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An ounce of prevention for St. Mary’s alcohol merchants can ward off costly trouble like getting caught making sales to underage imbibers, if they send their employees to free Responsible Alcohol Service Training in the months ahead.

Only one person at each alcohol outlet in St. Mary’s has to take an $80 state-approved class on controlling the sale of alcohol, according to the administrator of St. Mary’s Alcohol Beverage Board. But license holders can’t avoid the responsibility, or possible fines or suspensions, if any of their employees make an unlawful transaction.

“It does not fulfill the state-mandated alcohol awareness training requirement,” Tamara Hildebrand said of the upcoming RAST sessions. “It’s meant to complement it.”

The RAST classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 26, May 28 and Aug. 17 at Room 14 of the Potomac Building in St. Mary’s governmental center complex in Leonardtown. The classes will cover the issue of checking customers’ identification cards, Hildebrand said, and also address “better business practices” such as avoiding serving more alcohol to customers who are becoming intoxicated.

“At a lot of businesses, there is a high turnover” of employees, she said, and at any given moment, “there is a good chance that no one that is trained is in the store. The owner or the manager can’t be at the store 24/7.”

By providing the free training to more employees, Hildebrand said, “we’re hoping to fill that gap.”

The group of about 20 people who almost filled the room at November’s RAST session included license holders who were required to go because of violations at their businesses, she said, but one license holder already has voluntarily signed up six employees for the class in February.

Smile for the camera Saturday

People who have been rebounding from trouble and haven’t had their photograph taken for a while, by themselves or with one or more loved ones, can remedy that this Saturday, Dec. 8, when the Beacon of Hope Recovery Community Center hosts a visit by Help Portrait volunteers.

The Help Portrait volunteers will be doing free, professional quality photo portraits, according to Walden, the St. Mary’s counseling service that operates the center. Participants may have their photo taken, printed and given to them before leaving.

The opportunity is open to anyone who is struggling with a crisis or behavioral health issue or considers himself or herself to be in some form or recovery. Photo portrait stations will be set up for individuals, small groups and groups of as many as 10 people.

Help Portrait is an international movement of grassroots volunteers, each doing photo portraits in their own communities. Beacon of Hope Recovery Community Center is located in Millison Plaza in Lexington Park. For more information, call 301-997-1300, ext. 804, or go online to http://help-portrait.com.

Food fundraiser set for Saturday

The Ridge Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary will hold its monthly Schwan’s Truckload Fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this 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 Saturday at Chaptico

A contra dance sponsored by Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance, featuring caller Elgin Perry, will be held this 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 dances. There will be an ice cream social following the dance. For more information and directions, go online to www.smtmd.org.

School plans Sunday cookie sale

Little Flower School on Point Lookout Road in Great Mills will hold a Christmas cookie bake sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9, offering cookies, mix-and-match, at $6 per pound. Pies and cakes also will be available.

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.

Play it safe when getting gas

The Maryland state fire marshal’s office reports that it happens rarely, but dispensing gasoline into vehicles and approved containers can result in a sudden flash fire — directly resulting from a static electricity spark.

The spark caused by static electricity can quickly ignite gasoline vapors in or around the place where the fuel is being transferred, the fire marshal’s office reports, and when dry conditions with low humidity exist, the potential for static electricity rises.

Because static electricity can develop when a person is entering or exiting a vehicle, the fire marshal’s office suggests that motorists touch a metal area away from the fill-up location on the vehicle, to discharge any static built up from contact with the car seat, before touching the nozzle. It’s best to avoid re-entering a vehicle after beginning the refueling process, but if it’s necessary to enter the vehicle again, touch the exterior metal area of the vehicle before handling the nozzle again.

In addition, the fire marshal’s office recommends, always turn off the vehicle’s engine when refueling, and stay near the nozzle during the refueling process. When filling approved containers, always place the container on the ground, and never fill containers sitting on a vehicle or trailer. Keep the nozzle in direct contact with the approved container while filling.

If a fire occurs, do not remove the nozzle, the fire marshal’s office reports, and leave the area immediately and call for assistance.

For more information on fire safety, call 800-525-3124 and log onto the agency’s websites at www.mdsp.org/firemarshal or http://facebook.com/MarylandStateFireMarshal.

Sing and play Dec. 14 in Chaptico

The Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance HomeSpun CoffeeHouse will sponsor its annual holiday open mike on Friday, Dec. 14, at Christ Church’s parish hall at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and the music will start at 7:30. Performers will be admitted free. For more information, or to sign up to perform holiday-themed music, contact John Garner by email at garner@wildblue.net. Bring a small appetizer or dessert to share. There also will be beverages available.

Santa’s back in town on Dec. 15

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will return to the square in downtown Leonardtown from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, and children may bring their wish lists and remind their parents to bring along a camera to take photographs. If the weather outside is frightful, Santa and Mrs. Claus will receive their guests at the adjacent Winegardner automobile showroom. For more information, go online to www.leonardtown.somd.com or call 301-475-9791.

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 has begun 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.

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