The St. Mary’s County Business, Education and Community Alliance, known as BECA, acts as a type of clearinghouse to link scholarship providers with college-bound students.

BECA has supported students and schools in St. Mary’s for three decades by offering scholarships to graduating high school seniors. In addition, BECA sponsors the annual Common Scholarship Application that includes about 50 scholarships offered by local organizations or individuals. Many of the more than 100 scholarships offered are relatively small, one-time awards, including in the range of $500 to $1,500.

Some of the stalwarts of the Common Scholarship Application include local Rotary Clubs, the Stephen D. Mattingly II Memorial Scholarship, the NAACP Claudia Pickeral Scholarship and the Women’s Club of St. Mary’s. Each year some scholarships come and go, but in general the number included on the common application continues to increase.

The benefit to the scholarship providers is the broad reach and high number of returns with the common application.

“We net about two to three every year,” Bob Schaller, president of BECA, said of the increase in financial aid offerings linked to the Common Scholarship Application.

Earlier this year, 270 completed applications were received, and, from these, about 130 scholarships were awarded. These numbers steadily have grown each year, but there’s an ongoing need to help fill the gap between applications and awards.

To help fill this gap, BECA is seeking scholarships to add to the 2020 common application. Scholarships can be started for as little as $500, and will make a difference for a student wishing to pursue advanced education. BECA can assist with creating the scholarship.

New scholarships for next year will be accepted through Dec. 13, although anyone interested should contact the group as soon as possible, Schaller said. Particular areas of scholarship need include teacher education, health care, cybersecurity and software development, building and technical trades, fine arts and performing arts, and students with economic and social hardships.

“There not just limited to that list,” Schaller said, adding that anyone interested in offering a scholarship for just about any topic can contact the group to see about joining. “The window is open,” he said.

Organizations interested in supporting one of these or any area can contact Schaller and Mark Smith at or 240-257-2322 or P.O. Box 153, Leonardtown MD 20650.

The group’s annual scholarship fair is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center in Leonardtown, where many of the scholarship providers will be in attendance to chat with and assist students and their families. Other colleges and organizations will also have representatives available, and there will be workshops on completing the common application and the financial aid process.

Scholarship included in the 2020 Common Scholarship Application will be posted at by Dec. 16. Completed applications will be due Feb. 18, 2020.

Christmas concert planned for Dec. 14

The Sanford Concert Series will present “A Joyous Christmas,” featuring members from the Washington National Opera joined by Jim Bowser, the choral teacher at Leonardtown Middle School, as well as songs by Two Rivers Harmony, on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in California. This choral program of songs of Christmas and the winter season includes audience participation. There will be a reception following the concert.

Ticket costs are $25 for adults or $15 for students at the door, or $20 and $10 if purchased in advance, which is recommended. For more information or to buy tickets, call Lyn Schramm at 240-538-4182 or visit

Share a breakfast with Santa at Forrest center

Join the students and staff of the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center for the annual breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 8 to 11 a.m. at the school site across from the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown. Santa will make his grand entrance at 8:30 a.m.

Enjoy a delicious breakfast prepared by the Forrest center’s culinary arts students. Admission to this event, which includes breakfast, is $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children 3 and younger. An omelet bar is available for an additional $2.

There will also be kids activities and a Santa’s Workshop for children to purchase small gifts. Bring a camera to get a picture with Santa, or purchase a photo for $5.

Proceeds will benefit the Forrest center’s SkillsUSA chapter and student programs. For more, contact Amanda Granados at 301-475-0242, ext. 28210, or

Pianist to perform this month at college

Brian Ganz is offering a series of recitals for classical music lovers in the St. Mary’s College of Maryland community. He resumed his popular noon concert series with two PianoTalk offerings, the first was last month, and the second will be today, Wednesday, Dec. 4, when he will tackle several polonaises, including one of Chopin’s greatest masterpieces, the “Polonaise-Fantaisie.”

Ganz will also play one full-length evening recital, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, which will include several of the works considered in the PianoTalks. He will also take Chopin requests from the audience.

And, his students will perform their year-end recital at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11, to include duets by Ravel and solo works by Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn and others.

All programs will take place in the Auerbach Auditorium of St. Mary’s Hall on the college campus and are free and open to the public. For more information, call 240-895-4498 or visit

Ganz hopes to be the first to perform all the works of Chopin. He began his “Extreme Chopin” quest at Strathmore in North Bethesda in 2011 in a recital that launched the ambitious campaign to perform the composer’s approximately 250 works. The 10th recital in the series, Chopin and the Growth of Genius, will take place on Feb. 1, 2020. Tickets and more information are at

Holiday open mic set

A holiday open mic and potluck dinner for Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance will be held on Friday, Dec. 6, at Christ Church Parish Hall, located at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. The evening will begin with a pot luck dinner at 6:30 p.m.; bring a favorite dish or dessert to share. Acoustic musicians will perform their favorite holiday tunes starting at 7:30 p.m. Musicians are to sign up in advance by emailing Mike Smith Admission is $7; performers are admitted free. Visit for more.

Bank drive collecting food and toys for area

Community Bank of the Chesapeake is hosting its ninth annual holiday food and toy drive now through Dec. 6. Nonperishable food items and new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at any Community Bank branch.

The drive will benefit several nonprofit organizations in the area.

Food collected in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties will be donated to the Southern Maryland Food Bank, according to a release from the bank.

All toys collected will benefit the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots programs in Southern Maryland and Fredericksburg, Va.

“I am proud to share we donated over 1,000 toys in St. Mary’s County to children in need last year. We have a great group of volunteers that participate each year in the Toys for Tots program and we are always amazed on how giving the community is,” Chuck Jones, director of St. Mary’s Toys for Tots program, said in the release.

For more information regarding the drive, contact Stefanie at 240-427-1048 or

New farm holiday guide available

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission has released the 2019 edition of its Farm Holiday Guide, a free booklet featuring Southern Maryland farm products and events available during the holidays.

This year’s guide showcases more than 80 farms and agriculture-related businesses in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties. Extensive listings offer an array of home-grown options for festive decorating, entertaining and gift giving. Find local “choose and cut” Christmas trees and greenery, quality meats and poultry, wines, beer, whiskey and rum, freshly harvested oysters and seafood, farm-made cheese, produce, jams and pickles, plus unique handmade gifts. Look for special sections that highlight tips for buying firewood, where to order locally raised turkeys, and find farm-hosted tours, tastings and more.

The “Holiday Farm Guide” is available now to view or download on the “Get Our Guides” page at and free printed guides are available at participating farms and businesses as well as at local public libraries and visitor centers.

Art supply drive is underway

Bethany Yates, an artist and social worker, is collecting art supplies through Dec. 15 for local children in need. Donations of items may be made at the St. Mary’s County Arts Council office in Leonardtown or at Yates’ office in Lexington Park. Local pickup may also be arranged. Email for more information.

Teachers can borrow wildlife education trunks

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is offering a variety of wildlife education trunks for use by classroom teachers, home-school educators, naturalists, scout leaders and other instructors. These unique, interdisciplinary teaching tools designed to educate and engage students about local wildlife while building on fundamental disciplines like art, language arts, math, physical education, science and social studies.

Each trunk contains an educator guide with background information, lesson plans, as well as activity supplies, books and other hands-on items. The trunks are available for a variety of subjects, including aquatic invasive species, bats, furbearers, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, and can be borrowed free of charge for up to two weeks. They are available at seven locations around the state. More information is available at

Special movie showings planned

The Promise Resource Center has partnered with R/C Theaters Lexington Exchange to provide Special Showings for Special Needs, bringing sensory-friendly movie showings to Southern Maryland. The region has a large community of families with special-needs children, many who are unable to attend a movie because of sensory issues such as light and sound sensitivity, trouble sitting still or staying quiet. During these special showings, the sound will be turned down, the lights will be turned up, and parents or providers can bring their own snacks and drinks for children with dietary restrictions, according to a release from The Promise Resource Center. Parents can relax and children can feel free to sing, cry, shout, or dance in a comfortable, judge-free zone.

The showings will occur on one Tuesday and one Saturday of each month. Admission is a reduced rate for bargain Tuesdays and the concessions will be open. Call 301-290-0040 or visit for the schedule.