Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced that his office is now accepting applications from students in Maryland for nominations to one of the Uniformed Service Academies for the class of 2024.

All applications and supporting materials must be received electronically by 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. More information and the online application can be found at www.vanhollen.senate.gov/constituent-services/academy-nominations.

Qualified applicants will interview with Senator Van Hollen’s Service Academy Advisory Board on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the University of Maryland University College Largo Campus.

So. Md. March for Babies event May 5

Hundreds of families and local business leaders will join together on Sunday, May 5, at Regency Furniture Stadium for March for Babies to fight for the health of all moms and babies.

This year’s Southern Maryland ambassador family is 2-year-old Vincent Jones and his family. In 2016, after years of struggling with infertility, Denise and James Jones were excited to be growing their family. But their baby Vinny arrived at only 28 weeks, weighing two and half pounds. He suffered two brain bleeds and chronic lung disease and spent his first months fighting for life in the newborn intensive care unit. Today the Jones family is dedicated to sharing their story to inspire others to help give every baby, and every family, a brighter start.

On-site registration will begin at 8 a.m. with the 3-mile walk kicking off at 9 a.m. You can sign up today at marchforbabies.org and begin fundraising. Start a team with your company, family or friends. You can also donate directly.

March of Dimes gives more than 4 million babies born each year the best possible start. Nearly half a million of them are born prematurely or with birth defects. Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in the U.S. and pregnancy-related deaths have more than doubled over the past 25 years.

County government announces Memorial Day schedule

The Charles County administrator reminds residents of changes to normal operating schedules for the month of May. All offices, facilities and services not listed will be operating their normal hours.

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

All Charles County Government offices and the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville will be closed.

The Charles County Landfill and Recycling Center on Billingsley Road in Waldorf, and the Pisgah Recycling Center on Route 425 in Pisgah will be closed.

Curbside recycling and yard waste collection will be delayed one day for the entire week, Tuesday, May 28, through Saturday, June 1.

VanGO services will not be operating.

The Nanjemoy Community Center, senior centers, Port Tobacco Recreation Center and all school-based community centers are closed.

Lackey, Donald M. Wade Aquatic Center and North Point High indoor pools will be open from 1 to 9 p.m.

The Crain Memorial Welcome Center is closed.

Port Tobacco Village (Port Tobacco Courthouse, Burch House, Stagg Hall) is closed.

Charles County Public Library is closed (all branches closed: Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27).

Charles County Health Department is closed.

For questions about County Government holiday closures, contact the public information Office at 301-885-2779 or PressRoom@CharlesCountyMD.gov. Citizens with special needs may contact the Maryland Relay Service at 711, or Relay Service TDD: 800-735-2258.

Shred event, workshops set for June 1

The Charles County Department of Public Works is hosting an environmental outreach event on Saturday, June 1, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Charles County Government Building parking lot, at 200 Baltimore St. in La Plata. Backyard composting and rain barrel workshops, as well as free document shredding are available. Advance registration for the workshops is required.

Charles County Government and the University of Maryland Extension staff are offering one-hour workshops for rain barrels and composting. The first rain barrel and compost bin workshops begin at 9:30 a.m.

The shredding event offers:

• Free, secure, on-site shredding services available from 9 a.m. to noon.

• Bring up to five boxes (per vehicle) of personal documents for shredding and recycling.

• Event is for Charles County residents only.

For more information, call the Department of Public Works’ Environmental Resources Division at 301-932-3599 or 301-870-2778.

Take home a rain barrel and learn proper in-home installation techniques, practical uses for rain barrels and how to reduce the impact of runoff on local waterways at the Rain Barrel Workshop. It can help you become eligible for a stormwater remediation fee credit. Advance registration is required. Register at go.umd.edu/CCRBJune12019, or for more information, call Erica Hahn at 301-396-5237 or Jackie Takacs at 240-393-6508. The registration deadline is Wednesday, May 29.

In the hands-on Composting Workshop, participants will learn the basics of home composting. Registrants can receive a free plastic GEOBIN or get instructions on making a wire bin at home. Registration is required. Register at compostworkshop.eventbrite.com. For more information, call the Department of Public Works’ Environmental Resources Division at 301-932-3569 or Luke Gustafson at 301-934-5403. The registration deadline is Saturday, May 25.

For registration forms and additional information, visit www.CharlesCountyMD.gov/Outreach. Citizens with special needs may contact the Maryland Relay Service at 711, or Relay Service TDD: 800-735-2258.

Dept. of Health offers program to quit smoking

The Charles County Department of Health will host an eight-week smoking cessation program starting in early May. This program offers quitting support, help with making a quitting plan and quitting aids. Pre-registration is required. To register, call Mary Beth Klick at 301-609-6932.

ArtsFest 2019 registration now open

The 27th annual ArtsFest will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, on the grounds of the La Plata Town Hall, at 305 Queen Anne St. in La Plata. ArtsFest is the largest arts festival in Charles County, and one of the largest in Southern Maryland. This is the eighth year of presenting the festival in partnership with the Town of La Plata.

Visual and literary artists of all media are invited to display and sell their original works. In addition, nonprofit arts organizations are invited as exhibitors to display information and encourage participation in their performing, visual and literary arts activities. Also invited as nonprofit exhibitors are cultural, historical, heritage and environmental organizations. Local commercial organizations are also invited to distribute information on their products and services.

There will be live entertainment on two stages, and a variety of great food will be available for purchase throughout the day.

Registration forms are available at charlescountyarts.org/program/artsfest. Early bird registration ends April 30.

Program raises $100K yearly for people in need

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative introduced the Members Helping Members program in Dec. 2010 and as of Jan. 2019, more than 2,300 SMECO members contribute to the program, raising more than $100,000 a year to help neighbors who are struggling to pay their electric bills.

Members of the cooperative who enroll in the program are simply billed an additional $1, $5, or $10 each month on their SMECO electric bill and those contributions may be tax deductible. This program is voluntary, and members can choose to cancel their participation at any time.

Each month, the accumulated donations are sent to the Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, which administers the funds to those members who seek aid and meet the qualifications. Only SMECO members who meet the eligibility requirements will receive assistance to pay their electric utility bill.

SMECO members who are interested in enrolling in the program can call 1-888-440-3311, visit the website at www.smeco.coop/mhm, or sign up in person at one of the customer service counters at a SMECO location. Anyone who would like to make a larger donation to Members Helping Members may send a check to Members Helping Members at P.O. Box 1937, Hughesville, MD 20637.

SMECO members who sign up by Feb. 15, will receive a thank-you gift based on their level of giving.

SMECO members who need assistance with paying their electric bill can contact the Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee for information on eligibility requirements and an application for assistance.

Other programs are also available to help eligible members with their electric bills. These programs include the Maryland Energy Assistance Program and the Electric Universal Service Program. To determine eligibility, customer-members requesting assistance should contact their local Office of Home Energy Programs.

UM CRMC lab receives two agency accreditations

The University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center received AABB and College of American Pathologists accreditations, based on results of a recent on-site inspection, according to a hospital news release.

During the CAP Accreditation process, which is designed to ensure the highest standard of care for all laboratory patients, inspectors examine the laboratory’s records and procedural quality control for the preceding two years. CAP inspectors also examine laboratory staff qualifications, equipment, facilities, safety program and record, and overall management.

The U.S. federal government recognizes the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program, begun in the early 1960s, as being equal-to or more-stringent-than the government’s own inspection program. UM CRMC joins more than 8,000 CAP-accredited facilities worldwide.

The AABB Accreditation follows an intensive, on-site assessment by trained AABB assessors, and establishes that the level of technical and administrative performance within the facility meets or exceeds AABB’s standards. AABB’s Accreditation Program contributes to the quality and safety of collecting, processing, testing, distributing and administering blood and cellular therapy products.

UM CRMC is one of several facilities located throughout the United States and around the world that also have earned AABB Accreditation.

Community Foundation now accepting grant applications

The Community Foundation of Southern Maryland is now accepting applications for its Opportunity Fund Grant program.

Organizations serving residents of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties may receive grants of up to $5,000 for drug rehabilitation, including opioid addiction issues, emotional rehabilitation, domestic violence and youth physical, mental and emotional health.

Applications to support enhanced service delivery through licensed professionals is encouraged.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Feb. 22. Grant awards will be announced in March. Grant periods are from March to June 2019, and final reports are due June 30.

Applications must be typed using 12-point font and emailed to director@cfsomd.org and add “The Opportunity Fund” in the subject line. Questions can also be emailed to director@cfsomd.org.

Nominations being accepted for leadership program

The nomination cycle for the Leadership Southern Maryland Executive Program Class of 2020 is now open. There are informational breakfasts planned in all three counties as well as an evening event. Applications are due no later than April 1.

To qualify, a nominee must be:

• a mid to senior-level leader with significant career and community achievements; a resident or employee of Calvert, Charles, or St. Mary’s county;

• willing to commit the time, energy and resources necessary to actively participate in and complete the nine-month executive program;

• volunteer time and energy to their community, giving back and paying forward, recognizing the personal and professional benefits of doing so;

• ready to make a significant contribution towards shaping the Southern Maryland region; and

• willing to continue supporting the efforts of the organization after completing the program.

To nominate an individual, use the nomination form on the LSM website at www.leadershipsomd.org

Volunteers sought for Professional Services Hub

After graduation, Leadership Southern Maryland graduates and alumni can continue to support nonprofit organizations in the community through a new partnership with the Nonprofit Institute at the College of Southern Maryland. The two organizations have teamed up to create the Professional Services Hub, a resource for local nonprofits to tap into the professional expertise of LSM alumni at no initial charge. So far, the program is offering basic legal, accounting/financial and insurance-related counsel, thanks to volunteers who have already stepped up. The goal is to add marketing and public relations support, as well as other fields.

Volunteers are needed. If you have professional expertise and are willing to make a two-year commitment to provide pro bono services through the Professional Services Hub, contact the Nonprofit Institute at CSM coordinator: Harriet Yaffe in St. Mary’s County at hyaffe@csmd.edu or Cara Fogarty in Charles County at cfogarty@csmd.edu.

Current freshmen can apply to attend CASE program

Charles County Public Schools has extended its 2019-20 application cycle to current freshmen for the CASE: Natural Resources Pathway Career and Technology Education program, according to a press release.

The program is Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education and begins at Maurice J. McDonough High School in the fall. Enrollment is limited to any current CCPS freshman not already enrolled in a CTE program.

Enrollment opened on Feb. 11 and closes at 3 p.m. Feb. 28. Interested students can apply online at www.ccboe.com/schools/mcdonough/index.php/login/cte-case-program. Enrollment is for the 2019-20 school year. The application will be live on the McDonough website Feb. 11.

Transportation will be provided by CCPS for students accepted into the CASE program who are not zoned for McDonough. As part of CASE program requirements, students take four pathway courses: Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Natural Resources and Ecology; Environmental Science Issues; and Agricultural Research and Development. Program curriculum is aligned to national standards for agricultural education and science.

Accepted students will attend McDonough as sophomores at the start of the 2019-20 school year. Acceptance letters for all CTE programs, including for eighth-grade students who applied last month, will be sent in April.

Current freshmen can also apply for admission to limited CTE programs located at North Point High School. Go to tinyurl.com/ybmqjpqw for more details.

Contact the CCPS CTE office at 301-934-7303 with questions.

Registration open for mental health workshops

Registration is now open for the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts’ Mental Health Workshops. Funded by the Rural Maryland Council and The Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the purpose of these workshops is to bring awareness of mental health in rural areas, according to a press release.

While not often talked about in the industry, farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of any job in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Farmers are also among the highest risk professions for drug abuse and alcoholism.

MASCD, in partnership with University of Maryland Extension, is hoping to make a change in that trend within the state of Maryland, according to the release. Through these workshops, individuals working in the field with farmers on a daily basis will receive training to detect early warning signs and learn about prevention methods for severe mental stress and substance abuse.

These workshops will be targeted towards, but not limited to, agribusiness professionals, crop consultants, extension agents, farm bureau leaders, nutrient management planners, agricultural lenders and soil conservation district employees. Farmers and farm families are also welcomed and encouraged to attend.

The local workshop will be held at the Charles Soil Conservation District office on March 8.

To register for the workshop, go to mascdmentalhealth.eventbrite.com, contact Danielle Bauer at 443-262-8491 or email Danielle.mdag@gmail.com.

U.S. Postal Service issues Hearts Blossom stamp

The U.S. Postal Service announced the latest stamp in the popular Love series, the Hearts Blossom Forever stamp.

The Hearts Blossom stamp shows 12 colorful hearts in a palette of red, purple, orange and pink. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.

News of the stamp is being shared on social media using the hashtag #LoveStamps. Followers of the Postal Service’s Facebook page can view a recording of the announcement ceremony at facebook.com/USPS.

The Postal Service has captured the essence of love on stamp artwork ever since issuing the first Love series on stamps in 1973.

Customers may purchase stamps and other philatelic products through the Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), by mail through USA Philatelic catalog or at Post Office locations nationwide.

Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative announces new website

The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative is starting 2019 off fresh with a brand new website, chesapeakemonitoringcoop.org. This website provides a platform to share CMC services and resources that have been developed over the past three years and are freely available. The CMC brings together a diverse group of people who monitor water quality to provide a greater understanding of Chesapeake Bay watershed health. The new website helps promote collaboration among monitoring groups throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

The CMC has developed quality assurance project plans, standard monitoring operating procedures, and an interactive database for both data collectors and data users. The CMC offers participating groups much more beyond the developed tools and resources. Partners work closely with monitoring groups to determine which parameters best fit water quality questions, to provide monitoring training workshops, to format their data for incorporation into a centralized data portal and more.

Peace groups sponsor Md. middle school writing contest

All Maryland middle school students are invited to enter a statewide writing contest focusing on the themes of peace and social justice.

The contest, which is sponsored by Anne Arundel Peace Action, the Maryland Peace Action Education Fund, the Benjamin Peace Foundation and the Peace and Justice Center of Annapolis Friends Meeting, is open to all 7th and 8th grade students enrolled in public or private schools in Maryland and to home-schooled students corresponding to the same grade levels. This is the 23rd consecutive year the contest has been conducted.

Four cash prizes will be awarded: $350 for first place, $250 for second place, $150 for third place, and $100 for fourth place. The winners will be honored at a special ceremony, although attendance is not required to receive an award.

To enter, students must submit an entry of up to 1,200 words on this topic:

“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees our most fundamental liberties, including prohibiting the government from restricting freedom of speech or the press, the free exercise of religion, the right to assemble peacefully, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. However, these freedoms have been threatened throughout American history. Which one of these do you believe faces the greatest challenges at this time? Support your views with examples from current events. What actions do you suggest to protect the freedom you selected”?

Entries must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet including the student’s name, address and phone number or e-mail address; school’s name, address and phone number; and the name of the teacher sponsor if applicable.

Entries and accompanying materials must be postmarked no later than April 30, 2019 and mailed to Fred B. Benjamin Peace Writing Contest, 310 Riverview Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21403-3328.

For more information, call 410-263-7409 or e-mail mjkeller@att.net.

DNR announces photo contest

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is now accepting entries for its annual photo contest. Novice and professional photographers can enter for the chance to win cash and other great prizes.

Winning entries will be posted online, featured in an issue of the seasonal Maryland Natural Resource magazine, and placed in the 2020 wall calendar.

More than 4,300 photos were submitted by more than 800 photographers in the 2018 contest, shattering last year’s record of 1,500 photos. Photographers from more than 16 states, including California, Florida, New York and Ohio entered the contest.

Entries can include images from anywhere in Maryland featuring birds, fauna, flora, insects, natural phenomena, outdoor recreation, scenic landscapes, weather or wildlife. Judges will choose first, second and third place winners for each season; from among the first-prize winners, an overall grand prize winner will be awarded. Social media users will also be able to select a “Fan Favorite” via the department’s Facebook page.

Photographers may submit up to three entries for $10 with additional entries (no limit) at $3 each between now and Aug. 31. All photos must be original and unpublished. The contest is open to residents and visitors alike, but only photos of Maryland will qualify to win.

The best overall photo receives a grand prize of $500 cash, a one-year Maryland State Park and Trail Passport, a complimentary five-year magazine subscription and five copies of the 2020 calendar. First, second and third place winners also receive prizes.

Maryland Traditions applications now open

Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, is currently accepting applications for Apprenticeship Awards and nominations for Heritage Awards. Applications and nominations are open until Feb. 15.

The Apprenticeship Award supports up to one year of study in folklife or living cultural traditions. During the study period, a master folklife practitioner passes down her or his knowledge to an apprentice in an effort to support the vitality of folklife in Maryland. Apprenticeships may focus on performance-based forms of folklife, such as storytelling, music or dance; tangible forms of folklife, such as craft, costume or food; or occupational forms of folklife, such as those found in maritime, agricultural or architectural traditions.

The Heritage Awards recognize outstanding stewardship of Maryland folklife. Through a public nomination process, three awards are given each year in the categories of Person, Place and Tradition. Awardees will be recognized in a public ceremony hosted in conjunction with the Maryland Arts Summit in June 2019.

For more information, contact an MSAC staff member using the information in the Apprenticeship Award application or Heritage Award nomination. To access these documents, go to http://www.msac.org/programs/maryland-traditions. Look for information on the next round of Maryland Traditions Project Grant applications in the coming weeks.

Maryland State Fair dates set

The 138th MY Maryland State Fair is scheduled to begin Thursday, Aug. 22 and run through Monday, Sept. 2, at the Timonium fairgrounds in Baltimore County. MY Maryland State Fair is complete with daily home arts, farm and garden, livestock and horse exhibits, rides, games, live concerts and entertainment, live thoroughbred horse racing, fair treats and farm fresh foods, U-Learn Farm, the innovation Station, a museum and more. For more information and ticket prices, call 410-252-0200, ext. 227, email msfair@msn.com or go to www.marylandstatefair.com.

Lawyers donate 1.16 million hours

Maryland lawyers donated more than 1.16 million hours of volunteer or pro bono legal services in 2017 to help the state’s indigent population, an increase of 10,701 over the previous year, according to a new report. The report, “Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, 2017,” which compiles the required reporting of pro bono legal service hours of 40,215 lawyers, was recently submitted to the Maryland Court of Appeals by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The key findings of the report show approximately 52.1 percent of the lawyers practicing full-time in the state helped people of limited means and other vulnerable populations with free or substantially reduced-fee legal services. Though still estimated to be one of the highest rates in the country, the data indicate a slight decline in the percentage of lawyers engaging in pro bono work. By contrast, lawyers reported increasing their financial contributions to legal services organizations serving people of limited means, totaling more than $5.6 million.

The report confirms that lawyers volunteer actively and support legal services financially in their local communities. However, it also reveals challenges: the types of law many attorneys practice do not necessarily correlate with the areas of greatest legal need; a significant percentage is retired or practicing outside of Maryland; and a large percentage is in government service, with attendant limitations on outside practice. Many attorneys who do not donate pro bono services reported they lacked the time or preferred to do non-legal charitable work. For government lawyers, conflicts of interest and prohibitions by their employers also created challenges.

To make volunteer opportunities easily accessible statewide, the Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service works with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC), the pro bono arm of the Maryland State Bar Association, and other legal services programs to ensure training, mentoring, malpractice insurance, and service-learning opportunities are available on a local level. Lawyers who want more information about getting involved in pro bono work can contact PBRC at www.probonomd.org or aspeedie@probonomd.org, or review volunteer opportunities for lawyers at www.mdcourts.gov/probono/opportunities.

Arts Alliance scholarships available

Each year the Charles County Arts Alliance (CCAA) offers a $1,000 scholarship to one outstanding graduating senior from each of the seven public high schools in Charles County who plans to major in the arts (performing, visual or literary) at a four-year college or university toward a career in the arts.

Go to https://charlescountyarts.org/program/scholarships/ to find a link to download the scholarship application. Charles County Public School seniors may also see their college and career advisors for a copy of the application.

Complete applications must be mailed to the CCAA Office, P.O. Box 697, White Plains, MD 20695, in sufficient time to be received (not postmarked) by noon, March 8. Applications may also be hand-delivered to the CCAA Office at 10250 La Plata Road in La Plata, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information, contact the CCAA office at 301-392-5900, or email info@charlescountyarts.org or ronbrown990@gmail.com.

CASA looking for special advocate volunteers

Children who are confirmed as victims of abuse and neglect are removed from their homes and placed into foster care — often far from their friends, families and schools. CASA of Southern Maryland, a program of the Center for Children, screens and specially trains individuals to serve as CASAs (court appointed special advocates) for abused and neglected children who, through no fault of their own, end up in the foster care system, according to a news release.

CASAs play a vital role in the life of the child and the courts. Because CASAs are focused on one family of children, they are positioned to provide much needed individual support to the children and crucial information to the courts, in order to advocate for the best interest of the children.

According to National CASA, children with an advocate leave the foster care system 2.5 months earlier than those without.

Become a CASA volunteer to help the abused and neglected children in foster care to find safe, permanent homes. For more information, go to center-for-children.org/programs/court-appointed-special-advocate-casa, or contact Jodie Taylor at 410-535-3047, or email her at casa@center-for-children.org.

SMECO scholarship applications available

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) is offering college scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year. Four high school seniors will be awarded $1,500 each, according to a news release.

Students are eligible to apply if they live with parents or guardians who are SMECO members. Seniors must be enrolled or plan to enroll full-time in an accredited college, university or trade school. The deadline for students to apply for college scholarships is Friday, April 12. For more information or to obtain an application, go to smeco.coop/scholarships.

To be eligible for SMECO scholarships, students must have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Four $1,500 scholarships will be awarded based on scholastic achievement, financial need and community and school involvement. As part of the application process, students must submit an essay on “Why is a College Education Important to Completing My Lifetime Goals?” Scholarship finalists will be interviewed on Saturday, April 27.

Students also may obtain an application from their school’s career counselor or by calling SMECO at 1-888-440-3311, extension 4340. Applications are also available at the customer service desks in SMECO’s Leonardtown and Hughesville offices. Completed application packages with all items submitted together may be taken to a SMECO office or mailed to the attention of Bernadette Lewis, SMECO, P.O. Box 1937, Hughesville, MD 20637. When mailing, allow time for delivery.

Renner tapped to lead nonprofit MES

Effective Jan. 16, Craig J. Renner has been named to lead communications programs for the Maryland Environmental Service, a $155 million-revenue, Baltimore area, not-for-profit organization.

Immediately prior to his new role with MES, Renner worked at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development as director of Maryland SmartBuy, a program designed to help first-time homebuyers eliminate college debt. Previously, Renner served as vice president of marketing and public relations for The St. Charles Companies, developers of a 9,100-acre planned community in Charles County. Renner is also a former president of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce and was public information officer for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.