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During an hour between the singing of verses of “Amazing Grace,” the setting sun’s beams across a small field along Chancellor’s Run Road gave way to the glow of hand-held candles illuminating the faces of people attending a vigil for Moneta Jo Strickland.

More than 100 people had arrived at Chancellor’s Run Regional Park before the program began Wednesday evening in memory of the nurse from MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, who was killed last week as she was out for a jog on the Three Notch Trail in Mechanicsville.

Then more kept coming to the field, receiving the candles or getting them from a container, and joined the assembly.

“This is our way of sharing our love for her,” Elwood Jones, a pastor at SouthPoint Church, told them. “I couldn’t help but think that God shed tears as well for this senseless murder. God hurts as much as we hurt about this.”

But amid the sorrow, Jones said in prayer, “She looks down upon us tonight, and she smiles.”

Christina Wolfrum, who went to Leonardtown High School with Strickland, where they were members of the marching band, thanked the people and businesses who took part in organizing this week’s event, as she recalled Strickland’s ability to make a hard day better.

“She would light up a room. You all know that. That’s why you’re here,” Wolfrum said, before she looked skyward and added, “I hope you feel our love, all the way to heaven.”

As Strickland’s coworkers, cousins and other friends and family members took turns receiving a microphone from the pastor and sharing their memories of the 32-year-old California resident, her fiance sat in the front row of folding chairs set out for the service. Henson Rara exchanged hugs and handshakes with them as they finished their remarks.

Sheronda Scriber, who once worked with Strickland at the CVS pharmacies in Leonardtown and along Great Mills Road, told the audience that she was in Ocean City last weekend when she saw on a television broadcast that Strickland had been killed.

“God has a true angel of love right now,” Scriber said. “I still have to ask — why did this happen?”

Eat steak, shrimp Friday in Avenue

American Legion Post No. 221 at 21690 Colton’s Point Road in Avenue will hold its monthly steak and shrimp dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. today, Friday, featuring New York strip steak, steamed shrimp and burgers.

Platters and sandwiches both will be available, for eat-in or carryout service. For more information, call 301-769-4569 or go online to www.alpost221.webs.com. The full menu can be viewed at http://alpost221.webs.com/steakshrimpmenu.htm.

Tax-free school shopping ends Saturday

The annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, a seven-day stretch in mid-August that offers consumers the ability to purchase eligible items at Maryland stores without paying the state’s 6 percent sales tax, ends this Saturday, Aug. 17.

Clothing and footwear priced at $100 or less are eligible for the exemption, through the program designed to assist families who need to do back-to-school shopping for clothes, and any Marylander who is in the market for new apparel and footwear.

To find out more about Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, including a detailed list of covered items, go online to the website of state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) at www.marylandtaxes.com, call 800-MD-TAXES or 410-260-7980, or send email to shopmaryland@comp.state.md.us.

Time running out to join sheriff’s academy

The last opportunity has arrived to sign up for the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office’s 2013 Fall Citizens Academy, a program designed to give participants an inside look into the agency’s day-to-day operations.

Sessions are held on Thursday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. for an eight-week period. The 2013 fall session will begin next Thursday, Aug. 22, and end on Oct. 10.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the academy must be older than 18, and must submit an application by calling Kelly Castle at 301-475-4200, ext. 1910, sending email to kelly.castle@stmarysmd.com or applying online at www.firstsheriff.com. Completed applications will be processed, and selected applicants will be contacted when the class is scheduled to begin. The free classes are held at the sheriff’s office headquarters building, located at 23150 Leonard Hall Drive in Leonardtown.

The typical course outline’s first class includes a chance to meet the top administrators of the sheriff’s office and learn the goals and objectives of the citizens academy program. The Special Operations Division will showcase its specialty vehicles such as a mobile command center, and provide a briefing on aspects of the division including its school resource officers, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, child support enforcement and community policing. The sheriff’s accreditation manager will provide a walk-through on the law enforcement accreditation process and show how the sheriff’s office meets and maintains standards in law enforcement. The last hour begins with the Office of Professional Responsibilities, where procedures for citizen complaints and employee discipline are reviewed. The class will conclude with a tour of the headquarters facility.

The second class generally begins with an introduction of the agency’s K-9 officers and their partners during a demonstration. Uniformed patrol deputies will discuss various situations encountered on routine patrol, and display the latest equipment and weaponry that they carry. The final hour will include a tour of the St. Mary’s County Emergency Communications Center, where participants will listen to actual 911 calls.

The third class consists of a field trip to the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy, to receive a tour of the facility. While gaining insight on recruit training, the participants will become part of the program, and have an opportunity to participate in several simulated training exercises.

During the fourth class, participants will test their skills on a simulated DUI course, followed by presentations from the alcohol enforcement coordinator and traffic safety supervisor. A member of the sheriff’s accident reconstruction team will close the evening with a presentation of how the agency reconstructs serious and fatal accidents to determine the factors involved.

The fifth class will be joined by narcotics officers who will provide an overview on the various types of drugs and current drug trends that are affecting the county, and a detective from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force who will discuss the partnership between local, state and federal agencies. The sheriff’s Emergency Services Team will make its entrance, bringing all the latest tactical gear and strategies.

The sixth class will be spent in jail, where correctional officers will highlight their operations and community supervision programs that include work release, home detention, work incentive and inmate programs. The staff will provide a tour of the facility and a demonstration by the detention center’s Emergency Response Team.

During the seventh class, hostage negotiators will kick off the first hour with an overview of the team and discuss scenarios such as barricades. The sheriff’s sex offender investigator will discuss the sex offender registry. The evening will end with a presentation by the sheriff’s Judicial Services division, featuring a tour of the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court.

The eighth class will begin with information from the agency’s domestic violence and victim services coordinators. Detectives from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations will elaborate on their assignments and how crimes are solved. Forensics investigators will lead off the last hour with a “hands-on” presentation, showing off several “tricks of the trade,” before the Citizens Academy concludes that evening with a graduation ceremony.

Learn Sept. 3 about land preservation

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission and Maryland Environmental Trust will hold a workshop to discuss opportunities for land preservation in Southern Maryland, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative auditorium at 15035 Burnt Store Road in Hughesville.

Maryland recently increased funding in the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program and the Rural Legacy Program, and the federal government increased the tax break for easement donations in 2013. After a donation of an easement, landowners may deduct up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income from their federal income tax, and they can continue to take the deduction for another 15 years, or until they reach the value of the easement. Landowners may deduct up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income per year if the majority of their income comes from farming, ranching, or forestry, until they reach the value of the easement. In previous years, the maximum deduction was 30 percent of adjusted gross income, and it is likely to be no higher than that in the foreseeable future.

Information about the tax break was featured in the commission’s weekly blog on March 21, 2013, which can be found online at www.smadc.com.

The majority of the workshop will concentrate on easement donations, because of the one-time jump in the percentage of adjusted gross income deduction. As easement donation does not suit all landowners, information on alternative county land preservation programs will also be provided.

Light refreshments will be served. Those who plan to attend should respond by Wednesday, Aug. 28, by contacting Greg Bowen by email at gbowen@smadc.com or calling 301-274-1922, ext. 1.

Have a taste in Leonardtown

The St. Mary’s County Chamber of Commerce will hold the 2013 Taste of St. Mary’s from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, on the square in Leonardtown. The family-friendly event to celebrate the hospitality industry in Southern Maryland will feature restaurants and caterers in St. Mary’s.

Vendors may call The Chamber at 301-737-3001 for information and registration materials. The registration deadline is Aug. 29.

jwharton@somdnews.com