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In an effort to spread awareness of autism and raise funds for The Autism Project, artists and non-artists alike are contributing to the first Autism Awareness Art Exhibit Fundraiser during Autism Awareness Month.

The Autism Project (TAP) is a nonprofit located in Owings and serves students on the autism spectrum in Southern Maryland, including Calvert, Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and other surrounding counties.

The exhibit will open Saturday, April 5, at the Cox Art Center in Huntingtown, with a percentage of proceeds going to TAP. Artwork done by autistic children and their families will be featured in the exhibit.

“In our interactive programs, children engage in discussions, role playing, social games, outdoor activities and a variety of exciting fields trips,” said Erica Haines, director of the Summer Camp and Therapeutic Play Program and a group therapist for TAP. “These groups have produced some long-term friendships for the children and their families.”

The idea of an art exhibit was thought up by Madison Little, the sister of a boy TAP works with, Haines said.

“From there, we asked the families we work with if they wanted their kids to contribute or their siblings to contribute, and we’ve gotten a good number of parents and family members who are already artists and wanted to participate,” Haines said.

Haines said the month of April was chosen because it is Autism Awareness Month. With one in every 88 births affected by autism in the U.S., according to The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, the diagnosis is on the rise. Through a variety of different groups and services, including art, organizations such as TAP are working to help the large population of children on the autism spectrum lead productive lives, Haines said.

“It is incredible how that same child who struggles to sit is able to sit and draw a beautiful picture,” Haines said. “[Art is] definitely used a lot, if nothing else for direction and genuine expression and creativity. That side of the brain they struggle with, art tends to push that. It helps with language, as well, by using their words for a useful task.”

Haines said some of the exhibit participants are children diagnosed with autism with whom TAP works. “It’s just incredible,” Haines said of the artwork the children produce.

Haines said even more than the money that may be raised for TAP, she hopes others benefit from seeing the exhibit and how talented the children are.

“It’s a collaboration of the families and the children,” Haines said. “It poses autism in a different light, and I’m excited for people to go and see the positive side of autism.”

The exhibit will run at the Cox Art Center from Saturday, April 5, to Friday, April 25. For more information, contact Haines at 443-624-2009 or tapmisserica@gmail.com.

School board sets timeline for superintendent search

The Calvert County Board of Education has initiated a nationwide search for a new superintendent of schools. To help facilitate the process, the board has contracted with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

The board is seeking a knowledgeable, instructional leader who believes that student achievement is the top priority, will communicate openly and honestly with all stakeholders and is skilled in financial management, according to a press release. The application is available on the Calvertnet website. The application for the position of Calvert County superintendent of schools is due by March 24 for first consideration or until the position is filled.

The superintendent search is being conducted by MABE. For additional information, go to www.mabe.org, or call 1-800-841-8197.

The timeline for the superintendent search includes the application deadline March 24, initial interviews starting April 26, second interviews and selection of finalists May 12, finalists announced May 22, finalist interviews May 27 through 29 and a tentative selection announcement June 10, the release states. The new superintendent will start July 1.

Win two free pit seats to Rascal Flatts

The Calvert Marine Museum is offering a chance to win two free pit seats to see Rascal Flatts on Thursday, May 29, to those who become museum members by Monday, March 24. Membership benefits include free admission year round, a 10 percent discount on purchases in the Museum Store, insider invitations to exhibit openings and events, the quarterly newsletter full of interesting maritime-related articles and the opportunity to purchase the best seats in the house before they go on sale to the general public.

To join, go to www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/membership, or call 410-326-2042, ext. 16.

Tickets will go on sale to members at 10 a.m. March 25 and will be available to the general public at 10 a.m. April 1. Tickets are $68 for pit, $68 for premium or $58 for reserved and can be purchased by phone at 1-800-787-9454, in person at Prince Frederick Ford/Dodge (cash or check only) or online at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.

Green Expo accepting applications

The Calvert County Citizens Green Team now is accepting vendor applications for the sixth annual Calvert Green Expo and Green Craft Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, April 1. Last year’s event attracted more than 800 attendees and 100 vendors and exhibitors, a press release states. The Expo is intended to showcase local businesses and organizations that have incorporated sustainable practices into their operations and services. Call 410-326-4640 or email info@annmariegarden.org with any questions.

CSM tackles acquaintance rape in new play

The College of Southern Maryland’s Cause Theatre presents “But I Said No,” an educational theater piece that takes on the issue of acquaintance rape. The play has toured extensively on college campuses around the country. Upcoming performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, and Friday, March 28, and at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the La Plata Campus in the Fine Arts Center.

CSM’s Cause Theatre produces challenging and timely pieces that address social and health issues to create a forum for examining societal attitudes and behaviors, a press release states. “But I Said No” is an hourlong piece featuring monologues and short pieces, written by Margaret Baldwin and Doug Grissom of Offstage Theatre in Charlottesville, Va. First performed in 1990 and popular on college campuses ever since, “But I Said No” assists the audience in understanding clear distinctions between consensual and non-consensual sex. Additionally, the play depicts the double-standards in modern society related to sex and gender and dispels several rape myths.

Cast for “But I Said No” includes Aimee Bonnet of White Plains, Rusty Hrabe, Jeremy Hunter and Erin McQueen of La Plata, Alexis Miller of Crofton and Laura Stephens of Waldorf.

This production contains strong adult language and content and may not be suitable for younger audiences. Tickets are $5 for all ages. For information, contact the box office at 301-934-7828 or bxoffc@csmd.edu. For information about the arts at CSM, go to www.csmd.edu/Arts.

Calvert credit union treasurer remembered

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union’s treasurer, Maurice Erly of Calvert County, died earlier this week.

Maurice was a dedicated credit union volunteer since joining the board of directors in 1970, and had been a credit union member for more than 49 years. During his tenure, Erly served on numerous standing committees, led the board as chairman and served as treasurer for the past 15 years, a press release states. According to the release, Erly was a credit union champion and embodied its philosophy of “people helping people.”

“He believed that with hard work and by joining our Credit Union, every member could reach his or her financial goals and dreams,” said Chris Conway, president and CEO of Educational Systems FCU, in the release. “Maurice was an inspiration to us all and he will be dearly missed.”

Erly retired from the Prince George’s County Board of Education after 38 years of service, with more than 25 of those years spent as the coordinating supervisor of staff development, the release states. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Maryland.

“Having had the pleasure of serving with Maurice for over 40 years, he always brought great enthusiasm and vision to any discussion about how to better serve our members and develop our employees,” said Rosemary Brinkley, chair of Educational Systems FCU, in the release. “We are truly saddened by the loss of a member of our Credit Union family.”

Passionate about education and employee development, Erly was always interested in learning about people, their interests and expertise, according to the release. He never met a stranger and was always comfortable striking up a conversation with anyone. He and his wife, Patricia, made their home in Calvert and have three sons, John, Stephen and Bryan.

For nearly 60 years, Educational Systems FCU has been serving the education community. With more than $735 million in assets and 11 branches, the credit union serves nearly 90,000 members in seven school systems and three community colleges throughout Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot counties, according to the release.

Farm Bureau welcomes new hires

The Maryland Farm Bureau has hired two new field representatives to support members in the central and southern counties and the Eastern Shore. They will both begin their roles March 24.

Jennifer Richards of Brandywine will be responsible for Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, while Matthew Miller of North East will cover the Eastern Shore from Cecil County to Worcester County.

Richards finished a two-year degree at the College of Southern Maryland before working for Parks and Recreation in program development. She also served as a sheriff’s deputy. She continues to work on her bachelor’s degree in communications/public relations and has been a nanny for three years.

Miller has been working as an entomologist research intern with the University of Delaware and on Chesapeake Gold Farms. He has studied animal science at Penn State University and currently is taking classes at Cecil Community College. He was a 10-year 4-H member and now serves as a volunteer in the youth development program. He also is on the Cecil County Fair Board.

PRAD accepting grant applications

The opening of the Patuxent River Appreciation Days Inc.’s 2014 grant round has begun. Nonprofit organizations that provide educational programs about the Patuxent River or conduct research activities in and around the Patuxent River or Patuxent River Basin are eligible to apply.

The grant recipients for 2013 were Sotterley Plantation and Battle Creek Nature Center.

Awards are made on a competitive basis by the PRAD Inc. Board of up to $1,000 per organization in any one calendar year, according to a press release. The board includes members of the Calvert Marine Museum, the Pa-Po-Peake Shrine Club, The Calvert Artists Guild, The American Legion Arick L. Lore Post and the Calvert County Waterman’s Association.

To request an application, call Melissa McCormick at 410-326-2042, ext. 41, or email mccormmj@co.cal.md.us. The name of the nonprofit organization, contact person’s name, complete mailing address and a daytime telephone number or email address must be included. Deadline for completed applications is April 30. For more information, go to www.pradinc.org

Vendors sought for Renaissance Festival

The deadline for the vendor application for the College of Southern Maryland Renaissance Festival is Monday, March 31. The college is seeking food, artisan and handmade product vendors appropriate for the second Renaissance Festival beginning Thursday, April 24. Vendors of glass and clay, clothing, jewelry, wood, leather, art, musical instruments and toys are encouraged to apply. Vendors are asked to be outfitted in Renaissance style.

The festival will kick off with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, through Saturday, April 26, with music, weaponry demonstrations, outdoor plays, games, palm reading and face painting for children and adults. For both days, the fee is $50 for food vendors and $25 for product vendors. Applications are available at www.csmd.edu/Arts/renaissancefestival.html. Email bxoffc@csm.edu or call 301-934-7828 with any questions.

BCNES presents Nature’s ARTcade showcase

On June 7, Battle Creek Nature Education Society will present Nature’s ARTcade, a showcase of art inspired by Southern Maryland. The exhibition will be open Fridays and weekends, June 7 through 29, at Flag Ponds Nature Education Center in Lusby. More information can be found at www.calvertparks.org/ARTcade.

Artist entry forms and show information may be found at calvertparks.org. Prize monies for this exhibition will total $2,000. There also will be a student exhibit featuring the work of Calvert’s young artists. May 1 is the artist registration deadline; art selection will be May 15; artwork drop-off is May 31; and the opening reception and awards presentation will be June 7.

The curator for this exhibition will be Margaret Dowell, artist and adjunct professor of art at the College of Southern Maryland. Prize jurors include Jayme McLellan, artist, educator, curator and founder and director of the Washington, D.C., Civilian Art Projects, and Tom Horton, former environmental editor for the Baltimore Sun and author of several books about the Chesapeake Bay.

Students to test knowledge in Envirothon

Calvert County’s high school students will test their knowledge in the fields of wildlife management, soil conservation, forestry management and aquatic resources at the 23rd annual Calvert County Envirothon. The event will be held Wednesday, April 23, at Kings Landing Park from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Envirothon is an annual competition in which students work with environmental professionals to gain expertise in a variety of natural resource management fields, a press release states. The goal of the program is to engage students in activities that will hone their critical thinking and decision-making skills on environmental problems and to expose them to careers in the natural resources field. The winning team will advance to the state competition to be held at the Camp Pecometh, Centreville, on June 18 and 19.

The Envirothon is sponsored by the Calvert County Soil Conservation Service, Calvert Forestry Board, Calvert County Natural Resource Division, Morgan State University PEARL, American Chestnut Land Trust and the Calvert County Public Schools’ CHESPAX program. For more information, contact the CHESPAX office at 410-535-2960.

Wildlife rescue looking for volunteers

The Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center in Lusby treats and releases injured and orphaned wildlife and is looking for volunteers. The organization is a well-equipped facility, resting on 3 acres of wooded property, where the animals are housed and cared for, a press release states. Volunteer responsibilities include handling and feeding animals, cleaning cages and maintaining the facility. Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum 4½-hour shift, mornings or afternoons, on a regular day each week for three months between May and September, the rescue’s busiest time of the year. For more information, contact Anne at volunteerOWRC@comcast.net or 410-394-6735.

County to hold household hazardous waste collection day

The Calvert County Department of Public Works, Division of Solid Waste, is hosting the first household hazardous waste collection day of 2014 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Mt. Hope Community Center, 104 Pushaw Station Road, Sunderland. The event will give Calvert County residents the opportunity to safely dispose of hazardous substances free of charge.

During the collection day, a licensed contractor will collect household hazardous waste for proper disposal. Collection is limited to Calvert County residents only, and proof of residency, such as a tax or utility bill or driver’s license, is required. Waste from commercial businesses is prohibited, a press release states. This service ensures Calvert County meets all state and federal requirements with regard to the safe collection of household hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste commonly found in the home includes materials such as oil-based paints, gasoline, gas/oil mix, pool chemicals, solvents, fertilizers, prescription drugs, explosives and other items usually labeled with the words “DANGER,” “TOXIC,” “POISON” or “WARNING,” the release states. These items should be separated from regular household trash and disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Latex paint, however, is not hazardous and will not be accepted at the event. Latex paint may be thrown out with regular trash once it has dried. Small amounts of latex paint can be left to dry in an open can. Larger amounts can be combined with oil absorbent, cat litter or paint hardener until it is hard.

County residents may drop off trash and recyclables at customer convenience centers and the Appeal Landfill, including motor oil and oil filters, antifreeze, batteries, electronics, propane tanks, fire extinguishers, cooking oil, cellphones, printer cartridges, textiles and all types of light bulbs, the release states.

Hazardous waste collection days are held four times a year in Calvert County — one Saturday in March and September at the Mt. Hope Community Center and one Saturday in June and November at the Appeal Landfill. For more information, call 410-326-0210 or go to www.co.cal.md.us/hazardouswaste for a full listing of materials accepted.

World War II Memorial brick campaign underway

The Calvert County Department of General Services is coordinating the annual Veterans Patio Memorial Brick Campaign taking place now through April 1. For a limited time, the public may purchase memorial bricks to be placed at the Veterans Patio, located at the World War II “On Watch” Memorial statue in Solomons.

The commemorative bricks are available to memorialize those who served the country during World War II. The cost of each memorial brick is $100, and all contributions are tax deductible. Bricks will be installed in the fall of 2014, and purchasers will be notified when they are available for viewing, a press release states.

An application is available online at www.co.cal.md.us/OnWatch. To learn more, call Melinda Donnelly at 410-535-1600, ext. 2565.

The World War II “On Watch” memorial statue is an 8-foot-tall bronze statue by Maryland artist Antonio Tobias Mendez commemorating the people and work done at the Solomons Amphibious Training Base during WWII. This, the nation’s first amphibious training facility, was active from 1942 to 1945, and its effect on the area continues to be felt today, according to the release. The statue was unveiled in August 2007.

Discussion to focus on food-related issues

The Southern Maryland Food Council is hosting an open discussion Wednesday, May 7, relating to food in May. Topics may include community and/or school gardens, environmental effects of food systems, childhood obesity and disease, nutrition education, recycling, farming, natural foods and remedies and more, a press release states.

The event features an optional networking session from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and focused roundtable discussions from 7 to 9 p.m., giving participants an opportunity to share their unique interests and experiences, and make connections toward resolving food issues together, the release states.

The free event will be held at the Waldorf Jaycees building in Charles County. Register online at the “News and Announcements” page at www.smadc.com. To find out more about the Southern Maryland Food Council initiatives or this event, go to www.somdfoodcouncil.com, email info@somdfoodcouncil.com or call 301-274-1924, ext. 1.

snewman@somdnews.com