Founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa comes to Baltimore

— When the riots broke out in Baltimore City, there was a call to action for community leaders, political leaders and religious leaders to come together to formulate solutions and to help pull the community together. For many in the community, this call to action has been nothing more than smoke screen for personal gain and agendas with no real issues being addressed.

“My coming to Baltimore is not about press, it’s about coming to assist. We have a great chapter in Baltimore. Our goal, since I have been doing this since 1979, is to show communities how to self-police. We have a track record and we are international. Our record speaks for itself. If Baltimore and its leaders are serious about change, they have to [have] a serious conversation about self-policing which means working with the police, which can happen because I have seen it up close and personal,” said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.

On Saturday, May 30, 2015, join The Guardian Angels Baltimore Chapter, Jack Baker of the Southern District Community Relations Council to learn about the origin and mission of the largest worldwide volunteer crime watch organization.

“The community has to be involved on all levels. It has to be a partnership with everyone together. If black lives matter, it can’t just be when crimes that involve whites or police officers [occur]. It should matter all the time. Again, everyone has to work together without personal agendas. It’s not about being in the news or money. The focus should be on the community. Baltimore needs to come together as one,” Sliwa added.

For more information about the event, call 410-916-2215 or visit: www.baltimoreguardianangels@gmail.com.

Indie Soul Movie Review: Sugar Babies

Virgil Films presents a compelling examination of diabetes in America. In “Sugar Babies: The Bittersweet Truth About Diabetes,” from Academy Award-winning executive producer Geralyn White Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels) and New York Times best-selling author James S. Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter), filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie (Kick Like a Girl) reveals the frightening epidemic of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and what we can do to address this frightening public health issue.

This is a very serious issue in health and now is the time to look at this seriously. Mackenzie takes on a real life journey with families who are facing diabetes crisis. It’s not a race issue or insurance issue, although if people don’t look at how diabetes is affecting them, it can come down to coverage and cost.

Most documentaries dealing with health issues concentrate on just showing the examples of one or two people and how they cope, but Mackenzie uses a multiple group of individuals, families, and comments from various doctors and what you see, hear, and learn is astonishing.

The film with advocates exercise and eating fresh foods. It’s one of the most honest films on this topic. The documentary will be released as a digital download: www.virgilfilmsent.com.

You can find locations to buy fresh food in Baltimore here: www.baltimore.org/article/baltimore-farmers-markets.

Indie Soul welcomes your questions and comments. To contact Phinesse Demps, call 410-366-3900 ext. 3016 or 410-501-0193 or email: pdemps@btimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @pdemps_btimes.com (Photo: Sugar Babies movie poster courtesy of Virgil Films)

Indie Soul Student of the Week: Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

— On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, I had the privilege of being a judge at NFTE Business Plan Competition Semifinals. It was truly an honor to give back by giving time to budding entrepreneurs.

Students presented their business plans to various business, professional, and entrepreneurs. Our job was to pick the best presentations. This may seem easy but it’s not. Some students were already running businesses and other students’ ideas already had serious backing.

I truly enjoyed myself and will be back again if I am asked. Many thanks to the teachers, volunteers and businesses who have supported NFTE. For more information call: 443-721-6052 or visit: www.nfte.com.

Below is the list of five students will be competing on June 3rd, for a slot at the national competition in New York on October 6th. :

  1. Business Name: Kickies Cookies Student: Carlton Ross (Roland Park Elementary School) Caffeinated chocolate-chip and espresso cookies
  2. Business Name: Sotaia’s Accessories Student: Madison Woodward (Calverton Elementary School)— Handmade bow clips and headbands.
  3. Business Name: Ozone Hats Student: Onalee Anderson (Roland Park Elementary School) Bright and colorful winter hats.
  4. Business Name: Power to the PCB Students: Javon Gholston & Michael Heier (Patterson High School)— Printed ergonomic circuit board tool.

5.Business Name: Sweets for the Sweet Student: Noah Tunis (Roland Park Elementary School) Affordable delicious customized cupcakes that are delivered to the customer’s doorstep.

Marrow donor has compassion in her bones

— Can you remember what you thought, felt and hoped for 16 years ago? Neither can Altonet Fillmore, a charismatic person with kind eyes and a ready smile. However, then as now, a reservoir of compassion resided in her bones—and compelled her to register as a bone marrow donor with the “Be The Match Registry.”

Today, the 36-year-old woman is a human resources professional with a passion for singing. Her impressive vocals led her to compete in national talent shows, including “Star Search,” “American Idol” and “Showtime at the Apollo.”

In 1996, when Altonet joined the registry, she was still an idealistic college freshman. It wasn’t until 2012—16 years later— that she learned she was a match for a middle-aged woman with leukemia. That’s when she discovered something about herself— time hadn’t altered her call to compassion.

“I felt it was a privilege and an honor to be able to give something that my body makes every day and be able to save a life,” she said.

Around the world, 25 million caring people like Altonet have joined international volunteer marrow donor registries in hopes of being the cure for a patient in need.

A marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease. It can also help to cure more than 70 other diseases, including inherited immunodeficiency disorders and metabolic disorders. “Be The Match” connects patients with their donor match for life-saving marrow or cord blood transplants.

Donors have helped to save a quarter of a million lives but thousands of other patients who face life-threatening diseases are still waiting for their match.

More potential donors are especially needed by African American patients whose chances of finding a matching donor are only 66 to 76 percent. People are more likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity.

There are many misperceptions about bone marrow donation, and Altonet heard them all before her donation— including stories that it’s a painful or dangerous process. However, with anesthesia, Altonet didn’t feel any pain during the procedure. She returned to work just two days after her donation— a common scenario.

“Don’t listen to what you may have heard— speak with people who are

able to give you correct information about the process,” said Altonet. “It’s a rewarding experience, and if you are ever selected to donate bone marrow, then you should definitely consider it.”

A few months after her donation, Altonet learned that her bone marrow recipient was doing well and out of the hospital. Although she didn’t know her, Altonet was deeply moved by the woman’s struggle.

“The one thing she taught me was how to love a stranger,” she said. “I prayed for her more than I prayed for myself or anyone else in a long time.”

Today, Altonet is using her inspired voice and spirit to encourage more people— especially those of African American descent—to join the “Be The Match Registry” as potential bone marrow donors.

By joining the “Be The Match Registry” as a committed potential bone marrow donor, you could be the cure for someone suffering from a life-threatening disease, too. In fact, you could be a patient’s only chance to survive and it only takes a few minutes to join.

For Altonet, it’s in her bones to care. Knowing that her bone marrow saved a life enriches her own life every day.

You can also contribute to the cure as a financial contributor or volunteer. Be The Match provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education and guidance throughout the transplant process.

For more information, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 800-MARROW-2.

“Painting in the Park” showcasing northeast Baltimore’s Herring Run Park

Artists and art lovers are invited to come out and celebrate Herring Run Park at the first-ever Painting in the Park: Herring Run Plein Air event, to be held Saturday and Sunday, May 30-31, 2015 at Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore.

The event will bring talented artists to the Park to paint in the open air, with the public welcome to observe the artists at work from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. All are invited to vote for their favorite paintings and bid on the artwork at the weekend’s grand finale, the Wet Paint Exhibition and Silent Auction, to be held Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Francis Church Hall located 3615 Harford Road in Baltimore.

The auction will benefit Friends of Herring Run Park, a nonprofit organization working to preserve the Park and promote its many attractions. “Herring Run Park is one of Baltimore’s best-kept secrets,” says FHRP chairman Patty Dowd. “It’s a wonderful place to experience nature in the midst of Baltimore City.”

Painting in the Park will showcase the vistas and natural beauty offered by Herring Run’s stream valley setting. Artists will create new works from direct observation, without use of photographs. Harford Road Bridge, a major feature of the Park, will be replaced in the near future, Dowd points out. “It is our hope that the Painting in the Park event will help to record the bridge as it is today and raise the public’s awareness of the replacement project.”

Dating from Baltimore’s relationship with the Olmsted Brothers in the early 20th century, Herring Run Park and the adjoining Montebello Water System offer a variety of recreational opportunities. Painting in the Park takes place in the section of the Park located between Cold Spring Lane and Belair Road.

For a map, artist registration and general information, visit the Friends of Herring Park website: thefhrp.org/events/event/painting-in-the-park/ or email: thefhrp@gmail.com or call Patty Dowd at 410-227-2920.

Quick Hits and Quotes from Ravens Organized Team Activity

— The Baltimore Ravens held their first day of Organized Team Activities that was open to the media on Thursday. There were a few players missing from the voluntary meetings including Terrell Suggs, Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil and Lardarius Webb. The practice was fast paced as the team worked through various periods. Here are some quick hits from the Ravens practice:

New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is very hands on coach. He was involved in drills, lining up as a cornerback against the wide receivers and running with the plays during team period to get a better viewpoint. He was really vocal about some of the small details that are required in his offense. The detail oriented mindset that Trestman exhibited is something that Joe Flacco commented on in his post-practice press conference.

Za’Darius Smith showed a pretty quick first step as he got a jump on the ball numerous times. He was able to set the edge pretty well on running plays where the running back was trying to string the run outside. Granted, they were not in pads but his hand placement was on point as it allowed him to turn the offensive linemen back towards the line and force the running back to cut back. Smith also made an athletic play when he jumped up and intercepted a screen pass that Matt Schaub was trying to throw over his head.

The Ravens entire starting offensive line was not at OTAs. Rookies Maxx Williams, Brett Perriman and Buck Allen were not at OTAs because they are in Los Angeles at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event.

Steve Smith Sr. was present at OTAs and made some pretty nice catches, going up and snatching the ball out of the air on a few deep in breaking routes.

Cornerback Kyle Arrington went back into the locker room after he landed awkwardly on his back during practice.

Tight End Dennis Pitta worked out separately with tight ends coach Rich Angulo. He ran some routes and caught the ball well. Pitta also took part in individual cone drills but didn’t participate in practice.

Inside Linebacker C.J. Mosely took part in some drills. He had his wrist wrapped and sat out of team and seven on seven periods during practice.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is ahead of schedule as he is recovering from foot surgery according to head coach John Harbaugh. He was supposed to wear the red jersey that designates a player as injured but he only tucked it into his shorts like a towel. Smith had limited participation in practice.

Safety Terrence Brooks is also ahead of schedule as he recovers from his knee injury. He was on the field in uniform but didn’t practice.

Defensive End Brent Urban was not at practice due to a personal family issue.

Defensive Tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore seems to be recovered from injury and was very active on the field along with Timmy Jernigan, Casey Walker and Za’Darius Smith.

John Harbaugh on coaching changes: I’d rather be changing coaches because the coaches are becoming head coaches rather than the other reason that coaches get changed in this league. I am pretty happy with that.

John Harbaugh on Joe Flacco: Joe Flacco has been a great quarterback from the day he got here. Joe Flacco is a great player. He’s only going to get better. I think he’s hitting his stride, hitting the peak of his career, and I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in the National Football League – period. This guy is a superstar in the National Football League, and I’m thrilled to have him, and I can’t wait to see what he does this year with all that young talent around him.

Joe Flacco on Marc Trestman: It’s been great to work with him so far. He’s very detailed in what he wants and how he puts things in and making sure that he teaches it in a way that everybody understands it and gets it pretty quickly. It’s only been a couple of times out on the field with him, but I think he’s doing a great job of motivating and getting everybody going, so it’s been good.

Steve Smith Sr. on playing into his 40s like Jerry Rice: Jerry Rice is, obviously, the greatest wide receiver to ever play, and I really don’t have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest. I have a lot of things on my ‘to do’ list that don’t have to do anything with football. So, I’m going to take it day by day, but I will not be playing until I’m 40.

Brandon Williams on the impact of trading Haloti Ngata: “It tells me I just have to step up, [and] we have to do more. I accept the challenge, willingly, to get out there and do everything I have to do to be my best player, be my best self. And that goes for everybody else on the defensive line. We don’t need anybody to be Haloti. We just need everybody to be their best selves, and we’ll be fine.

Symposium highlights research of future STEM leaders

— Tula Raghavan recommended the use of acriflavine for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, which is an aggressive form of brain cancer. The graduating senior from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) worked in the Johns Hopkins Hunterian Laboratory, under the mentorship of Henry Brem, M.D., director of Hunterian Neurological Research Laboratory. The treatment for brain cancer that is reportedly showing promising results is currently patent-pending.

The 2015 graduating senior class of Ingenuity at Poly

(Courtesy photo)

The 2015 graduating senior class of Ingenuity at Poly

Raghavan’s research is just one example of the impressive work that was displayed at the 13th Annual Ingenuity Math & Science Symposium at Poly on May 21, 2015. The Ingenuity Project at Poly, which started in 1997, is designed is to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders from Baltimore.

Timothy J. Regan, CEO of Whiting-Turner, a Baltimore-based contracting company, welcomed students, parents, research mentors from various universities and other guests to the symposium. Whiting-Turner led construction projects such as the second span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Harborplace, M&T Bank Stadium, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the National Aquarium. Regan’s successful career demonstrates the talent of Poly’s alumni who were once students like Raghavan with innovative ideas. The civil engineer graduated from Poly in 1973.

“When I made the decision to come to Poly, my life changed that day,” Regan said. “Poly and the Ingenuity Project are amazing places and institutions for people to grow.”

Ingenuity Project students who participated in the symposium exhibited the drive to contribute to breakthroughs in fields including medicine, technology and mathematics. At just 16 years old, Sydney Worsham has been exploring whether brain cancer treatment in humans can be improved. This summer, the student will start researching in a lab with her mentor, Dr. Betty Tyler.

“We’re basically treating rats that have brain cancer with chemotherapy. We’ve been working on this maybe a year now. We haven’t actually started researching directly [but I have been doing research] on the Internet and talking with my mentor,” said 10th grader Sidney Worsham. “Originally, I wanted to research dementia, so I started off learning about the brain and its mysteries and things that go wrong, but I ran into cancer. Cancer itself is a whole new mystery, especially when found in the brain.”

Phoebe Sandhaus was the 2015 grand prizewinner in Physical Science during the Baltimore Science Fair.

“Even though she is graduating and going to UMBC next year, she is going to be continue to do work with the planets in the Space Telescope (Science) Institute,” said Lisette S. Morris, executive director, Ingenuity Project.

Morris explained that the Annual Ingenuity Math & Symposium at Poly is intended to honor the work that students are doing in scientific research.

“We have a pathway here at Poly in Ingenuity where students can opt to pursue independent research. They decide on an area of interest as they are going through their high school science classes and math classes. They hone in on a topic and then we have a research coordinator who works with mentors and scientists in laboratories all across Baltimore, but many at Hopkins and the Hopkins medical institutes,” Morris said. “He matches them up with mentors that he has been working with now for many years who really understand what it means to take students into their labs, and give them meaningful experiences, so our students spend about 15 months working in a laboratory. During their junior year, they go off-site to those laboratories many days during the week.”

The Ingenuity Research Curriculum is a three-year program that spans from sophomore to senior high school years.

“The goal is that they are really starting to learn what is happening in that lab and starting to create their own project to contribute to the research of that laboratory. Much of their work is some aspect of original thinking around scientific research. That’s the goal of what we’re trying to do with all of them,” Morris said.

Math also had a presence at the symposium. Seventeen-year-old Benjamin Aladejebi, and his 18-year-old partner, Omar Mahmoud solved advanced calculus problems from the JHU (Johns Hopkins University) Future Scholars program’s math examination.

“Solving this has definitely given me a good understanding of math, and maybe some of the problems that I might face in more advanced courses,” said Mahmoud, who plans to study Physics at UMBC.

Aladejebi will study Mechanical Engineering at Bucknell University. He described his experience as a good introduction to the way of thinking that he expects to use in college coursework.

VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility, Veterans Benefits Seminar

— The Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System is hosting a VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility and Veterans Benefits Seminar at the Baltimore VA Medical Center on Monday, June 1, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Auditorium, 2nd Floor of Baltimore VA Medical Center in Baltimore City. The program is free of charge and is designed to provide an overview of VA programs and services for community health care providers, social workers and counselors.

During the seminar, VA representatives will provide presentations about VA health care eligibility and enrollment, in addition to an overview of VA primary, mental health and long-term care. There will also be representatives available during the seminar to talk about VA health care services in the community and VA compensation benefits. Following the seminar, participants will have the opportunity to visit resource tables to get additional information about VA programs and services available to Veterans.

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Baltimore VA Medical Center, which is located at 10 N. Greene Street in Baltimore. Parking for the program will be available for a fee at nearby parking garages.

For more information about the VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility and Veterans Benefits Seminar, contact the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Community Outreach office at 1-800-949-1003, extension 6071, or register online at www.chepinc.org/upcoming_events and click on 06/01/2015 VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility & Veterans Benefits Seminar.

What consumers should know about CareFirst data breach

— Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is advising customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield about a data breach that the company last week confirmed had occurred in or around June 2014. CareFirst, Maryland’s largest health insurer has established a website, www.CareFirstAnswers.com, where its members and brokers can receive more information. It has also set up a toll-free number that consumers and brokers may call: 888-451-6562.

Although CareFirst has said that there is no evidence that any personal information accessed in the cyberattack has been misused, the company is offering affected consumers and brokers with two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

With new data breaches being reported on a near-daily basis, Attorney General Frosh encourages consumers to always be vigilant about their personal information and aware of how it may be compromised.

The Office of the Attorney General Identity Theft Unit offers guidance and assistance for protecting yourself against identity theft and what to do if it occurs.

Information can be found at http://www.oag.state.md.us/idtheft/index.htm. Consumers who believe they have been harmed as a result of a data breach and want to file a complaint or seek additional assistance can call 410-576-6491.