St. Mary’s government is continuing its Day to Serve initiative, joining in a “friendly competition” with other municipalities in the state as well as Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., to support volunteerism at local nonprofits.

This year’s Day to Serve program began Wednesday, Sept. 11, giving county government employees the opportunity to use any four consecutive hours of paid administrative leave to volunteer at a nonprofit of their choice until the event ends Oct. 10.

“It’s very needed in the community,” Susan Lloyd, executive director of United Way of St. Mary’s County, said during a St. Mary’s commissioners’ meeting Tuesday. “People don’t understand the value of volunteer hours to a nonprofit.”

“The beauty of the Day to Serve initiative is that employees can volunteer at the place of their choice, during their scheduled work hours and be reimbursed for the four hours,” Catherine Pratson, director of human resources for the county, said.

This year, more flexibility in the program has been given for public safety officers who want to volunteer, but whose shift schedules may preclude them from doing so. Following a request by Commissioner John O’Connor (R) last year, Pratson said those officers will be able to volunteer on their own time off, and will be given four hours of paid administrative leave.

As examples of some of the available volunteer opportunities, Lloyd noted two local nonprofits in need of assistance — St. Mary’s Caring, a Lexington Park-based soup kitchen that provides free meals to those in need, and the Greenwell Foundation in Hollywood, whose “mission is to help people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities connect with nature” through multiple programs, Lloyd said.

Those organizations are seeking volunteers to spruce up their respective facilities, including general yard work, fence repairs and maintenance, along with other tasks, Lloyd said.

“This initiative is very important to the nonprofits of the county,” especially those who have been affected by tax changes, she said.

“We started slow in 2016,” when St. Mary’s first joined the initiative, “and last year we had 45 volunteers. So we are really gaining steam,” Pratson said.

To participate, employees will be required to complete a leave request form and obtain approval from their supervisor before volunteering, and will have to provide documentation from where they volunteered after their hours are complete. Except for public safety officers, the volunteer work should be conducted during the employee’s scheduled hours to qualify for the paid leave.

Local and state agencies in need of volunteers can be found on the Day to Serve website at www.daytoserve.org/maryland and on the Volunteer Southern Maryland site at vsmd.csmd.edu.

“This combined with the [Retired and Senior Volunteer] program shows just how many people volunteer and support this community,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said.

Local students place in national skills contest in Kentucky

Maryland’s SkillsUSA delegation brought home 18 medals from the 55th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference, recently held in Louisville, Ky., where they showcased their skills in 94 competitions.

Seven students or teams from St. Mary’s placed in the top 10 during the national competition, including three that brought home top honors by earning gold medals.

The team of Victoria Brooks and Aiden Kaleta won gold for audio-radio production, Annalee Johnson won gold for medical terminology and Madison McBride won gold for nurse assisting.

Other top finishers included Britney Duong, fourth place in dental assisting; Danielle Brooks, fifth place in job interview; Hannah Virts, fifth place in telecommunications cabling; and George Rivers, ninth place in principles of engineering and technology.

NASA historians set to speak next week

Join William Barry, NASA chief historian, and Rebecca Klein, NASA preservation officer, on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In a panel discussion, Barry will share “Some Things You Probably Don’t Know about NASA History,” and Klein will describe managing this amazing history in “Then and Now; Then in Now: A Tale of Two Preservation Approaches.” The presentations will be held in Cole Cinema at the Campus Center beginning at 4:10 p.m.

The presentations are part of the college’s annual Museum Studies Week with a focus this year on NASA in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, Dan Bramos of the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum will present “Fifty Years Since the Footprint.” Bramos’ presentation will be held in the Blackistone Room of Anne Arundel Hall beginning at 4:45 p.m.

All presentations are free of charge and open to the public.

Public invited to spaghetti dinner

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, located at 27108 Mt. Zion Church Road in Mechanicsville, is holding an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner Saturday, Sept. 14 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Adults who want to get their fill will be charged $10, while children 7 and under are free. The menu includes spaghetti and meatballs, tossed salad, toasted garlic bread and coffee and iced tea. Gluten-free noodles are available on request, and desserts will be available for purchase. For more info, visitwww.mtzionmech.org or call 301-884-4132.

Sheriff highlights child safety seats

Child safety seats are required for all children under the age of 8. The St. Mary’s sheriff’s office earlier this summer put out a reminder that Maryland law defines a child safety seat as intended “to be used to restrain, seat, or position a child who is transported in a motor vehicle. ‘Child safety seat’ does not mean a seat belt or combination seat belt-shoulder harness used alone.”

A person transporting a child under the age of 8 years in a motor vehicle shall secure the child in a child safety seat in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall or taller, according to Maryland law. The fine for not securing a child in a child safety seat is $83.

Tanning beds will be off limits to minors

The Maryland Department of Health is alerting residents that beginning Oct. 1, tanning facilities cannot allow minors under the age of 18 to use any tanning device, including sunlamps, tanning booths or tanning beds. Employees will be required to verify the age of anyone using a tanning device; violations will be subject to civil penalties and fines.

According to a Maryland health department report, 1,715 Marylanders were diagnosed in 2015 with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that indoor tanning causes more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States annually. In addition to skin cancer, the health risks associated with tanning include premature skin aging, burns and adverse reactions if used with certain medications, foods and cosmetics. For more, call the Maryland Department of Health Environmental Helpline at 1-866-703-3266.

Chopticon’s Class of 1969 to hold reunion

The Chopticon High School Class of 1969 is planning its 50th class reunion this fall. Members or teachers of this class can update contact information to receive announcements for the festivities by contacting Sarah Blackistone Richardson at 240-925-1119 or TheMightySBR@msn.com, or Norwood Graves 301-848-9525 or Saramy1@verizon.net.

Design the next migratory game bird stamp

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites artists to submit their original works for the 46th Annual Migratory Game Bird stamp design contest.

New this year, the contest will be held in conjunction with the annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton on Nov. 8 to 10, where there will be a “People’s Choice Award,” which will let festival-goers cast their vote for their favorite entry. The department will officially judge the entries at noon on Nov. 10 to select the winner.

Each contestant may submit up to three entries for a fee of $15 for one entry, $20 for two entries and $30 for three entries. Proceeds help fund game bird and waterfowl research and projects.

To enter, contestants must mail their designs with required fees and forms by Nov. 1. Complete contest rules and entry forms can be found at http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Documents/DuckStampContest.pdf.

Myrtle Point gets ‘Resiliency’ grant

The Maryland Board of Public Works last month approved $248,480 for four Resiliency through Restoration projects, including one in St. Mary’s County. The awards were selected through a competitive solicitation to help communities enhance their resiliency to the effects of climate change, erosion, flooding, and extreme weather.

St. Mary’s will design a living shoreline at Myrtle Point Park with climate-resilient and wetland enhancement features to address erosion and sea level rise while preserving beach access within the park.

The other three awards are for Prince George’s County, Hyattsville; Queen Anne’s County, Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center; and Worcester County, Swans Gut Creek.

Artwork needed for river festival

Patuxent River Appreciation Day will celebrate its 42nd year on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Calvert Marine Museum. Admission is free. The festival, which was formerly held over two days, is in search of local vendors. Booth spaces are available for $50. To apply for a space, visit www.calvertmarinemuseum.com for the full application and additional information; applications must be received by Sept. 20.

Seniors can learn about Lyme disease

The St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services’ Northern Senior Activity Center last month was recognized with a Program of Excellence Award: Honorable Mention in the Nutrition and Health Promotions Category from the Maryland Association of Senior Centers for Lyme Action Tool Kits.

The kits were developed to fill a public education and outreach niche for the complex issue of tick-borne disease. MarieNoelle Lautieri, Northern Senior Activity Center Operations manager and facilitator of a lyme disease support group, learned that the senior community was asking for direct and specific instructions about this topic and produced the tool kit for those not comfortable using, or without access to, the internet.

Tool kits are available free of charge to those 50 or older, one per person. For more information, visit www.stmarysmd.com/aging or call 301-475-4200, ext. 71050.