Sweet Caroline Among Many Local Charities Helping Make the Holiday Season Happier

By JOHN P. EVANS III

The Holiday season is upon us, which means the plight of the less fortunate is made even more noticeable by the lack of resources to make everyone’s December a happy one.

There are many organizations in Caroline County designed to assist in aiding the needy and then there are others that not only take the lead for themselves but offer assistance to other charities in the endeavor.

Sweet Caroline is one such group. It was created to help families in need and to better our community and those among it. Over 32,000 people take up residence within Caroline County alone. Sweet Caroline’s purpose is to assure no community goes without, whether it be assistance due to medical or personal reasons. Imagine being able to lend a hand to those around us and help to spread kindness along the way.

Ben Cahall, the executive director of Sweet Caroline, said in a telephone interview recently that his organization raised close to $20,000 from two recent fundraisers to put toward the purchasing of food and presents for children and their families that otherwise would be unable to afford them.

Some of the money raised by Sweet Caroline through other fundraisers has gone to purchase meals for guests of the His Hope Ministries homeless shelter in Denton, where as many as 50 persons, more than half of them children, seek safe shelter during the fall and winter months.

“We are sponsoring some of their meals with money that we have raised and have also been able to help with a Fun Day recently for some of the children who reside there,” said Cahall. “This money comes from persons who support our cause through our raffles and other events which we have held throughout the year.”

Cahall said another group that assists in a big way by funding meals is R and M Performance, a Cambridge-Based business owned by two Caroline County brothers. “They match every meal that has been sponsored by someone else,” said Cahall.

Cahall said two events Sweet Caroline will help sponsor in December will be Storytime with Santa, to be held December 9th at the Visitors Center in Crouse Park, and Pizza with Santa on December 16th at the First Church of God in Federalsburg. “These are the kinds of events we like to partnership with because they benefit children and offer them a little fun around Christmastime,” said Cahall. “These are both free family events during which kids can have their picture taken free with Santa and enjoy (the town’s) Winter Wonderland for kids.”

Cahall said he has been very pleased with the support Sweet Caroline has received in the county. “We have been well received. The county residents have been 100% supportive in what we do,” he said. “When we reach out to people for help, they generally respond,” said Cahall. “Sometimes we’re blinded because we are so busy, that you miss recognizing some of the links in the chain. But when you stop to notice, you realize what a great county Caroline County is when it comes to helping each other out.”

He said another local business that has worked closely to help Sweet Caroline has been the Smokin’ on the Shore food truck, which has named a sandwich for Sweet Caroline and makes a donation from the sale of each of those sandwiches to purchase toys for local children.
On its web site, www.sweetcarolinemd.com, the organization lists many area food banks, their location and hours of operation.

His Hope Ministries Provides Hope for County’s Homeless

By John P. Evans III

The hardest thing to hold on to when you are homeless may be hope, but there is an organization in Caroline County that is taking great strides in making the plight of the homeless a little better in their time of need.

Founded in 2010, His Hope Ministries provides housing, and safer and more secure living conditions to Caroline County’s homeless population, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the ministry relies greatly on the assistance of the Denton community, and county businesses and residents, to provide the funding needed to carry out its goal.

Brian Gourley, executive director of His Hope Ministries, said the group provides “essential human resources such as shelter, food, hygiene products, clothing, soft and life skills training and more” to families who are homeless or dealing with the threat of becoming homeless.
His Hope Ministries’ emergency shelter is located in the former high school building on the now-closed Wesleyan School campus at 401 Aldersgate Drive in Denton, and can accommodate up to 50 persons at a time. It is open from September through May.

“His Hope Ministries diligently helps vulnerable families and individuals fight homelessness,” said Gourley. “We work towards a place where all people have access to quality housing, nutritious food, and opportunities to thrive.”

Gourley added that the ministry is “committed to working with compassion, integrity, accountability, creativity and an anti-oppression approach treating others with honor, dignity and respect to end homelessness and hunger.”

Homelessness, or the threat of becoming homeless, continues to be a growing crisis on the Eastern Shore. Caroline County is no different. Gourley stated that in 2016, His Hope Ministries served over 17,000 meals and provided emergency shelter to 138 people (72 children, 66 adults, 75 females, 63 males). Attaching numbers to its services, Gourley noted that His Hope Ministries provided 17,084 meals and 4,613 bed nights, offering a safe environment for its “guests” to live until their situation improves.

In addition, 71 people were provided with Rapid Rehousing, nine with Homeless prevention and 16 with Street Outreach.
There are currently 37 guests staying in the emergency shelter, which includes eight families and 21 children. Potential guests must be referred through the Department of Social Services, which can be reached by calling 410-819-4500, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Particularly important is the shelter it provides to children during the months they need it most – school days. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that toxic stress on children is caused by instability and trauma in their life, and that it can drastically hurt a child’s physical health and disrupt their developing brain.

“Since over half of those we help are children, it is very important to us to always remain open for services during the school year months,” said Gourley. “We pride ourselves in aggressively helping to reduce toxic stress for our children. We have seen and experienced great results with providing children and their families with stability, guidance, encouragement and essential human necessities.”

Guests in the emergency shelter are provided essential resources such as a bed, bedding, hygiene products, clothing, space for personal belongings, the ability to lock up valuables, and meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The shelter is equipped with eight rooms (six private family and two dorm type) and has six restrooms and three showers. It also has a dining area, laundry room, computer area, and common relaxing area. Each guest or family entering the shelter is assigned an individual who works with them during their stay.

“His Hope Ministries reduces homelessness and enables families to live in safe, secure, and healthy stable housing environments. We have accomplished this through connecting everyone entering any of our programs with a Family Navigator,” said Gourley. “This starts an immediate client-directed approach helping identify and acquiring the right mix of resources to assist in aligning goals and promoting a robust pathway to moving beyond the client’s crisis situation into self-sufficiency and family success.”

Due to a recent partnership with Denton’s Christ Episcopal Church, the ministry was able to open a resource center, His Hope Resource Center, which is located downstairs at Christ Episcopal Church, 105 Gay Street in Denton. There, it provides support and guidance to encourage personal growth for the guests and clients. Clients have access to case management services, use of computers and internet access, engage in housing and employment searches, pastoral counseling, and participate in workshops designed to increase self-sufficiency; including financial literacy, healthy grocery shopping on a budget, resume writing, smoking cessation, skills to pay the bills, and more.

His Hope Resource Center is within easy walking distance to local town resources including the public library, the Department of Social Services, the Health Department, mental health and substance abuse counseling services, among others.

In addition to the shelter and resource center, His Hope Ministries also provides the following:

Homeless Prevention – to help resolve a crisis that would otherwise lead to homelessness.
Rapid Rehousing – to help families and individuals quickly move out of homelessness and into permanent housing.
SOAR – SSI/ SSDI, Outreach Access, and Recovery – to help individuals that are experiencing a housing crisis and that are diagnosed with behavioral health and/or co-occurring disorder apply for supplemental security income.

Street Outreach – to help address the immediate needs of the homeless population that may be living in places not meant for human habitation.

“None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for our wonderful volunteers, such as the North Caroline Clergy Association Board of Directors, and Denton Camp and Conference Center, and funding partners.” said Gourley, who also said that assistance also comes from individuals and organizations who have provided meals, bedding, clothing and furniture, or “in kind” services that would normally cost the ministry to receive.

The organizations assisting His Hope Ministry come from diverse areas and include non-profits such as The Caroline Foundation, United Way of Caroline County, Women’s Club of Caroline County, and the United Concerned Christians of Caroline County. There are also local businesses and other organizations involved including Greensboro Pharmacy, Bilbrough’s Electric, R & M Performance, Ground Effects, Towers Concrete, Cook’s Tires, Shore United Bank, Furuno, Caroline’s Fraternal Order of Police, Town of Denton and the Caroline County Department of Social Services.

Local families lending large amounts of support include the Baggins, Baxter, Breeding, Citro, Frase, Hill, Jensen, Manley, Martin, McMahan, Saunders, and Towers families.

According to Gourley, “As we celebrate the joys of Christmas and the hope of the new year, please help His Hope Ministries give hope to many of your neighbors that find themselves struggling and fighting against homelessness. It is easy to fall into a homeless situation but difficult to climb out. If you want to be a part of helping and giving families hope and a fighting chance, please consider donating to His Hope Ministries. You can make a 100% tax-deductible monetary gift .to NCCA His Hope Ministries at P.O Box 31, Goldsboro, Maryland 21636.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about His Hope Ministries or learn about ways to support its mission, should call Gourley at 410-963-3594, follow on Facebook or send email to his.hope.haven@gmail.com.

Commissioners Did Right Thing Raising Taxes

by Tolbert Rowe

I don’t like paying health insurance premiums of $8,400 per year plus a $4,000 deductible before my insurance company pays anything. I don’t like paying $20 parking tickets and $250 cell phone bills, and I especially don’t like paying more taxes. Be it property taxes or income taxes to any of the three branches of government that siphon off pieces of every paycheck. I just don’t have confidence that the government can spend my money better than I can.

But the taxes I pay, and every other working person pays, are necessary for me to enjoy the freedoms of living in the United States of America. The cost to run local government is calculated in millions, state government in billions and federal government in trillions of dollars. The cost of services provided increases as the cost to run government increases.

The most expensive service that most local governments are required to provide is public education. It easily takes 40% to 60% of all local tax revenue to operate a school system. Sure, there is plenty of money from the state and federal government that goes to education, but as a percentage of the county’s budget, education is the biggest expense.

When a need arises to build or renovate school facilities only the wealthiest of counties have the ability to pay everything from the pool of local tax monies collected. Building a school, or significantly renovating one, costs in the tens of millions of dollars. In Caroline County it is not possible to do it without borrowing money.

Our three county commissioners agree that the only way to accomplish this is to raise income taxes, and I agree. For years the only local tax that people got emotional about was the property tax. But property taxes are paid by only those who own property, both individuals and businesses. Income tax is paid by everyone who has earned income, regardless of real estate ownership. And to generate the level of revenue from property taxes being received by the increase in income tax, the property tax rate would have to increase by seven cents.

Since my career is in the lending business and I have served as a school board member for 15 years, I feel somewhat qualified to put forth an explanation of why raising local income taxes is necessary. We must find a way to fund a larger Greensboro Elementary School and a facility worthy of the job our Sheriff’s Department and its 36 sworn officers and four overburdened support personnel do.

Let’s assume that you are a young family of three; Mom, Dad and four year old son. You own your home, your first, a two bedroom starter home in a townhouse community. You are happy and content and the services you are afforded in your community are sufficient for your young family’s needs. You are so content and comfortable that you soon find that you are expecting another addition to your family. But you are somewhat shocked, pleasantly, that you are not only expecting one child but you are expecting twins.

You knew that at some point you would outgrow your little townhouse and you had expected to sell and move up to a more spacious home for your growing family. But twins sort of push you to move a little faster than you had expected.

Similar to this situation is an overcrowded school. Greensboro Elementary currently educates over 800 students in a building designed to accommodate 670. This overcrowding did not happen overnight. It has been a growing issue to the extent that nine portable classrooms have been installed to house the growing number of students. What once were closets have become mini classrooms. The Media Center has lost 40% of its space for new classroom space. Staff and students have learned to “improvise”.

Much like your growing young family with twins, a boy and a girl, to go with their older brother in the two bedroom house, Greensboro Elementary needs more space. Because you live in a townhouse there is no possible way to add on. You have to sell your townhouse and buy a larger home.

But adding on to a school would be a possibility wouldn’t it? After all we can’t “sell” a school and take the proceeds to buy another, like the young family can do with their townhouse. Adding on to what we have just has to be cheaper, right?

The short answer is no. It is not cheaper to just add on to what we have. Greensboro School was built in 1974 using what was, at the time a new design concept of “open classrooms”. If you have been to Greensboro School or one of the others in our county built or renovated at that time, you will quickly see that they are functionally inadequate. The cost to renovate schools of this design exceeds the cost to build new. The Board of Education and Commissioners considered possibly phasing the renovation so as to spread the cost over many years but phasing only adds to the cost, not decreases it.

Because of Caroline County’s low assessable wealth base (total value of all real estate) the state pays 80% of construction costs, excluding soft costs like architectural and engineering costs. So for a $50 million school, Caroline County will have to come up with $10 million.

But a school is not the county’s only new construction need. Getting the Sheriff’s department out of the basement of the jail, into a safer, hygienically cleaner, (raw sewage leaks) more spacious facility is also a major priority for our commissioners and our community.

Because the young family lacks the savings and equity to pay cash for a new, more spacious home, they will need to borrow money. Caroline County also lacks the cash to pay for a new school and Sheriff’s department and will also need to borrow money.

The family will have to prove to a lender that they have the financial ability to repay the mortgage with future cash flows from employment. In much the same way Caroline County must show the ability to repay the loan or bond but with tax revenue instead of employment. Without generating new tax revenue, repayment of the bonds would come from current revenue. Since current revenue is used to fund current services, there would be a decrease in services from other agencies of local government.

As hard as the decision is to make, raising taxes is a decision that rightfully could have been done years ago. The decision to raise local taxes rests squarely on the shoulders of three people, our elected commissioners. They alone are forced to decide to raise taxes on their friends, families, neighbors and themselves. They alone are responsible for making all of us pay more than we would like to be paying in taxes.

My, how easy it is in States like Delaware where school systems have the power to tax. How easy it is for elected officials to place a request to increase taxes before all of the people. The results of a referendum allow individual elected officials to stand behind the screen of the ballot. “The people have decided” is the foundation of our electoral democracy. What a more fair and equitable way to decide how to raise, and spend public monies.

But Maryland is unique in how public schools are funded. Most states are like Delaware and put the decision for raising taxes to fund capital construction on the ballot. In Maryland, we have to rely on the character and integrity of those we elect, and hope they do the right thing. Personally, I know we need a new school in Greensboro and we need a Sheriff’s Department that is not in the basement of the jail.

Our Commissioners have done the right thing by raising income taxes. As much as I despise paying higher taxes, I know it is the only way to fund what is necessary. If anyone doesn’t think a new school or Sheriff’s facility is needed and necessary, please take the time to take a tour. Contact Principal Dawn Swann or Sheriff Randy Bounds. They are more than happy to give you a tour. If you can’t take the time to educate yourself on the need then please refrain from criticizing those who make the hard decisions, and if you know a better way to fund such improvements, please enlighten us all.

I wish everyone a Blessed and Joyous Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year.

Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Neighbors United to Serve (NUTS) is once again  offering free delivery of individual meals on Thanksgiving morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. The holiday menu includes: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, rolls and pie. There are several ways to make sure your reservation information reaches the NUTS committee.

Online at http://bit.ly/2017NUTSMeal , mail to NUTS Thanksgiving, P.O. Box 183, Denton, MD 21629, call Amanda at 443-550-1180, or email carolinecountynuts@gmail.com

NCHS Drama Club

Imagine your life story being told by two opposing authors; one, a fun-loving comedic author who sees life as a joyous adventure; the other, a real downer, who insists that life is a tragedy. Poor Hydrangea Albright, a girl cursed with terrible luck, is the victim of this exact situation. Find out what happens to Hydrangea when the North Caroline Drama Club presents Hydrangea Albright: Comedy or Tragedy? Written by Jeff Fluharty and produced by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., Englewood, Colorado.Read More

Ridgely Car Show

by John Evans

Stock Car Racing’s King, Richard Petty, will once again visit Caroline County during the Seventh Annual Ridgely Auto and Motorcycle Show to be held Sunday, October 15 from 9 AM. to 4 PM.

Making his fourth appearance at the show, Petty will sign 400 autographs and tour the grounds, judging and appreciating the more than 1,000 vehicles that are expected to be on hand – making the Ridgely show one of the largest of its kind anywhere.Read More

Ridgely to Celebrate 150 Years

Back in the day, Ridgely was a bustling town, planned as a thriving community centered around its railroad and the commerce that its agricultural resources brought to it, bringing it to be known as the “Strawberry Capital of the World.”

With the railroad to the north and the Choptank River to the south, Ridgely was designed to have large wide streets and avenues dotted with beautiful parks – all characteristics of the town which still remain.Read More

Worry Free Retirement?

As my thinning gray hair reminds me, and the little zings I get in the morning alert me, getting old is not for sissies. But as someone once said, and I have repeated hundreds of times, it sure beats the alternative. You do have to be tough to get old because you are constantly reminded, either when looking in the mirror, or getting buck naked to take a shower, that our bodies aren’t what they once were.Read More

Shoot 4 Shelter Tournament

Shoot 4 Shelter Sporting Clay Tournament

Benefitting His Hope Haven Mid-Shore Family Shelter
His Hope Haven, Mid-Shore Family Shelter, will have a Shoot 4 Shelter Sporting Clay Tournament held at Schrader’s Outdoors, 16090 Oakland Rd., Henderson, MD on Saturday, September 16, 2017. The event will be held rain or shine. Registration is at 9 a.m.Read More

Alpaca Festival

Festival & Open House at Outstanding Dreams Farm

Now in it’s 9th year, Outstanding Dreams Farm’s Alpaca Festival on Saturday, September 16th and Sunday, September 17th in Preston, Maryland promises fun for the whole family. Tour the farm, meet and learn about their growing herd of alpacas, watch fiber arts demonstrations and enjoy live music while checking out the many craft and food vendors at this one-of-a-kind event.Read More