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For the 11th time in St. Mary’s, surviving family members of homicide victims in St. Mary’s will gather together again at 6 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 2, to decorate a tree with ornaments bearing the victims’ names.

The Silent Angel Tree-Lighting Ceremony will be held at the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department firehouse off South Shangri-La Drive in Lexington Park, continuing the work of the Silent Angel Memorial nonprofit organization established in 2002. The Silent Angel organization now is a partnership with St. Mary’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations, a combined investigative unit of detectives from the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police.

The tree-lighting ceremony continues the tradition of honoring St. Mary’s homicide victims, the detectives’ bureau reports, and the goal of is to bring families together for a memorial program in hope of providing comfort and support to the survivors. During the ceremony an angel ornament is placed on a Christmas tree by a surviving family member and the names of each victim is read aloud. Each ornament is inscribed with the victim’s name and the date they became a “Silent Angel.” The tree will then be moved and displayed inside the entrance to the sheriff’s office headquarters in Leonardtown until the end of the year.

The event’s origins followed the 2001 shooting death of 22-year-old Kevin Michael Clarke outside a party in Drayden. Last year, a judge denied the convicted killer a new trial as he continues to serve a sentence of life plus 40 years in prison. A companion of the shooter is serving 30 years in prison. Clarke was responding to a comment made about his sister when he was shot.

Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) attends the tree-lighting ceremonies.

“I wouldn’t miss that,” the sheriff said Wednesday. “That Silent Angel [program] is one of the best things we do, on a number of levels. It connects us with the victims’ families. The resolution of these crimes matters to the victims’ families, the extended victims. It’s good for the community. We lend fellowship and support to the survivors.”

For more information on The Silent Angel Memorial or the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, or to make a donation to the nonprofit organization, go online to The Silent Angel Memorial website at http://thesilentangels.org/, or contact Jodi Irwin, the sheriff’s domestic violence coordinator, at jodi.irwin@stmarysmd.com.

Saturday to see open house at Summerseat

A Christmas Open House will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 1, at Summerseat Farm south of Mechanicsville, where the manor house will be decorated in all of its glory with fragrant green garlands, red bows and twinkling lights. Santa Claus will be there to greet children and have pictures taken. There will be a craft area to create holiday memories. Mulled cider and hot chocolate will be served. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted. Summerseat is located at 26655 Three Notch Road.

Farm guide offers ‘fresh’ holiday ideas

The new “Farms for the Holidays” Southern Maryland Winter Farm Guide showcases more than 60 family farms and agriculture-related businesses offering farm products for the holiday season and through the winter months.

The guide’s listings include where to find locally grown Christmas trees and holiday décor, unique farm-made gifts and crafts, flavorful produce, quality meats, fresh local seafood, award-winning wines for festive tables, and yarns and apparel made from local wool and alpaca fiber. Many agritourism farms also are hosting family events for the holidays including live Nativity scenes, petting zoos, candlelit caroling walks, visits with Santa Claus and hayrides.

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission publication is available in print at participating sites, regional public libraries and welcome centers, and can be viewed or downloaded online at www.smadc.com.

State fire marshal urges home safety

The arrival of colder year-end weather has prompted the Maryland state fire marshal’s office to issue a warning that elements of home heating continue to be a significant factor in home fires in the state, and for the agency to offer some advice on how to prevent a dangerous situation.

Chimneys should be cleaned annually or more frequently. Use properly sized fireplace screens or enclosures, and never use a flammable liquid to start a fire. When disposing of cooled ashes, do not use paper or plastic containers to remove them, instead use a metal container. Ashes will insulate hot embers long after the fire is considered out.

Make sure all fuel-burning stoves are installed according to local fire codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Have the home’s furnace inspected and serviced annually.

Check portable electric heaters for frayed or damaged wires and ensure they are clean and placed on a flat level surface. Use only equipment that is listed by an approved testing laboratory, and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Do not use extension cords with portable space heaters, because the extension cord can overheat and cause a fire.

With kerosene fuel fired heaters, use only “K-1” kerosene fuel. Never fill the unit inside, and take it outside after it has cooled before refueling. Open a window enough to provide proper ventilation.

Keep all combustible materials such as furniture, curtains, clothing, and paper goods at least three feet from all heat sources.

Fuel-burning appliances can produce a deadly, tasteless and odorless gas known as carbon monoxide. Install and maintain CO alarms inside the home to provide an early warning of dangerous carbon monoxide levels.

Always turn off portable heating equipment when leaving the room for extended periods. Portable heaters should never be operated unattended.

Check to make sure the home’s smoke alarms are in good working order.

Food fundraiser set for Dec. 8

The Ridge Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary will hold its monthly Schwan's Truckload Fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the firehouse located at 13820 Point Lookout Road in Ridge. To guarantee the availability of the items, pre-orders may be made online at www.schwansfundraising.com/orderform.aspx, using Event ID 39903, Ridge VFD Auxiliary, Ridge, MD 20680. Catalogs may be requested via the website. For more information, call 301-872-5671.

Dance Dec. 8 at Chaptico

A contra dance sponsored by Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance, featuring caller Elgin Perry, will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Christ Episcopal Church’s parish hall at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. The doors will open at 7 p.m., and the dancing begins at 7:30. Contra is a traditional American style of social dance, and beginners are encouraged to arrive at 7 p.m. to get some instruction in the various dances. There will be an ice cream social following the dance. For more information and directions, go online to www.smtmd.org.

Donations, help sought for food drive

Donations of money, food and time helping out are being sought for the annual Mike’s Bikes Food Fund to provide a Christmas dinner of a 10-pound turkey, potatoes and canned goods for needy families in St. Mary’s. To make a donation or volunteer hours for the cause, call 301-863-7887 or send a check to Mike’s Food Fund at 21310C Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, Maryland 20653.

Sotterley continues tree replacement

Restoration efforts on the grounds of Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood are still ongoing more than a year after Hurricane Irene swept through St. Mary’s, and Sotterley now is ready to begin the next phase of growth with public participation in an adopt-a-tree program.

Donations currently are being accepted to cover the costs of 16 trees that will be located within the historic core, and additional plantings are planned for all over the site. Individuals or organizations may choose to either adopt an entire tree, or they can simply make a donation of any size to the tree fund. With the support of the community, Sotterley envisions rejuvenating the landscape with new plantings to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Donations can be made for a variety of reasons, including a memorial for a loved one, to celebrate a special occasion or mark an event such as a wedding, anniversary or birthday.

During last year’s hurricane, more than 170 tress were downed, some dangerously close to the 1703 Plantation House, the original 1830s Slave Cabin and other outbuildings. As a precautionary measure, the Sotterley Landscape Committee opted for the removal of the remaining two trees which loomed over the rooftop of the Plantation House.

All donations will be entered into a special journal which will become a permanent part of Sotterley’s archives. Donations can be made out to Historic Sotterley Inc., with “Adopt a Tree Fund” noted in the check’s memo line. To donate by credit card, or to learn more about the planting plan details, call 301-373-2280 during regular business hours.

Rent a table at flea market

The St. Mary’s County Fair Association is having an indoor flea market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the county fairgrounds off Route 5 south of Leonardtown. All vendors and crafters are welcome, and they can rent an 8-by-10 foot space with one table by calling 301-475-9543 after Jan. 1.

jwharton@somdnews.com