This Sunday, two county museums will hold open houses to unveil holiday exhibits. And while admission is free that day, residents are encouraged to bring in nonperishable food items, which will be donated to a local soup kitchen.

St. Clement’s Island Museum and Piney Point Lighthouse Museum will both be open for special events on Sunday, Dec. 1, from noon to 4 p.m. There will be refreshments, kid’s games and other activities at both locations.

St. Clement’s will feature its annual doll and train show, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the museum from noon to 2 p.m. Dr. Thomas Gerard, first owner of St. Clement’s Island, will talk about his property, and the COSMIC Flute Orchestra will perform from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

At Piney Point, there will be a “retro” theme to this year’s exhibits. On Sunday, visitors can get vintage photos taken of pets and enjoy a Christmas storytime and photos with Buddy the Elf.

The public is encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item when attending either of the free holiday open houses on Sunday. In exchange, they will be given one free pass per person to use at one of the museums at a future date. Both museums will be open daily (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) through Jan. 5, 2020, when regular admission fees apply.

The food will be donated to St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen to help feed residents in need during the holiday season through their “Feed the Families” program, which provides groceries for the most impoverished families at three Title 1 schools in St. Mary’s County.

Kristine Millen, executive director for the St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen, said in a release from the county that she is ecstatic to be partnering with the museums. “We are thrilled that the museum division will be working with us … Our mission is to provide free meals to anyone in need, no questions asked, serving all with a spirit of compassion, dignity, and respect, so every little bit helps to make sure no one goes hungry during the holidays,” Millen said.

St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen, founded in 1993 under the name Mary’s Song, is a small, community-based nonprofit organization based in Lexington Park. Though its primary mission is to serve breakfast and lunch, free of charge, Mondays through Saturdays, it operates many other programs of service, including those that provide to food-insecure families and children at local schools.

In 2018, St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen provided 39,773 free meals to needy local individuals, children and families, according to the release. It operates a facility on Great Mills Road and large number of programs with an active volunteer board of directors, two part-time staff members and about 100 regular volunteers.

“It is a perfect complement to the ‘Museums for All’ initiative, already in place at our sites,” Karen Stone, manager for the St. Mary’s County Museum Division, said in the release. “We welcome St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen as one of our many crucial collaborating community partners.”

For more about St. Clement’s museum, visit Facebook.com/SCIMuseum or call 301-769-2222. For more about the museum in Piney Point, visit Facebook.com/1836Light or call 301-994-1471.

For more about St. Mary’s Caring, including how to volunteer or donate directly, visit StMarysCaring.org.

Free holiday dinner set for Thanksgiving

The Church of the Ascension is having a community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Nov. 28, from noon to 3 p.m. The is located at 21641 Great Mills Road in Lexington Park. All are welcome to the family-style holiday dinner, at no cost. Call 301-863-8551.

Time to light the trees

Leonardtown’s premier holiday event, Christmas on the Square, featuring a tree-lighting ceremony, will be held on Friday, Nov. 29, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. There will be holiday festivities, music, entertainment, sleigh rides, a live nativity, petting zoo, stories with Mrs. Claus and Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting at 7 p.m. at this annual free event downtown.

Then, on Sunday, Dec. 1, stop by the Hollywood firehouse to see the department’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Doors open at 4 p.m. with crafts, and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will arrive about 5:30 p.m. There will be refreshments available and giveaways. Families should bring their own cameras.

Usher in the season at Bay District firehouse

The annual Winter Wonderland event at the Bay District firehouse in Lexington Park will be on Saturday, Nov. 30, from 5 to 9 p.m. There will be moon bounces, fire trunk rides, craft activities and pictures with Santa, along with a special appearance by Sparky the Fire Dog. And there will be a Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m. The next day, Sunday, Dec. 1, Santa will be back for breakfast, which will be served from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids younger than 5. For more information, email info@bdvfd.org or visit www.bdvfd.org.

Panel to discuss transportation, trails

The St. Mary’s County Health Department, in partnership with the environmental studies department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is hosting an open panel discussion on how community design and policy can improve public health and wellness on Tuesday, Dec. 3, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., in the Cole Cinema in the Campus Center.

Discussion will focus on how trails and walkable communities can be instrumental for improving public health, how policy can impact community wellness, and local action on the built environment. Panelists for this event include Fred Shaffer, planning coordinator for Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Sue Veith, urban and environmental planner for St. Mary’s department of economic development; and Kwasi Bosompem, senior planner for St. Mary’s department of land use and growth management.

This event is open to all St. Mary’s College students, faculty and staff, public health professionals, and community members who would like to learn more on this public health issue. Visit https://trailspanel.eventbrite.com.

Weigh in on new solar farm at public hearing

A public comment hearing on a request to build a solar generating facility in St. Mary’s will be held on Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Inn, located at 22211 Three Notch Road in Lexington Park. Hosted by the Maryland Public Service Commission, members of the public can comment on the proposal by Lightsource Renewable Energy Development, known as the Whitetail Solar Project, and the accompanying interconnecting facilities proposed on 81 acres south of the intersection of Hermanville Road and Three Notch Road. Written comments may be submitted using the commission; instructions can be found at www.psc.state.md.us/make-a-public-comment.

New farm holiday guide available from agency

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 over 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, whisky 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 SMADC.com and free printed guides are available at participating farms and businesses as well as at local public libraries and visitor centers.

Visit MVA on Black Friday

The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration will close all branch offices and VEIP stations Thursday, Nov. 28, in observance of Thanksgiving. All offices and stations will reopen Friday, Nov. 29, at 8:30 a.m., and the agency is encouraging customers to take care of their MDOT MVA business on Black Friday when historically volume at branch offices has been lighter. Customers looking to become REAL ID compliant are encouraged to make an appointment.

The complete MDOT MVA holiday and closure schedule is available at mva.maryland.gov/locations/holidays.

Home repair help offered

Apply now for home repair help for the 2020 Christmas in April in St. Mary’s County. The event, to be held on April 25, 2020, will be the 30th year for the one-day restoration and renovation blitz.

The organization rehabilitates houses of low income, elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners. Applications may be picked up at local libraries and senior centers, as well as at www.christmasinaprilsmc.org. For more, call 301-884-2905.

Bank collecting food, toys this season

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 cusicks@cbtc.com.

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 http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/Education/education_trunks.aspx.