Powerful Book For Young Black Boys Celebrates 25 Years With Pledge To Get One Million New Readers

Jerald LeVon Hoover became the published author of a Young Adult (YA) title, one of a few books targeted toward young black and brown boys ages 12 and up, “My Friend, My Hero.” This novella has become a staple, as recommended reading in elementary through high schools across the country and around the world. That is a distinct honor Hoover shares with a short list of African-American male YA authors including: Walter Dean Myers, Kevin Powell, Kwame Alexander, and Ralph Burgess.

My Friend, My Hero, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a commemorative edition that includes an addendum of book discussion questions and now available; a full curriculum with a companion Student Success Guidebook, Teacher’s Guide, and Unit Assessments containing lesson plans. The goal is to promote Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom by providing strategies for students to make better choices and gain much needed confidence to support unleashing their inner greatness.

“Exposing black and brown children to a barrage of negative imagery and expecting their positive self-image to remain intact is ridiculous, insensitive, unjust and unfair,” said Hoover. “Young black and brown men are focused, gifted, driven, intelligent, and masterful at a host of other talents besides rap music and competitive sports; of which carries no shame, but we have other skill sets of significant influence. We are men of honor and integrity, regardless of whether we are born into poverty or wealth. But how can young black and brown men, or men of any race for that matter, define themselves and live up to their full potential if they only receive distorted representations?

“My Friend, My Hero is intended for all youth (races and genders), but I gave the spotlight to young, black and brown males because of the dire need for young black and brown men to have access to more positive representations of themselves to which they can relate.”

Celebrating 25 years in print, “My Friend, My Hero,” is the first in the acclaimed The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover. Other titles from The Hero Book Series are “He Was My Hero,” “Too, A Hopeful Hero,” and “Hoop Hero.” The novella took nine years to get published after forty rejections and sixty drafts.

In the book, Bennett Wilson has the world at his fingertips as one of the top basketball players in New York State who is destined to lead Mount Vernon High School to the state championship for the first time. Many of the nation’s top colleges are already reaching out, eager to sign him to their roster. Scholarships are guaranteed. Still young, Bennett is used to fanfare and eagerly anticipating his rise to fame and fortune. Yet, all is not as it appears.

Strife and difficulties plague Bennett’s personal life. Growing up in Mount Vernon, he is the son of a single mother and the oldest of three, sharing a tiny apartment in the tough inner-city projects. Life is a struggle. Bennett knows his ticket to freedom is through basketball and academic excellence. Thanks to the support of his loyal friend Kirby and a budding romance with Tara, he pursues his dreams and refuses to get caught up in the fast life of the streets.

Things change when Bennett learns his mother’s health is failing. She has fallen far behind on the rent, and they face eviction. The weight of responsibility falls on Bennett’s shoulders, just as trouble and the troublemakers appear. Fast money seems to be the only option. Will Bennett try to help his family and risk ruining his future? Will Bennett finally succumb to the dangers and temporary comfort of the street life he has fought so hard to avoid? And if he give in, what will it cost him?

“My Friend My Hero” is available for sale at Amazon.com. To learn more about The Hero Book Series, visit https://theherobookseries.com

Amazon Delivers More Than 2,000 ‘Boxes of Smiles’ For Maryland Families In Need; Donates Additional $50,000 To The Journey Home

Amazon spread warm, holiday joy by delivering more than 2,000 “Boxes of Smiles,” stuffed with essential items and popular holiday gifts, to The Journey Home, a citywide initiative to prevent and end homelessness in Baltimore City. In addition, Amazon surprised The Journey Home with a $50,000 monetary donation.

“Amazon is proud call Baltimore home and to give back to the communities across Maryland where our employees live and work,” said Preet Virdi, director of operations, Amazon (Baltimore). “The Journey Home is an important part of the fabric of our communities across Maryland and we’re excited to acknowledge their contributions to bettering the lives of Baltimore families and individuals, and to support their great work.”

The “Boxes of Smiles,” packed by Baltimore-area Amazon associates, will be given to homeless families in need and contain essential items and popular products such as toys, electronics, personal care items, and books. The boxes were delivered to the holiday celebration in front of City Hall.

Amazon volunteers from the greater Baltimore area surprise The Journey Home with a $50,000 monetary donation today at Baltimore City Hall

Courtesy Photo | Amazon

Amazon volunteers from the greater Baltimore area surprise The Journey Home with a $50,000 monetary donation today at Baltimore City Hall

During the event, Amazon’s Baltimore Director of Operations, Preet Virdi, shared how thrilled the entire team in the greater Baltimore area was to give back to their city this holiday season. In addition, Mayor Young remarked on the donation and shared how this will help to the community in need.

“Making homeless rare and brief for our residents is a priority for us. During this time of giving we must do what we can to create a sense of community and show every resident that we care. This very generous donation of “care packages” for our residents experiencing homelessness will bring a tremendous smile to those needing some holiday cheer. We are grateful that Amazon helped bring a smile to our residents,” states Mayor Young.

Amazon’s donation to The Journey Home is part of its larger initiative to surprise five nonprofit organizations across the U.S. with a total of more than $1M in funding and in-kind donations to support programs that provide assistance to children and families impacted by homelessness.

“This is a very generous gift from the team at Amazon! We’re so grateful especially at a time when dignity and basic human needs are deemed negotiable and kindness is optional. These care packages, delivered with compassion and connection, will go a long way as we fight to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring in Baltimore City,” said The Journey Home’s Board Chair, Winston Philip, earlier today.

Amazon is proud to provide great jobs, with industry-leading pay and benefits, to more than 6,000 full-time employees across Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

Forget Resumes And LinkedIn – This Tech Firm Finds Talent In Unexpected Places

— When Mike Norris graduated from Baltimore’s Stevenson University with a degree in business information systems, he thought he’d quickly nab an entry-level tech job. Instead, he found himself working as a security guard patrolling parking lots, earning $7.50 an hour.

“I graduated in 2001, during the dot-com bust. There weren’t jobs anywhere for my skills,” said Norris. “In the end, I was happy just to have a job.”

Today, Norris, now 40, is a senior software engineer earning a six-figure income. He’s been able to buy his first car, his first house and even owns a rental property.

Norris credits his success to a five-month training program he participated in at software engineering services firm Catalyte. Based in Baltimore, Catalyte trains people who qualify for its program to become enterprise software developers, then offers them placement in their two-year apprenticeship program. During that time, they work on projects with a number of the company’s clients, including Nike, PayPal and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Norris has now been with Catalyte for 13 years. He’s worked on more than a dozen projects with clients, and has even taught new recruits.

Mike Norris, a senior software developer at Catalyte, with colleague Alicia Waide.

Adam Curtis/Catalyte

Mike Norris, a senior software developer at Catalyte, with colleague Alicia Waide.

“There are very few places in the world where a person gets an opportunity just based on aptitude,” said Norris. “Here is an opportunity that’s changing lives.”

Finding untapped talent for tech jobs

Catalyte has been identifying, training and hiring untapped talent from underprivileged communities for the past 19 years.

“These are individuals who go from having absolutely no experience with computer software to having some experience,” said Michael Rosenbaum, Catalyte’s founder. “But what they all show, regardless of background, is innate aptitude and cognitive ability to be great software developers.”

Catalyte operates training centers in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver and Portland, Oregon. It’s aiming to create a diverse technology workforce by eliminating the biases that cause employers to overlook talent in underserved communities.

“[These biases] leave a massive amount of people in the United States undervalued by a labor market that relies on resumes,” said Rosenbaum, a former Harvard economics and law fellow who worked in President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors in the late 1990s. “They look for other people who are like them. They don’t actually know if that other person is going to be good. Their credentials correlate with socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Catalyte recruits its trainees in a variety of ways, including through Craigslist ads, classified ads, job postings and community forums.

“The ads help in drawing a large pool of people, many of whom don’t necessarily have a LinkedIn profile,” said Catalyte’s CEO Jacob Hsu. “It’s a spectrum of folks, hackers in the basement, public school teachers, a former Taco Bell worker.”

Norris found an ad for Catalyte on a Baltimore job website in 2006. He had been looking to leave his security job. “The ad was for free coding training,” he recalled. “And if I passed, I would be hired and paid $10.10 an hour.”

Those who apply undergo an online assessment that gauges aptitude rather than skill level.

“There is a math and language section,” said Hsu. “But we aren’t looking for the right answer. We analyze how you interact with the test, how you think, synthesize complexity and problem solve.”

He says 11% to 18% of people who take the test end up passing.

Those who make it through begin 20 weeks of paid training to become software developers. “In some places, we pay minimum wage. Elsewhere, it’s a stipend,” said Hsu.

After they graduate from the program, the trainees are then hired as full-time employees and placed in Catalyte’s two-year apprenticeship program, earning about $40,000 a year, said Hsu.

Catalyte’s client services include building and maintaining backend data management platforms, creating systems to help improve business performance and building and testing new products.

“It’s intense work. They get deployed on teams, working on projects for Fortune 1000 companies,” said Hsu.

Catalyte has trained and hired roughly 2,000 developers since the firm was launched. Within five to six years, its developers are earning close to six figures, said Hsu.

Most hires stay on for about four-and-a-half years, then take a tech job somewhere else, said Hsu. Catalyte grads have been hired by Nike, Microsoft and Amazon, he said.

Catalyte is on track to graduate another 500 engineers in 2020. The firm expects to be profitable in the first half of 2020 and log $80 million in annual revenue. To date, the business has raised $50 million in funding from investors, including AOL cofounder Steve Case’s venture firm Revolution’s Rise of the Rest fund, Palm Drive Capital and Cross Culture Ventures.

The workforce mirrors the city it’s based in

In each of the cities it currently operates, Hsu said Catalyte’s tech workforce reflects the local demographics.

“In Baltimore, for example, the metro area is about 28% African-American. Historically, over time, our development center there has seen a 27.5% African-American class.”

This homegrown pipeline of software engineers and data scientists can enable companies to meet their hiring demands more efficiently and cost-effectively, Hsu said.

“The whole tech industry is built around finding this skill set overseas because you can pay less. But that doesn’t take into account productivity,” he said. “By hiring locally, you can end up with a team half the size, that costs less and delivers more than a team in China or India.”

He hopes it will lead big US tech companies to bring jobs back from overseas.

“The way Catalyte is onshoring versus offshoring tech talent is breaking conventional wisdom,” said David Hall, managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest seed fund.

The company hopes to open training centers in additional cities. “If we can scale the model, we can take people from all walks of life and in two years, turn them into elite engineers, folks that Google would hire,” said Hsu.

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W.E.A.N. Hosts 17th Annual ‘Bag of Hope’ Event

On Saturday, December 7, 2019, Women Embracing Abilities Now (W.E.A.N) will host the 17th annual “Bags of Hope” event at The League for People with Disabilities in Baltimore.

Toiletries collected from throughout the community will be placed in holiday bags which volunteers will provide as gifts at local hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and other community organizations that serve women and young ladies living with disabilities.

The 3 p.m. event is part of W.E.A.N.’s mission of sharing, caring, and giving hope, according to Janice Jackson, the nonprofit’s founder.

The annual event has proven successful. Jackson says when it began 17 years ago, 20 bags were handed out. Last year, that number grew to nearly 400 bags.

“For the last 36 years, mentoring women and young ladies with disabilities has played a very important role in my life,” said Jackson, who in 2012 traveled to the White House where she received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama.

Jackson routinely highlights the syllables ‘Abilities” in the word disabilities.

She says that at the age of 24, she entered the minority of women with disabilities after being hit by a car.

“I was left with a spinal cord injury and [now] I use a wheelchair,” Jackson said.

Not long after the accident, Jackson

established her first support group at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital— now the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute.

She says she wanted to try and help other women, as well as herself, to cope with being disabled.

In 2005, two decades after her accident and years of helping to empower women with disabilities, Jackson founded W.E.A.N.

“The mission of W.E.A.N. is to ‘wean’ women and young ladies with disabilities from having their limitations be their focal point, thus having them living ‘with’ their abilities,” said Jackson, who, for over thirty five years, has been recognized as one of the most prominent voices advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities.

In addition to her work at W.E.A.N., Jackson is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore, where for the last 14 years she has taught Business Ethics to undergraduate students.

“W.E.A.N. also seeks to empower and promote independence at its highest level. To help them become more productive by creating mentoring relationships, and hosting workshops and conferences that teach coping skills like empowerment, self-worth, self-advocacy, sexuality, and community involvement,” she said.

More than 4,000 living with disabilities have participated in W.E.A.N. and its many activities. Jackson says she has seen many lives change for the better because of their participation in W.E.A.N.

“Over and over, women and young ladies, and young ladies with disabilities, have come to W.E.A.N. noticing that they do not conform to the dominant cultural and/or commercial images of feminine beauty and the definition of true womanhood,” Jackson said. “The mass media, as well as individual interactions, seem to emphasize a particular ideal of perfection, which women and young ladies with disabilities feel is


However, through mentoring work, many have said they are now able to

understand, analyze, and reject these stereotypes, Jackson noted.

“These women and young ladies have developed a stronger sense of their own unique beauty and self-worth. The wonderful thing about W.E.A.N. is that many who come to us ready to give up on life and who are in need of mentoring, become mentors themselves. They are whole heartily ready to pay [it] forward to the next one in need of help,” she said.

For more information about W.E.A.N., visit or write to The League for People with Disabilities at 1111 East Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD. 21239 or call 410-433-0614 and 443-775-1170 or visit the website: www.wean1.org.

SBLC Receives $400,000 Grant To Prepare Baltimore City Residents For Entry Into A Technical Skills Training Program

— SBLC, a Baltimore nonprofit that provides adults with functional literacy, life skills training, career preparation services and several pathways to a high school diploma, has been awarded a $400,000 grant by The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

The two-year program grant will be used to academically prepare Baltimore City residents for entry into a technical skills training program.

The grant will continue a two-year pilot effort by SBLC to integrate remedial and academic support with skills training and certification at the Regional Skills Training Center (RSTC) in the Park Heights community through JARC (Jane Addams Resource Corporation; focuses on manufacturing) and Jump Start (focusing on construction). The Weinberg grant will also provide workforce development classes at other community organizations such as the Bio-Technical Institute, Civic Works and others.

In addition, the grant will allow SBLC to introduce Bridge-to-Careers Skill Builder Academies. The courses offered will emphasize the knowledge and education needed for a particular industry. With partners, SBLC will outline the career paths that start at the entry level and grow to more technical occupations where a combination of training, education and credentialing are explored.

A third component of the grant is to increase the number of students, called learners by SBLC, who are co-enrolled in GED prep classes and sector-training. Existing work-ready learners will work with SBLC staff, who will provide academic and post-secondary support. The goals are to increase co-enrollment by five percent and 10 percent, respectively, over the next two years by expanding partnerships to include additional sector training providers and community colleges.

“We are so grateful to the Weinberg Foundation for their support of our mission and focus,” said Tanya Terrell, executive director of SBLC. “The work we have done implementing programs at the Regional Skills Training Center has helped us positively impact the lives of our learners. With the most recent grant, we are able to expand the work we do to help adults earn a high school diploma and an industry-recognized credential to increase the quality of life for our learners, their families and the Baltimore community.”

More than 80,000 adults in Baltimore do not have a high school diploma. Data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that by 2020, 69 percent of jobs in Maryland will require additional training beyond high school, making a high school diploma a necessary credential for most employment opportunities. In addition, the U.S. Census American Community Survey shows that Baltimoreans who have a high school diploma or its equivalent earn about $7,000 more a year than those without a high school diploma; for those with a college

degree, the difference is $30,000.

For nearly 30 years, SBLC has provided a supportive, rigorous and transformative education to adults of all ages and backgrounds who are eager to learn, motivated to succeed and committed to making a difference in their lives and in the lives of others. Students may pursue the GED program or National External Diploma Program. When a student completes either program, he/she receives a Maryland State High School Diploma. For more information, visit southbaltimorelearns.org.

Ravens Justin Tucker Continues Excellence As Kicker

With seconds left on the clock, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confidently sent kicker Justin Tucker onto the field to attempt a 50-yard field goal to win the game. Given the current uncertainty surrounding kicking accuracy across the league, a player like Tucker is a luxury.

“You wouldn’t rather have anybody else in that situation. That field, that wind, that rain, all of that stuff that was going on there. That’s the guy you want in that situation. I’m very grateful that we have him on Thanksgiving weekend,” Harbaugh said after the game.

Tucker, an eight-year veteran is the most accurate kicker in NFL history and the fastest kicker to 1,000 points. His tremendous leg gives the Ravens an opportunity to put at least three points on the board every time they get to the opponent’s 40-yard line.

“[He’s] got that golden leg. I’ve got all the faith in him. I’m on the sideline praying, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘I know Tuck can do it.’ He [does] it all day in practice. He just walks around play-kicking field goals, 65-yarders, so I’ve got all the faith in him, ” quarterback Lamar Jackson said.

The Ravens are now sitting on top of the AFC after beating the 49ers and seeing the New England Patriots lose to the Houston Texans on Sunday night. The path to the Super Bowl will likely go through a cold-weather destination.

It should be noted that Tucker’s pinpoint accuracy as a kicker has come with him playing his entire career in Baltimore. The weather conditions aren’t always ideal at M&T Bank Stadium or any other stadium in the AFC North for that matter. However, that hasn’t been a factor for Tucker and he is glad he was able to put the cherry on top of an outstanding performance by the rest of the team last week.

“Yes, the weather conditions were not ideal throughout the game. This is already a tough place to make kicks. I’ve said that before. But to be able to take out or eliminate any question marks— whether the snap is going to be there, whether the hold’s going to be there, whether the timing is going to be right, [it] makes my job so much easier,” Tucker explained.” So, I can really just focus on getting my studs in the ground with my plant, getting out, up and through with the ball and putting the ball through the uprights. Yeah, the conditions were not great, but being able to come through for this team in that moment is really special.”

The special teams unit has always been a focal point for Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles. The organization understands the importance of being strong in all three phases of the game. It is reflected in the record-setting four-year, $23 million contract extension they agreed to with Tucker last April. He’ll be a player they’ll rely on for years to come.

New President Of Coppin State University Appointed

First-generation college graduate and U.S. Army veteran, Jenkins has served as President of West Virginia State University since 2016

University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Robert L. Caret announced the appointment of Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., as president of Coppin State University, effective May 26, 2020.

Since July 2016, Jenkins has served as president of West Virginia State University (WVSU), a historically black land-grant research university near Charleston, W.V., founded in 1891 with 3,692 enrolled students. As president, Jenkins has engaged the WVSU community in a visionary plan to advance the campus as a premier regional research university recognized nationally for its innovative teaching, quality education and experiential learning.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jenkins as president of Coppin State University,” said USM Board of Regents Chair Linda Gooden. “He has demonstrated a clear track record of success on the West Virginia State campus— especially impressive are the global partnerships he has established with higher education institutions in areas such as Africa, Mexico, and the People’s Republic of China. The USM board is delighted to have such an accomplished leader to guide Coppin. This appointment is a critical one, not just for the University System of Maryland, but for the greater Baltimore region and beyond. Coppin State University is a vital institution in the City of Baltimore and our state.”

Jenkins will succeed interim President Mickey Burnim, who has been leading the institution since former Coppin State president Maria Thompson ended her service to the university on June 30, 2019.

“I am honored that the University System of Maryland Board of Regents has appointed me to be the next president of Coppin State University,” Jenkins said. “This is an exciting opportunity to guide a university with a strong legacy and do so at an important time for the City of Baltimore, where Coppin is so integral to the city’s continued vibrancy and success.”

President Jenkins began his path to higher education first as a United States Army veteran and first-generation college graduate of Fayetteville State University. He earned a master’s degree from North Carolina Central University and a doctorate from Virginia Tech University. His higher education administrative experience includes service at institutions such as UNC-Wilmington, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and the University of Central Florida.

“I have been truly impressed with Dr. Jenkins’ performance in maintaining strong enrollment growth at West Virginia State University and a number of prestigious academic rankings that have occurred during his presidency. These accomplishments bode quite well and they promise to advance an urban, historically black institution like Coppin,” USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret said.

“I would like want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the presidential search-and-screen committee,” Caret continued. “Under the skilled direction of former regent Katrina Dennis, whom very sadly we lost in September to a long illness, and her successor and fellow regent Robert Wallace—also Mary Owens-Southall, Coppin’s Dean of Graduate Studies—this group of faculty, staff, students, and community representatives worked with great purpose to identify a pool of highly accomplished applicants from which Dr. Jenkins established himself as an excellent choice.”

To learn more about Coppin State University, visit: www.coppin.edu.

December 15 Deadline To Enroll For Health Care In Maryland

The door is closing on the opportunity to sign up for 2020 health insurance coverage through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. With the December 15 deadline fast approaching, officials have worked to point out that costs are down and more affordable than last year.

This year, residents have the option of Value Plans, which feature lower deductibles and increased access to primary care, mental health care, and generic drugs before deductibles apply. Value plans are designed to lower consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for the health care services the majority of people use most frequently.

“Not only are most premiums going down, but we are excited to introduce our new Value Plans,” Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the state’s health insurance marketplace, stated in a news release.

“These plans offer deductibles that are hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper than in 2019,” Eberle said. “Value plans are designed to give Marylanders more access to primary care, mental health care, and generic drugs before their deductibles apply.”

Officials are hoping that everyone takes advantage of coverage. A year ago, enrollment via Maryland Health Connection reached 153,963 during the open enrollment period for coverage, which was a 2.2 percent increase over 2018, when 153,571 bought plans.

In September, the Maryland Insurance Administration announced that average individual market health insurance premiums (before any subsidies are applied) would be 10.3 percent lower in 2020 than they were in 2019.

As the deadline to sign up for 2020 coverage approaches, the Maryland Health Connection announced it would hold as many as 20 “Last Chance” events throughout the state during the final week leading up to the December 15 deadline.

Residents can enroll in health and dental coverage through the Maryland Health Connection, the state’s insurance marketplace.

At the free “Last Chance” events, certified health insurance navigators will help Marylanders sign up for a health plan and understand their coverage options and financial help available. Assistance also is available in Spanish.

Residents can visit: MarylandHealthConnection.gov or the Enroll MHC mobile app to browse plans, compare coverage and costs, and enroll. Among the choices of health care providers for Maryland residents are CareFirst Blue Choice; CareFirst of Maryland, Inc.; and Kaiser Permanente.

“The fall open enrollment is for private health and dental plans only. People who have coverage through Medicaid will receive a notice when it’s time to renew; enrollment for Medicaid is all year for eligible Marylanders,” Eberle said.

To learn more about 2020 health insurance plans and prices, Marylanders can visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov. To find free, in-person help at an upcoming event, visit: MarylandHealthConnection.gov/LastChance.

Christmas Village Includes A ‘Cynful’ Delicious Dessert Endor

Experts on The Food Network have noted that the modern and fast-paced world where the phrase “killing two birds with one stone” has trickled into nearly every area of life. “Believe it or not, it applies to a trend showing up on the restaurant scene, too,” Food Network contributor Carlynn Woolsey wrote. “Chefs nationwide are combining desserts and drinks to make for some super special — and convenient — creations.”

And, that’s what Cymande Hagans has done for patrons of Baltimore’s Christmas Village.

She is inviting all to “come taste temptation” at her Cynful Bliss stand at West Shore Park, that’s now a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market.

“It’s cold, but we are enjoying Christmas Village in Baltimore,” said Hagans, the founder of Cynful Bliss, an online boutique and mobile baker specializing in alcohol-infused cupcakes, cakes, candies and other desserts. “We also offer traditional non-alcoholic dessert options for any occasion.”

However, what’s making the mouths of customers water are Cynful Bliss Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake, Cynful Colada, and Chocolate Covered Cherry. Also appealing are her creations: Greed, a peach cobbler mixed with peach brandy; Envy, a red velvet cake with rumchata; Gluttony, a chocolate cake with Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey’s; and Lust, a raspberry cheesecake with white chocolate liqueur.

“It’s all a little naughty and taste so good,” Hagans said. “We have something for everyone. This is the first year at Christmas Village in Baltimore; we were at Christmas Village in Philadelphia last year, but after doing some wine festivals here, we decided to come to Christmas Village.”

When Christmas Village closes in December, the delicious desserts won’t. Cynful Bliss will continue to take orders on their website, at www.cynfulbliss.com. Hagans says the company allows customers to “get blissed” with services that cater to weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, and even fundraising events.

“We can come up with the perfect item to sweeten any occasion, including at schools, clubs, and for groups and organizations,” Hagans said. “It’s always great watching people enjoy our desserts for the first time. Our flavors aren’t too overpowering.”

Hagan and her Cynful Bliss will remain at Christmas Village through the closing date of Christmas Eve.

This year, Christmas Village has a remodeled and expanded layout, with a new and expanded open floor plan for the stage, added decorations and space for the Christmas Village Beer Garden, a brand new centerpiece in the middle of the wooden shopping huts, an expanded outdoor food and drink area, a new kids’ corner, and the addition of a second circle of wooden shopping huts.

The 65 feet tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel returned next to the Visitor Center. Like last year, its colorful lights will shine bright throughout the whole Inner Harbor. The Christmas Village Christmas Tree will again light up at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, which is sponsored by Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Fund, this year.

In partnership with Waterfront Partnership, Christmas Village, Christmas Village Ferris Wheel, Inner Harbor Ice Rink, and other festive attractions will again create the Holiday District in Inner Harbor. Other exciting changes include an expanded selection of mulled wine, even more food options, new artists and vendors, and updated theme weekends.

“It’s the most wonderful time of year on the Baltimore Waterfront,” Christmas Village Project Manager Nancy Schmalz stated in a news release. “After a terrific year last year, we want to continue to surprise and delight with even more new additions, new vendors, more food, and changes in how we use the space.”

The Christmas Village will be open until December 24. Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The village is closed 9, 10, 16, and 17.

For more information about Christmas Village, visit: www.baltimore-christmas.com

Celebrate The Season Aboard The MDOT MTA Holiday Bus

Receive a Free Ride and Track Santa with the Transit App

Continuing a 41-year tradition to help spread holiday cheer and goodwill, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is offering free rides on its Holiday Bus, featuring Santa Claus and his elves.

The Holiday Bus operates weekdays on various CityLink and LocalLink bus routes until Friday, December 20, 2019. Passengers will receive candy canes and greetings from Santa, and will enjoy festive holiday music during the ride.

“During the holidays, we look forward to thanking our customers and wishing them the best of the season,” said MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn. “There’s something magical about the Holiday Bus that assures big smiles for everyone who’s lucky enough to catch one.”

Although Santa cannot reveal the exact location and schedule of the Holiday Bus, MDOT MTA customers can track it using the Transit App, which provides real-time information for CityLink, LocalLink, Express BusLink buses, along with Commuter Bus across the region. For information on the Transit App and details for free downloading, go to mta.maryland.gov/transit.

Customers can also follow MDOT MTA on Facebook at facebook.com/mtamaryland and on Twitter @mtamaryland for clues on where the Holiday Bus will be located each day.

To learn more, visit mdot.maryland.gov.