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Giving, rather than receiving, is the way two 12-year-old Calvert Middle School friends would prefer to spend their birthdays.

Gracie Bradford and Andrew Mason, both of Prince Frederick, are celebrating their 12th birthdays together with a party where guests are asked to donate to charity instead of bringing birthday presents.

“I always wanted to go to Haiti for my birthday and help people in need there,” Gracie said. “But that was really expensive, so I thought about what I could do to help kids in need here.”

The idea began last year when the pair picked the American Cancer Society as their nonprofit of choice. The sixth-graders raised $4,000 and donated every penny, Beckie Bradford, Gracie’s mother, said.

“They wouldn’t even consider keeping any of the money they brought in, and Michelle [Mason] and I were really surprised,” Bradford said of her and Andrew’s mother’s reactions.

This year, in an effort to help locally, Gracie and Andrew chose an Owings organization, The Autism Project Inc., to donate to. The Autism Project Inc. is a nonprofit organization serving students on the autism spectrum in Southern Maryland.

The Mason family knows firsthand how The Autism Project can help families with autistic children. Andrew’s brother, Michael Mason, 15, has autism but is high-functioning and very social, Michelle said.

“I wanted to raise money [for autism] because there are other people like him that aren’t as fortunate as Michael,” Andrew Mason said.

Community organizations have donated their time and resources to help with the party, which will be Sunday, June 8. In addition to portable toilets donated by J&J Portables, Jack Reynolds from Dreamscope Entertainment will be the DJ; Entertainment Avenue in Prince Frederick donated a moon bounce; and David Grace also of Prince Frederick will be making snow cones for the kids.

So far, the pair has raised $1,735 through their online fundraising website. Bradford said she hopes to at least double that amount from donations received at the party, to match or exceed last year’s amount.

“A lot of people are excited to donate money because it’s for a good cause,” Gracie said, adding that her friends are supportive of her goal.

“I think it’s who they are,” Michelle Mason said of Gracie and Andrew. “Most kids probably say they would like to have gifts, but they’re always thinking ahead, and they are both sensitive and compassionate and caring sixth-graders.”

To find out more about Gracie and Andrew, and to donate to The Autism Project, go to their online fundraising site, www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/-light-it-up-blue-/182062.

JPPM to host 1812 Fair and Reenactment

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum will host The Star-Spangled Celebration on June 21 and 22. The celebration features a weekend’s worth of fun with the 1812 Fair and Re-enactment at the park.

The two-day event takes place Saturday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by Tavern Night from 6 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Travel back to the early 1800s with JPPM as it commemorates the Battle of St. Leonard Creek, the largest naval engagement in Maryland’s history, a press release states. Battle demonstrations will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday. A parade of tall ships will join the 2 p.m. battle Sunday.

In addition to the military side of things, the event will feature period dance lessons, spinning, weaving, hands-on sewing, blacksmith demonstrations, an early 1800s fashion talk and much more. The event features something for everyone, as adults can enjoy a warm meal with a cold drink while kids play the game of rounders or cricket. Music, theater and dance performances as well as cooking and clothing demonstrations will be available all weekend.

On Saturday, live music performed by Ship’s Company will complement the tavern atmosphere from 6 to 10 p.m. Beer, wine and food will be available for purchase. The evening will end with a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Entrance to Tavern Night costs $10 per person, $8 for Friends members or guests in period costume. All proceeds will support educational programming at JPPM. The fireworks display is free and open to the public. Event details can be found at www.jefpat.org.

SMECO files to reduce customer rates

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative has filed an application with the Maryland Public Service Commission to reduce its residential Standard Offer Service (SOS) energy charges. In addition, SMECO has proposed a change as to how May and October are designated as summer rate and winter rate months.

SMECO is filing to reduce the residential SOS energy charge for summer from 8.83 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 8.61 cents per kWh, a reduction of 2.5 percent, a press release states. Residential energy charges for winter will decrease from 9.62 cents per kWh to 9.25 cents per kWh, a reduction of 3.9 percent. The filing was submitted May 30, and, if approved by the PSC, the reduced charge will appear on customer-members’ August 2014 bills.

The total SOS rate in August will be the combination of the new reduced energy charge and the PCA, which changes monthly. For a residential bill of 1,300 kWh, the average monthly base SOS rate will be $4 less. SMECO’s SOS rate covers the cost of electric supply only. Costs incurred for maintaining the electric system are covered by distribution service charges and do not affect the SOS rate.

For its summer and winter rates, SMECO traditionally has classified June through October as summer months and November through May as winter months. Because of shifts in customer energy use patterns, SMECO is proposing to change the summer rate months to May through September and winter rate months to October through April.

SMECO’s rate adjustment is the result of decreased capacity costs. All utilities and energy suppliers in the mid-Atlantic area are required to pay capacity costs; these costs fund existing generating plants, as well as the expansion of plants and transmission facilities, that are needed to meet customers’ demand for electricity, the release states. Capacity costs will decrease by more than $13 million during the 12-month period that begins in August.

Free ‘Discovery Days’ in Calvert County

The Promise Resource Center, PRC, will offer free “Discovery Days” at Community Centers throughout Calvert County this summer, for families with children ages 2 through 5. Families who attend will take part in creating science experiments, art projects and make-and-take games to boost their children’s early math, science, literacy and social-emotional skills. Parents, grandparents and other caregivers will learn how to work on these skills in fun, easy ways at home, and will take home materials, books and activity instructions to use again, a press release states. PRC’s Discovery Days are geared toward helping young children build “brain power” and gain the early learning skills they need to get ready for kindergarten success in fun, hands-on ways.

Discovery Days will take place at Mt. Hope Community Center, Southern Community Center and Northeast Community Center in June, July and August. Advance registration is required, and space for each Discovery Day is limited. For specific date and time information, and to register, contact PRC at 301-290-0040, or go to www.thepromisecenter.org.

Teen grieving camp now free

Camp Phoenix is a three-day day camp for grieving children and teens ages 7 to 15. This program offers every child the opportunity to express his or her feelings of grief and loss in a supportive and understanding environment. In addition to traditional camp activities, including swimming, crafts and sports, children participate in group discussions and creative activities led by professional counselors and trained volunteers.

Camp Phoenix will be held July 9, 10 and 11 at Kings Landing Park in Huntingtown. Thanks to the generosity of a Calvert Hospice donor, there is no fee for Camp Phoenix. However, space is limited. Camp hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Calvert Hospice asks that campers attend all three days of camp.

The camp application can be found at www.calverthospice.org under Grief Services. The deadline to register is June 13. Contact Melinda Ruppert at 410-535-0892, ext. 2201, or via email at mruppert@calverthospice.org, for more information.

African American Family Community Day nears

The Calvert County Branch of the NAACP will host the county’s 19th annual African American Family Community Day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

The day will feature Southern soul music, Southern gospel and jazz with Jimmy Bennett, the Bowie State University Community Jazz Ensemble, comedian Sean Sarvis and other entertainment by area artists and church groups. Children’s activities, including art, storytelling, a moon bounce and face painting will be available, along with displays and exhibits from community businesses and organizations, door prizes and food.

For more information, call 410-535-0413 or 202-633-4823.

Wine festival coming to North Beach

The Maryland Wineries Association will kick off Maryland Wine Week with the fourth annual Eat-Drink-Go LOCAL food and wine event in Southern Maryland from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 14, in North Beach on Bayside and Fifth Avenue. The festival will feature an open-air farmers market, handmade crafts and live music. Sponsored by the Maryland Wineries Association, this event is free and open to the public. For $25, attendees can purchase a tasting pass and receive a stemless wine glass and sample Maryland Wine from over a dozen wineries, including those from the county. For more information, go to www.marylandwine.com, or call 410-252-WINE.

Shoppe for Hospice seeks volunteers

Calvert Hospice is in need for volunteers for its Shoppe for Hospice, 4130 Old Town Road in Huntingtown. The Shoppe for Hospice is a high-quality new and gently used brand-name women’s clothing resale shop. In addition, reasonably priced new designer clothing is featured in the Boutique section. All proceeds benefit Calvert Hospice, and it is staffed by volunteers.

Shop hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; and closed Sundays and Mondays.

During the months of June and July, the Shoppe will knock $1 off each item purchased if patrons donate either a jar of peanut butter or jelly for the Interfaith Food Pantry.

For more information about the Shoppe, contact Susan Lloyd at 410-535-0892 or slloyd@calverthospice.org.

New So.Md. Trails guidebook released

The fifth edition of the Southern Maryland Trails: Earth, Art, Imagination guidebook has hit the streets. “Your guide to all things handmade, homegrown, locally harvested and authentically Southern Maryland,” the book details the region’s best art, food, wine, lodgings and farms in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties, a press release states.

The Trails guidebook, launched in 2005 by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, promotes the area’s culture and heritage and features everything handmade, homegrown and authentically Southern Maryland. It’s a treasure of insider information on where to find the best art galleries and studios, wineries, lodgings, farms, eateries and places of natural beauty, the release states. The sites in the book are arranged geographically along the three main trails — the Barnwood and Beach Glass Loop, the Heron’s Flight and the Fossils and Farmscapes Ramble — and includes detailed descriptions, driving directions, maps, contact info, tips and page after page of photos.

The 140-page full-color publication is available free from partner sites, designated pickup sites and visitor centers in Maryland. For a full list of pickup locations, go to the Southern Maryland Trails website, www.somdtrails.com, or order a copy online.

Meeting scheduled for Dunkirk Park plan

The Calvert County Division of Parks and Recreation is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at the Northeast Community Center in Chesapeake Beach to receive community input on plans for a new park to be located on Ward Road in Dunkirk.

Parks and Recreation is developing a master plan for the 209-acre property, which was purchased by the county in fiscal 2013. The purchase was funded by the Calvert County Youth Recreational Opportunities Fund, a state grant administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a press release states.

The public meeting will gather input from community members on the facilities they would like to see considered for the new park. Those unable to attend the meeting but who wish to provide comments may email them to parksandrecreation@co.cal.md.us no later than Thursday, June 12.

For more information on the Calvert County Division of Parks and Recreation, call 410-535-1600, ext. 2225.

Business resource center now at library

The Calvert County Department of Economic Development, through the Board of County Commissioners, worked with the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) and the Calvert Library to offer a self-guided business resource center for public use at the Southern Branch library.

A similar reference center was established at the Prince Frederick library in 2007 and has become a great resource for the business community, a press release states. Featuring assorted reference materials, the business resource center provides local entrepreneurs with a wealth of information that can answer questions on marketing, writing business proposals, incorporating, taxes and more. Unique to the Southern Branch business resource center is a collection of step-by-step startup guides developed by Entrepreneur Magazine and provided courtesy of the SBTDC. The guides include industry-specific steps to help entrepreneurs through the first three years of business. All information is supported with worksheets, checklists, calculators and resource kits.

The SBTDC offers confidential, no-cost counseling and low-cost training and resources to new ventures and existing businesses in Southern Maryland with counselors available in Prince Frederick four days a week. For more information, go to www.sbdchelp.com, or call 301-934-7583.

Local Government Exchange coming up

Registration is now being accepted for the second Southern Maryland Local Government Exchange, which will be held Friday, June 13, in North Beach. The Local Government Exchange provides a forum for government representatives, business leaders and interested citizens to share information concerning issues facing our regional communities and solutions to those issues.

The daylong event will cover a broad range of topics including a look at the region’s agriculture from a global and regional perspective; the creation of efficient and friendly communities, which accommodate the growing number of citizens in the area; and the development and improvement of a unique collection of qualities and characteristics (visual, cultural, social, and environmental) that provide meaning to a community, a press release states.

The registration fee of $25 covers the meeting, continental breakfast and lunch. APA AICP Continuing Maintenance Credits (CMs) will be available. Registration is due by Monday, June 9. For additional information on registration, payment or the program, contact Nancy Nunn at nnunn@umd.edu or 410-827-6202, ext. 128.

The Local Government Exchange is hosted by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association, Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, Southern Maryland Local Government Exchange Steering Committee and the University of Maryland Extension. Event funding is provided by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund and the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Republicans to host ‘Get Out the Vote’

At 11:30 a.m. June 16, the Calvert and St. Mary’s Republican Women will host a Republican “Get Out the Vote” luncheon at Stoney’s Kingfishers in Solomons. Meet and talk to delegates running for office in southern Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. Cost is $20 a person, payable at the door. RSVP by to Carolyn Gill at Carolyn.Gill3531@live.com or jeffndeb@jeffndeb.com.

snewman@somdnews.com