Dyslexia program seeks volunteers, raise awareness

— Between 70 and 80 percent of individuals with poor reading skills in America are likely dyslexic and according to education and medical experts, as many as 20 percent of the population has a language-based learning disability.

For more than three decades, a Baltimore organization has been working diligently to teach low-income children and adults with dyslexia or other language-based learning disabilities to read.

The Dyslexia Tutoring Program in Southeast Baltimore has been training local volunteers to work in a program where they offer specialized tutoring consisting of at least 60 hours— on a one-on-one basis— to improve the skills, self-esteem and behavior of dyslexic youth. Since 1982, the program also has helped to raise awareness for the learning disability that many acknowledge that they’ve never heard of.

“Remember, you didn’t hear years ago about autism either and all of sudden one of the big company CEOs came forward and his grandchild had it and now you see so many things about autism,” said Marcy Kolodny, CEO of the Dyslexia Tutoring Program.

“When it came to dyslexia, everyone thought people were dumb or something else. But, those who are dyslexic are extremely intelligent and there are a lot of CEOs who are dyslexic and think outside of the box.”

Dyslexia can affect anyone regardless of race, social status, or economic status.

“It’s all over the world. If you suspect your child has a learning disability, the earlier you can get that child to a reading specialist, to a psychologist, to be screened and tested, the better it is so that the child can have remediation and avoid going through a lot of things,” she said.

With October the start of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Kolodny and others from the program are hoping to attract more volunteers.

“We are tutoring over 200 individuals, children and adults, and all of our tutors are trained,” Kolodny said. “We have tutors from all walks of life. Judges, retired teachers and others and many become mentors and we have a lot of wonderful success stories.”

Dyslexia affects reading, writing, spelling and sometimes speech. The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and using language, reading and writing letters in the wrong order. However, those are just some of the manifestations of dyslexia.

“There are a number of warning signs including having trouble reading fluently; reversing numbers and letters; a lack of awareness of sound in words or rhymes; difficulty in handwriting; spelling; oral or written comprehension or focus and delayed spoken words,” Kolodny said.

To help sufferers, the Dyslexia Tutoring Program also has a summer program, which provides students with the opportunity to increase their reading, spelling, and writing skills in a short period of time.

For the summer program, program officials send students to camps at The Jemicy School in Owings Mills, Odyssey School in Stevenson, The Gow School and Kildonan School in upstate New York, all private schools for dyslexic children. At camp, students improve their self-esteem and social skills, and receive four hours of one-on-one and small group instruction in the areas of reading, oral and written language, and math five days a week for five weeks, according to Kolodny.

“We send kids to camp for the first time and they’re not bullied or picked on by others,” Kolodny said.

On October 6, 2016, the local program will host its Wishes, Dreams & Imagination Gala at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel where they’ll honor Calvin Butler Jr., the CEO of BG&E, and present their first annual Roger Saunders Memorial Award, named after the psychologist of international renown in the field of dyslexia.

Then, from October 13 to October 18, officials from the program will attend the Barnes & Noble Book fair at Woodholme Center that will feature a question and answer session and books about dyslexia and famous individuals with the learning disability.

Kolodny says it’s important to emphasize the need for volunteers for the Dyslexia Tutoring Program.

“We need volunteers. We get a number of people who’ll take our course and all of our tutors go through a background check,” she said. “We have three tutoring rooms and we partner with Sinai Hospital.”

To learn more about the program, find out more about the signs of dyslexia and to volunteer, visit: www.dyslexiatutoringprogram.org.

Clarksburg teen wins national award for vaccine wagon design

Anurudh Ganesan, age 16, of Clarksburg, Maryland, has been named a national winner of the 2016 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring, public-spirited young people from across North America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.

Anurudh invented the VAXXWAGON, a wheel-powered cooling system that keeps vaccines viable during the final stages of transport to remote locations. His system can be hitched to a bike or simply pulled by a person or animal for the critical last leg of a vaccine’s journey— usually five to ten miles. His “no ice, no electricity” design, accounts for the lack of water and electricity in so many remote locations of the world.

Anurudh’s idea was born of his own vaccination experience in India, where his grandparents carried him as an infant 10 miles to a remote village to receive a vaccine only to find that it had overheated and was no longer viable. He was able to receive the vaccine the next day but realizes that so many others aren’t as lucky, with 4,000 children dying every day from vaccine-preventable diseases. He decided that solving the problem of last-leg transport could help and spent months formulating his ideas on paper.

Anurudh took his initial design to professors at nearby Johns Hopkins University, who not only validated it but offered funding. After nearly two years of refining half-dozen prototypes, he has tested his latest design for 200 hours and has a patent pending, with plans to scale up and get the device to those in need.

“I’m committed to seeing this project through to the next phase,” says Anurudh. “I will have succeeded when the first person’s life is saved because of VAXXWAGON!”

The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T. A. Barron and was named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Each year’s 25 Barron Prize young heroes are as diverse as their service projects. They are female and male, urban and rural, and from many races and backgrounds. Half of them have focused on helping their communities and fellow human beings; half have focused on protecting the environment.

“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” said Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes— people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”

Department to hold Fire Prevention Week Expo at the Mall in Columbia

During Fire Prevention Week, October 9 – 15, the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) will join the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) to remind residents “Don’t wait – check the date!” encouraging the replacement of ten year old smoke alarms. In conjunction with the Mall in Columbia, HCDFRS will also hold their second Fire Prevention Expo on Saturday, October 8, 2016, from noon to 2 p.m. located in the lower Sears parking lot.

“Working smoke alarms save lives,” said County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “Smoke alarms that are more than ten years old should be replaced. It’s also important to make sure they are in working order by checking them at least once a month.”

The event will feature an auto extrication demonstration, hands-only CPR training, smoke alarm safety information, activities for kids, pictures with Sparky, apparatus displays, and a dramatic live fire exercise in an enclosed unit. This live burn will raise awareness about home fire safety, the importance of residential fire sprinklers, and illustrate how quickly a fire can spread.

“Being able to partner with the Mall in Columbia once again allows the department to spread safety awareness, especially fire prevention measures, in a large setting,” said Fire Chief John S. Butler. “We hope to reach a wide audience and encourage everyone in Howard County to check their smoke alarms not only during Fire Prevention Week, but throughout the year.”

The NFPA recommends smoke alarms to be placed inside every bedroom, outside of every sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement and outside kitchen areas. According to the NFPA, having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or non-functioning smoke alarms.

“The Mall in Columbia is honored to be a part of Fire Prevention Week,” said Barbara Nicklas, Senior General Manager. “We thank Howard County Fire and Rescue Services for their dedication and commitment to keeping the community safe.”

For more information please visit www.Facebook.com/HCDFRS or www.Twitter.com/HCDFRS. Join the conversation using #FPW2016.

Ava Fields: Uplifting the community through dance for 50 years

Ava Denise Fields recalled the life-changing day that she went to the Howard Park Recreation Center in Baltimore.My sister was being given dance lessons,” recalled Fields. “I just loved to watch.

Then one day, while I was at the Howard Park Recreation Center, a lady asked me to help with the dancers. At the time, I didn’t realize I had choreography in me – it just came naturally.” Since that day in 1967, Fields has never stopped teaching others to dance. Fields is the founder and director of the Ava Fields Dance Company/Ministry, which she started in 1970. “I have always loved working with children,” said Fields.

“I have worked with hundreds of kids over the years. Some have gone on to perform with professional dance companies, have danced on Broadway, and to teach dance.”

Over the years, Fields who is affectionately called “Aunt Ava” by her students has taught dance through the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, churches, and numerous after-school programs.

“By teaching at so many different places, I drew a lot of kids,” said Fields. “They always wanted additional training, so my dance ministry grew and grew. I teach all types of dance styles, including Tap, Ballet, Modern, Jazz, African, Liturgical, Lyrical, and Hip Hop.”

Fields, 63, is a native of Baltimore, and attended Garrison Jr. High School, Forest Park High School, and Morgan State University. She received her training at the Peabody Institute of Maryland, American Dance Theater of New York, and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York.

Fields also served in the military for 17 years and retired as a Sgt. First Class.

“I went into the military at the age of 28 to take a break from dancing,” said Fields. “But I could never get away from dancing, because wherever I went, I found a dance class, or a class would find me. I thought I was going to do something else, but the Lord had other plans.”

She added, “Once I retired, I came right back teach to dance here in Baltimore. I brought back the physical training I learned in the military to my students.”

Fields currently teaches at Gwynn Oak United Methodist Church in Gwynn Oak on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at Mt. Olive United Methodist Church in Randallstown on Fridays.

“My job is to train my students and move them on to higher places,” said Fields. “It’s been very fulfilling. I get emotional sometimes when I watch my students perform. My former students still stay in contact, share their stories, and attend each other’s shows. We are a group of beautiful Christians that dance only to the glory of God.”

Dorothy Hunter’s three daughters Andrea, 26, Alyha, 20, and Arriane, 13, either have been taught, or are being taught by Fields.

“Andrea saw a performance and wanted to join, and she loved it,” said Hunter. “She went on to attend the Baltimore School for the Arts for dance through the TWIGS Program. Alyha started with the program when she was only three-years-old, and being in the program broke Arriane out of her shyness.”

Fields gives her students nicknames. Sarah, 12, whom Fields calls “Sarah Vaughn,” talked about the dance program.

“It’s been great,” said Sarah. “I used to be really shy. Now I’m not afraid to get up and perform.”

Joanna Owens, oversees the Dance Ministry at Mt. Olive United Methodist, and spearheaded bringing the Ava Fields Dance Company/Ministry to the church.

“It has been awesome,” said Owens. “It’s a wonderful experience. Ava has helped the dance group to grow. It’s easy because she is humble. She knows her stuff and she goes right to it. She can teach them a dance in two minutes. I am grateful that God brought us together.”

The fee to attend Fields’ dance class is $50 per month, and is open to anyone. For more information, call Sandra Hardy at 410-350-9411.

Experts offer tips to protect personal information after Yahoo hack

Hackers swiped personal information associated with at least a half billion Yahoo accounts making it the biggest data breach in history to date.

News of the breach was first made public last Thursday, CNET.com reported.

The hack revealed names, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and, in some cases, security questions and answers, Yahoo said in a news release.

Encrypted passwords, which are jumbled so only a person with the right passcode can read them, were also taken.

The Washington, D.C.-based Wallet Hub, consumer website that provides customized credit-improvement advice, savings alerts and other products, this week offered several tips to help individuals protect their personal information.

“Change your Yahoo password and security questions; change any passwords and security questions similar to what you were using on Yahoo; and enable two-factor authentication where your Yahoo account may have been comprised, but your cell phone wasn’t,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “So, use it as another layer of protection when logging into your email account and financial websites.”

Whether affected or not, individuals should sign up for free credit monitoring, and be wary of Yahoo emails and the company is also warning customers not to click on any links or open any attachments in emails sent by Yahoo because the messages could come from imposters, Gonzalez added.

Authentic Yahoo emails regarding the data breach will not contain links or attachments and they won’t ask for any personal information.

“Whether it’s someone showing up at your door, calling you on the phone or sending you an email asking for personal information, you shouldn’t respond if you didn’t ask to be contacted,” Gonzalez said.

The hack serves as a reminder of how widespread such action is and highlights the vulnerability of passwords, CNET.com reported.

Cybersecurity specialists recommend using a different password for each account an individual has on the Internet. Other experts are working on alternatives to passwords, such as biometrics like a fingerprint or retina.

“[In the meantime], change account PINS and passwords,” said John Kiernan, senior editor at WalletHub. “Security experts typically recommend changing passwords every few months and using an eight to 10-character mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for maximum security. But, it’s especially important following a case of identity theft.”

Further, it’s important to review mail and credit card statements carefully to make sure that you receive all of your expected monthly account communications from lenders, WalletHub officials said, noting that is a good way to confirm that none of your accounts have been hijacked.

“Thoroughly reviewing these documents for transactions or references to account changes that you do not recognize is similarly beneficial,” Kiernan said. “Taking a bit of extra time to scrutinize the mail you receive every day will reduce the likelihood that you’ll discard a letter from a lender, the IRS, the Social Security Administration or any other organization that may be trying to notify you about a past-due balance or change in account preferences that could signal fraud.”

It’s also important to make sure to enroll in electronic account access.

“It’s easiest for a fraudster to pull off this type of scam when you, the real accountholder, have not yet registered your account for online access or established account preferences regarding electronic communications,” Kiernan said. This is especially prevalent when the victim doesn’t even realize online account access is available, as is the case with many elderly people and the Social Security Administration’s “My Social Security” web-management tools.

“Every case of Social Security fraud I’ve investigated in the past year and a half I traced back to the [My Social Security] program as the source— not because it was breached, but because the victim didn’t know about this new account being available and they didn’t take any action so the criminal did,” said Carrie Kreskie, director of the Identity Theft Institute at Hodges University. “The easiest way to minimize your chances of falling victim to this type of scam is to claim your online account and use a strong password to protect it.”

Woodlawn High School leading the way through STEM

As industries continue to thrive in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), schools around the region are actively implementing programs to prepare students for high-growth career fields.

Woodlawn High School seniors, Elijah Dowell and T’Yona Dobbins, members of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering Program, are gaining greater insight and problem-solving skills to set them on a trajectory for a steady career and high incomes.

The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering program at Woodlawn High School introduces students to STEM disciplines, specifically engineering and engineering technology. The program is designed to empower students to step into the role of an engineer and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“When taking the civil engineering course, we built houses on the computer. We also surveyed the land to ensure the house could be built and the land could hold a sturdy structure,” said Dobbins. Dobbins aspires to further her education and study civil engineering after graduating high school.

Dobbins and Dowell were impressed with the quantity and quality of hands-on activities and educational field trips that gave them greater exposure to science and engineering.

While participating in the program, students create, simulate, and test scientific and engineering projects. The students also participate in mentorship programs with engineers, researchers, and corporate affiliates.

The first level course, Introduction to Engineering Design, prepares students to dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science, and engineering standards to hands-on projects like designing a new toy or improving an existing product. The second level class, Principles of Engineering, allows students to explore a broad range of engineering topics including mechanisms, strength of structure and materials, and automation, and then they apply what they know to take on challenges like designing a self-powered car.

Students in their junior year take two specialty courses, Digital Electronics and Civil Engineering and Architecture, held exclusively at the high school. Students learn aspects of development and building and site design. Then they apply what they’ve learned to design a commercial building.

Through digital electronics the students explore the foundations of computing by engaging in circuit design processes to create combinational logic and sequential logic (memory) as electrical engineers. Similar to what is used in the music industry. The capstone course, engineering design and development, is where students identify a real-world challenge. The students then research, design, and test a solution, ultimately presenting their unique solutions to a panel of professional engineers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineer jobs are projected to grow to by 8 percent from 2014 to 2024. The need for repairs to roadways, bridges, building and levees will increase as the infractures deteriorates, which explains the importance of STEM education.

An entry-level civil engineering position with a bachelor’s degree had a median annual salary of $82,220. That was in May 2015.

In identifying why STEM education is a national priority, the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that 60 percent of US employers are having difficulties finding qualified workers to fill vacancies at their companies.

In spite of the increasing demand, not all schools consider STEM an educational priority. Arlington Baptist Elementary School, a tuition-based program on Rolling Road in Baltimore County didn’t provide a STEM curriculum or afterschool program during the 2014-2015 school year. And it only provided one robotics elective during the 2015-2016.

Conversely, there are other schools who believe it is essential to a student’s educational maturation and to be globally competitive. Mays Woodson Christian Early Learning Center in Windsor Mill implemented components of STEM into its curriculum this school year, starting as young as two years old.

In a report produced by the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, DC, Executive Director James Brown asserts, “The future of the economy is in STEM.”

Dobbins says she would recommend STEM programs to elementary and middle school students because of the hands-on activities and career preparation. “If you like designing and building new things, science and electricity, this program is for you,” said Dobbins. She credits the program for increasing her interest in civil engineering and college aspirations.

As the school year progresses, Dobbins and Dowell will continue to learn about the engineering design process along with 89 other student members who participate in the PLTW Engineering Program.

“We learn skills that are applicable in the work place,” said Dowell. “Even if we don’t go into the engineering field, we are still preparing for life after high school.”

Photo: T’Yona Dobbins (left) and Elijah Dowell (right) learn about the engineering design process during a session of Project Lead the Way Engineering Program, which is part of Woodlawn High School’s STEM curriculum.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t apologize for quality of opponents

The Baltimore Ravens are off to a 3-0 record this season. The ball seems to be bouncing their way for a change and the Ravens are winning close games because of it.

In 2015, that was not the case. Their first six games were decided by six points or less, and the Ravens only won one of those games.

This year is a different story but the three Ravens wins are being discredited because of the teams they have defeated. Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn’t buy into that.

“We don’t have to evaluate ourselves, we just have to get ready to play games,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “Bill Parcells said ‘You are what your record says you are.’

“It is a pretty good statement. That is what we have to take care of. We have to take care of business, and evaluating ourselves is not something we need to do. We just need to play better and better football.”

Harbaugh says the team’s focus will always be on winning the next game. They won’t get caught up in the strength of schedule or the quality of their opponent. The mindset is they just have to win the next game.

Harbaugh is always focused on being positive. He builds his players up with tough love, and they would run through a brick wall for him. He gave an interesting example of how he always thinks positively.

“My brother and I, one of our philosophies in life— and we live a blessed life— we say that it is just amazing how things work out for us,” Harbaugh said. “When we go to the mall, we don’t start [looking] in the parking spaces in the back row. We drive right to the front row. There is going to be someone pulling out.

“Yes, the place is packed, it might say no parking available, but someone is going to leave as soon as we come in. It has just always worked out that way for us. So, I think that is a good way to approach life.

When you start having some good things happen for you like our team has, maybe you can build on those things, because you just believe that good things are going to happen. Maybe that is a self-fulfilling prophecy as well.”

Every game is hard to win in the NFL. Harbaugh says that he respects every team equally. He pointed out how sometimes no one gives a team a chance to win a game, but they go out there and win in a blowout.

Conversely, he also referred to how sometimes a team is favored heavily and they win by a slight margin. It happens. Every game is a struggle. Harbaugh summed it up perfectly.

“Everybody is really good, and people have really good coaches and really talented players, and these guys fight like crazy out there to win a football game,” Harbaugh said. “You only play 16 of them. It’s like the equivalent of 10 games in a baseball season; that’s how valuable these games are. It is really a dramatic struggle in a football game, so when you win one, it’s a real sense of accomplishment, and you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile.”

The Ravens won’t apologize for the cumulative record of the teams they have defeated so far. Instead, they will take a positive spin from them and keep playing the teams that are lined up on their schedule. Next up will be the Oakland Raiders.

Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival attracts locals and out-of-towners

On September 24, 2016, over 1,000 people of all ages headed into Susan Campbell Park at the Annapolis City Dock to celebrate African-American history while seeing African dance performances, listening to eclectic music, sampling world foods, and patronizing artisan vendors at the 27th Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival.

More than 30 vendors, 30 volunteers, and six major sponsors— Maryland Live Casino, Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, Koons Annapolis Toyota, Comcast, William Reese & Sons Mortuary, and The City of Annapolis— contributed to the pivotal event that was held the same day that the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened approximately an hour away. Last year marked the return of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, after it was not held several years due to

budget challenges. However, steady gains made by the Kunta Kinte Festival Planning Committee indicate that efforts to further revive the popular cultural celebration are headed in a positive direction.

“We were so excited about the turnout of this year’s festival. More vendors participated, and more people came to the festival this year compared to last year. We also obtained more sponsors, so the support of the festival definitely increased,” Jan Lee, co-chair of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Planning Committee said.

She continued, “The most rewarding aspect of having the festival on the same day as the opening of the NMAAHC is that I believe it boosted the morale and spirit of those who wanted to celebrate our heritage. Those who could not make it to the District of Columbia celebrated with us, and we were honored to celebrate with those who could have gone to D.C. Additionally, we had a tour group attend the festival as they were planning to visit the D.C. museum on Sunday.”

Renee Spears, chair of the festival planning committee, was excited to see four buses pull up this year. Spears invited the out of town festivalgoers to enjoy the new experience, while imagining they were stepping into West Africa.

“They made the Kunta Kinte Festival part of their experience in Annapolis,” Spears said. “I was so excited to greet 200 wonderful guests from all over New York … and Trenton, New Jersey! After I gave them a brief history, they were off and running to the stage, the beautiful arts and crafts, and delicious foods.”

She added that most memorable festival moment was when Chris Haley, nephew of Alex Haley, the author who penned “Roots,” shared memories of his most recent trip to Africa with festival attendees. Haley’s ancestor, Kunta Kinte, arrived in Annapolis on the Lord Ligonier ship as an African slave in 1767.

“He [Chris] was very inspiring and captured and enlightened the audience,” Spears said.

Again this year, children were busy creating arts and crafts at the Children’s Activity Tent, organized by the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. An Annapolitan named Tony Jerome Spencer was the festival’s Artist in Residence. Spears explained that he was commissioned to present his “Seizing Power” series. The artist reportedly embraced the mission of the festival, enabling the Kunta Kinte Foundation to sell shirts, note cards and posters.

This year’s two Detective Shelley White Award recipients were Carlesa R. Finney— a family and community advocate for more than 30 years, and Priscilla Montague – a youth mentor, volunteer and founder of the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps. Shelley White, an Annapolis Police Department Detective who died in 2015, volunteered with the

Kunta Kinte Festival for many years and served as head of security.

The festival also included a way to honor individuals who exemplify the virtues highlighted on the Alex Haley monument’s Story Wall that is engraved with quotes along the Annapolis City Dock seawall. Spears said that Albert Feldstein received recognition for the virtue of diversity for creating a poster of message buttons about African-American history.

Next year, Spears will serve as the chair of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival’s Board of Directors. Lee will be chair of the planning committee.

“We do plan to continue the tradition of the festival and have it again next year. We are in the process of rebuilding the Board of Directors, and we can always use more help on the planning committee,” Lee said. “With the continued support of the community, we will continue to grow and educate more people about their history.”

The Baltimore Times Positive People Awards

The Baltimore Times held its 2016 Positive People Awards reception at the Grand on Thursday, September 22, 2016. The theme for this year was “Women of Passion, Women of Purspose.” Women from various walks of life were recognized for their boldness and passion in living their dreams and serving others.

Joy Bramble, publisher of The Baltimore Times and The Annapolis Times presented awards to these very deserving women: Yasmine Arrington, founder, ScholarCHIPS; Chere Goode, founder/CEO, Total Harmony Enterprises; Donna L. Jacobs, founder/director, Morton Street Dance Center, Inc. and artistic director of Full Circle Dance Company; Reverend Bernette L. Jones, Senior Minister, One God One Thought Center for Better Living and creator of Conscious Life Design Systems: The LifeShop; Vicki L. Jones, founder, Bahari Sisters Inc., and Bethesda Arts, Inc.; Nykidra L. Robinson, founder/CEO, Black Girls Vote; Veronica Stone-Elder, PNC Bank; and Tiffany Welsh, director, Food Access for the No Boundaries Coaltion of Central West Baltimore. Congratulations to these powerhouses!

Guests who came to celebrate another “positive story about positive people” were treated to a lovely evening of light fare and music by On Kee Band. LaTara Harris was the Mistress of Ceremony. The event was sponsored by Times Community Services, Inc. and PNC Bank

Chesapeake Life Center’s HopeFull Holidays gives permission to grieve

— With all the shopping, baking, writing cards, hosting parties, school and community functions, the holiday season can be a stressful time for anyone. Many will say it is all worth it in order to spend a joyous time with family and friends.

However, imagine being caught in that whirlwind when you have lost someone close to you. The woman whose husband would hide a gift on a pine bough can’t bear the thought of decorating a tree this year. The man whose mother made the best latkes struggles to set up a menorah for his children.

There are expectations of tradition at this time of year, even when we are grieving,” said

Chesapeake Life Center Grief Counselor Becky Sheckelhoff. “We don’t realize how much energy grieving takes.”

That is why Chesapeake Life Center offers its annual HopeFull Holidays seminar. Led by hospice grief counselors, adults ages 18 and older are given the opportunity to participate in small and large group activities that help them find a way to honor the memory of their loved ones while still granting themselves permission to grieve.

One of the activities actually is called “I give myself permission to _.”

Sheckelhoff says during this activity, many participants begin to open up as they hear others around them confess they don’t want to participate in holiday traditions, and are comforted to hear it is okay to make concessions such as “I give myself permission to use paper plates instead of the fine china,” or “I give myself permission to not join in the celebration this year.”

“A gift from your loved one” is another activity that takes place in the seminar.

Participants are asked to take a moment to reflect on one gift their loved one gave them in their lives. Then, they are given a scroll upon which they write down their gift. They roll up the scroll, wrap a ribbon around and take it with them when they leave.

“You are remembering that your loved one is still a part of you and that their legacy is a gift that is always with you,” Sheckelhoff said.

Sheckelhoff said many people come expecting to find practical ways to get through the holidays. They leave with something greater than that.

“They come away feeling lighter and not so alone, knowing that there are others that feel just like they do,” she said. “HopeFull Holidays is a safe place to quietly honor their loved ones away from the noise and traffic of the holidays.”

HopeFull Holidays seminars will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the Chesapeake Life Center’s Prince George’s County location at 9500 Arena Drive, Suite 250 in Largo; and from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, December 3, 2016 at the Chesapeake Life Center’s Anne Arundel County location on the John & Cathy Belcher Campus at 90 Ritchie Highway in Pasadena. The fee is $10 per person, with pre-registration requested.

For more information about the seminars or register, call 1-888-501-7077 or visit: www.chesapeakelifecenter.org.