Posts by: "TheCatoctinBanner.com"

Everly Zecher experiences her first snowfall! Her mom, Sam Zecher said, “From inside the house looking out, Everly definitely loved watching the first snowfall of the season. Yet, once she was in it…definitely not a fan! Like most of us with 2020 as a whole.”

We saw our first significant snowfall of the season on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Here were some local accumulations based on measurements submitted to the National Weather Service: Sabillasville—12.1 inches; Emmitsburg—10 inches; Thurmont—6.0 inches; Woodsboro—5 inches; Point of Rocks—5.8 inches;  Frederick—9,4 inches. Did you measure your snow?

James Rada, Jr.

With the State of Maryland encouraging people to stay in and reducing the ability of businesses to operate, Christmas was sadder than usual this year. However, at least one of the two vaccines against COVID-19 was expected to be approved and starting to be administered by this month.

As of December 19, Frederick County has had 9,380 cases of COVID-19, and 160 deaths from the virus. The Frederick County Health Department also reports cases, but not deaths, by zip code.

Locally, here’s how things look by zip code:

Thurmont—379

Emmitsburg—164

Sabillasville—68

Woodsboro—73

Rocky Ridge—37

Looking at the county data on December 19, it showed that hospitalizations from COVID-19 were up from their peak in May, but ICU hospitalizations were down. This seems to indicate that although more people were getting sick enough to go to the hospital, fewer cases were critical.

Getting Tested

If you are interested in getting tested for COVID-19, you have various options in Frederick County.

Frederick Health Hospital offers curbside testing at Frederick Health Village behind the Walmart on Monocacy Boulevard, from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily. Testing is done using a nasopharyngeal swab. The health department will phone you with your results and notify the state health department of any positive cases.

The health department is also providing community testing sites. The locations and dates vary, but you can find out information on the Frederick County Health Department website or local government websites. Testing at these sites is primarily done using a nasopharyngeal swab, but oropharyngeal or anterior nasal swabs may be available depending on supplies.

Pixel by LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics offer at-home test kits. You can get more information from their websites.

Stay Safe

Remember to stay safe, particularly if you are an at-risk population, such as an elderly person or someone who is immunocompromised. Even if you aren’t in an at-risk group but worry about catching the virus, stay home as much as possible, and get tested if you think you have come into contact with the virus.

Also, having COVID-19 is not a death sentence. The current best estimates from the Centers for Disease Control show the percentage of people who have coronavirus and survive in the following age groups:

0-19 years old—99.997 percent

20-49 years old—99.98 percent

50-69 years old—99.5 percent

70+ years old—94.6 percent

As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 or recover from the virus, the hope is that we will soon reach a point where the virus loses its hold on us, and we can begin recovering from the other damages coronavirus has done to Frederick County…and everywhere.

Helpful Websites:

Pixel by LabCorp — www.pixel.labcorp.com

Quest Diagnostics — www.questdiagnostics.com

Frederick Health Hospital — www.frederickhealth.org

Frederick Co. Health Dept. — www.health.frederickcountymd.gov

Blair Garrett

New Year’s resolution goals seem strange. Why is the turning of the page of a calendar year going to be the vehicle for you making positive changes in your life? More often than not, the ticking of the last column of the date is not enough to continue motivating yourself to stick to your new goal.

Common goals include losing weight, kicking bad habits, and advancing in your career. While those are all very achievable goals, they can seem overwhelming and tiring without the proper structure to reach them. 

The following top 10 New Year’s resolutions that people make probably look familiar to you—maybe you’ve chosen one or more of these resolutions over the years: (1) Exercise more; (2) Lose weight; (3) Get organized; (4) Learn a new skill or hobby; (5) Live life to the fullest (not sure how you can measure that one!); (6) Save more money/spend less money; (7) Quit smoking; (8) Spend more time with family and friends; (9) Travel more; (10) Read more.

The truth is, there’s never a bad time to set a goal for yourself. After all, if you’re not moving forward, you’re only moving backward. So, while the famed New Year’s resolution goals can seem hollow and gimmicky, that doesn’t mean you should shirk your personal duties to better yourself in some facet of your life.

The easiest way to stick to a goal is to start small. Setting small, manageable, daily challenges that you can build on give you a feasible route to accomplishing the bigger goal that you’re really looking for.

Think about it this way. To get to the second story of the mall, you aren’t taking one giant Stretch Armstrong step to the next floor right out of the gate, you’re taking small, bite-sized steps to reach your destination. This applies in the same fashion to an exercise goal or kicking that unhealthy habit.

Instead of waking up non-caffeinated and overworked and crushing a 5K, you take time each day to work toward the big run. Maybe the first day starts with you doing a lap around your neighborhood, and by the end of the week, you’re already passing a mile.

Instead of going cold turkey on your portable IV of Diet Coke, you substitute it with an apple juice, and then a Vitamin Water, and then your beverage you rely on for survival but avoid like the plague: regular water.

The point is, reaching goals is daunting when you’re staring at the top of the mountain. But when you focus on your first base camp, and then your next stop on the journey, things don’t seem so impossible.

Focus on making that daily goal, and at the end of the day, be proud of what you’ve accomplished and excited about the next challenge. The important part is just showing up. Remember that change is a process. The only limitations you have in the world are the ones you place on yourself. You can do it, and as long as you have the right attitude and the commitment and determination, you can reach any goal you can dream.

Blair Garrett

For many of us, winter can feel like the longest time of the year.

With cold weather, snowfall, and shorter days highlighting the chilly months of the year, it can be a struggle to motivate yourself to find something new and fun to do to help fight those winter blues.  

During our proverbial “hibernation months,” food consumption is at an all-time high, and the tendency to avoid the cold weather and veg out is all too familiar for most of us. But hope is not lost, as there are endless ways to break free of those winter blues and into a great new hobby or activity.

While most travel is on hold from the ongoing pandemic, finding exciting things to do is only limited to your own creativity. Whether it’s braving the outdoors, discovering a new hidden talent, or finishing a project you’ve been meaning to do for a long time, you are sure to find the perfect fix to boredom with just a nudge in the right direction.

1. Picking up a Winter Sport

Scorching down a steep mountain at record speeds may not be for everyone but, fortunately, there are a ton of great resources to help you navigate picking up a new winter sport that you think you would like to try. Skiing and snowboarding has gained tremendous popularity in the last decade, and there are excellent local options where you can take lessons from experienced instructors from now until March, as long as the weather cooperates.

Ski Liberty, Ski Roundtop, and Whitetail are all excellent venues to begin a challenging new hobby. And with dozens of slopes of varying difficulty, there’s a comfortable fit for just about anyone.

If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other wintertime exercise options to get you moving. Ice skating and figure skating are easier on your joints, and they provide you with a cheaper route to go that you can continue working on throughout the warmer months via local indoor ice rinks.

2. Cooking/Baking

There is no better time of the year for cookies and the like than during the holiday season.

The art of cooking and baking is something all of us have to take part in at some point, and a cold winter amidst a global pandemic seems like a fitting time to improve upon an indoor skill you may not have brushed up on before.

An easy place to start is bread baking. Sourdough starter kits are wildly popular, and with more people taking on a new frontier in the world of bread, awesome recipes have never been more accessible. Everyone’s day would be a little brighter with more people making great sourdough.

Everyone needs to eat, so the ability to put together a delicious, complex meal or something as simple as a tasty chocolate chip cookie is tremendously valuable. Plus, having something to share with family and friends is always a huge bonus.

Though Christmas is over, plan for next year and start perfecting your baking skills. The importance of a good batch of sugar cookies cannot be overstated. Fortunately, once grandma’s famous recipe is perfected, annual holiday cookies can be a hit year after year.

3. Meat Smoking

Meat smokers are not just for your favorite barbecue restaurant anymore, personal smokers are now widely available and easier than ever to operate.

With the huge population of hunters locally and hunting season scattered throughout the winter, fresh deer meat and other game is common for people to store.

There are tons of great wood-pellet smokers that range anywhere from a small operation to adjusting temperatures and heat from an app on your phone. Smoking meats opens a new spectrum of possibilities when it comes to the flavors you can develop through smoking.

While it’s not the cheapest hobby you’ll ever have, the results from smoking your own meats will revolutionize the way you cook.

4. Snowball Fights

While this outdoor activity is snow-dependent, there is nothing more fun than slinging chunks of snow at your family and friends. The more family-friendly option is building snowmen or snow forts, which is another perfect way to spend a snow day.

This winter’s total snow accumulation has already eclipsed last year’s, so there may just be plenty more opportunities to find yourself on the receiving end of a snowball hurtling toward you.

The year 2020 was not an ideal situation from start to finish, but in 2021, there are numerous ways to find yourself wrapped up in a fulfilling new hobby. So, don’t be afraid to take a chance on pushing yourself with a fun, new challenge this winter season.

5. Make a Movie and Book List

Wintertime is a perfect time to take to reading those books you’ve been meaning to for so long but just haven’t gotten to. Maybe challenge yourself to read all the classics over the cold, winter months. Maybe you usually confine your book choices to only fiction; it’s a good time to switch that up. Think of a topic that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, and pick a non-fiction book about that subject. Not only will you combat the winter blues, but you’ll be smarter come springtime!

Always wish you had more time to watch movies? Well, the cold, dark days of winter are the best time to sit down, get comfy, wrap up in a soft blanket, and watch a good movie. Like to laugh? Google good comedies to watch. It’s been shown that humor relieves stress. Get lost in a good movie for two hours and get a little escape from reality.

So, grab a pen and a piece of paper and get working on your movie and book list for this winter.

6. Start a Home Project

While you may be thinking: How is doing home projects considered fun? Well, maybe it’s not as exciting as skiing down a steep mountain or as relaxing as watching a good movie, but it has its perks. Starting a home project and seeing it to completion gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment—something we could all use during the deary winter months.

Maybe you’ve been meaning to clean out those over-packed closets. Start with one and work your way through the house. Set a pile aside of items you can donate.

Keet putting off painting those rooms that have been on your “to-do list”? Wintertime is a great time to paint. Maybe try a whole different color theme.

Other home projects to tackle could be organizing your filing cabinet, going through old papers and figuring out what you can shred, and cleaning out your garage.

Will Heurich captures the peak of a snow-capped mountain in Telluride, Colorado. 

Skiers and snowboarders find solace blazing trails in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Patricia Sanville, Frederick County Sheep Breeders Association President

The 2020 Frederick County Sheep Breeders Association held a virtual annual meeting this year to bring sheep breeders together in a safe manner. At the conclusion of the business meeting, President Patty Sanville moved onto new business, which included the presentation of the Shepherd of the Year award. The decision to give this award virtually, and whether or not that was less exciting or somehow less of an honor, was certainly considered. Ultimately, the board voted to honor this member at this time.

There were members who were still out there, sharing their time and talent whenever possible. These members consistently raised their hand to help with virtual events, with shows that were now different, with youth programs that needed to shift gears, and with brainstorming how things could be done safely in our new reality.

The challenges our industry faced this past year and continues to face going forward into the next are no match for this member.

These members signed up for several of the demonstrations we are involved in, both by bringing sheep and demonstrating fiber arts. Again, these events will eventually resume, and I am quite sure these members will again raise their hand.

The award was presented to Mary Ellen and Matt Clark of Thurmont. Both Matt and Mary Ellen grew up in agriculture and have never shied away from a hard day’s work. As a former 4-H member in Carroll County, Maryland, and now 4-H volunteer, Mary Ellen’s roots in agriculture and Matt’s work ethic were a match made in heaven. They were married in 2000, and very soon after, began planning for their own future in production agriculture.

Clark Family Farms consists of 300 acres of crop production, including corn, soybeans, wheat, straw, timothy, orchard grass, alfalfa, and now also a commercial sheep flock. The sheep flock was added in 2013, once their daughter, Caroline, now 14 years old, joined 4-H. Mary Ellen wanted her children to represent the third generation of agriculture in her family, so a 4-H animal project was a perfect way to accomplish this. The Saylor Family helped them get started as they navigated raising market lambs with great success. With the support of fellow breeders, the commercial flock now stands at more than 25 in the breeding program.

Once the family was comfortable with a meat flock, Caroline then became interested in a heritage breed, which was being raised by the Sanville Family. The intrigue of raising an animal, harvesting wool, and making her own yarn became her number one priority, and who could stop a child from learning this art form. The registered Leicester Longwool flock was started with a ewe named Patty, purchased from Carolann McConaughy of Stillpoint Farm. This ewe became the family’s prized animal and quickly multiplied into a flock of ten and growing. The fleeces of this breed are known for the beautiful luster and ease for hand-spinning.  As members of the Livestock Conservancy program, the family has been focused on breeding and exhibiting this rare heritage breed to promote its versatility to other sheep enthusiasts. Matt and Mary Ellen have expanded their business by preparing sheep pelts, handmade felted crafts, dryer balls, yarn, roving, and fleeces.

Over the years, this couple has promoted the education of their children by participating in and attending numerous programs. In addition to countless 4-H livestock judging, livestock skillathon, and entrepreneurship courses, they have attended FAMACHA classes, and the Twilight Tours hosted at the Western Maryland Research Center. This family has been focused on improving its business acumen through the many educational experiences available in the Maryland area. The children have become active sewers, exhibiting wool clothing at local, regional, and state events. The highlight of the year includes the MD Make It With Wool Contest, which three of the family members have entered annually. Preston commented, “If we could only get Dad to sew, well, that’s not going to happen!” This year, the family lambed over 16 ewes and raised the most market lambs since starting out, but did not take them to all of the shows as planned due to COVID-19. The ewes are bred again, and the family will start watching for lambs again in January. 

Mary Ellen is a board member of the Frederick County Sheep Breeders and is also employed by AstraZeneca, located in Frederick. In addition to managing several farms, Matt is employed as a sales manager for Devilbiss Construction in Frederick.

Congratulations to Mary Ellen and Matt Clark, Frederick County Sheep Breeders 2020 Shepherd of the Year.

Mary Ellen and Matt Clark of Thurmont awarded Frederick County Sheep Breeders 2020 Shepherd of the Year.

Courtesy Photo

Emmitsburg

by James Rada, Jr.

Public Hearing On Parks Requirement in Subdivisions This Month

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners will hold a public hearing during their January 4 meeting regarding changes to the town’s parks, recreation, and open-space requirement. The goal of the amendment is to make sure all residents have equal access to parks near where they live. Town Planner Zach Gulden said the rule of thumb from the county and state is that residents should be within half a mile from a park, so it is easy to walk to. All areas of town except for Pembrook, portions of Brookfield, and the section of town northeast of the U.S. 15/MD 140 intersection meet this goal. The amendment also seeks to balance when parks should be private versus public. The goal is not to place a burden to maintain a private park on a homeowner’s association when the park gets heavy usage from areas outside of the development.

Commissioners Approve CDBG Application

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners approved a Community Development Block Grant application for $697,953.50 to replace 117 curb ramps at various locations throughout the Town of Emmitsburg for ADA compliance. Many of the older curb ramps are cracking and not ADA compliant, which raises liability issues to the town. The goal is to have the new ramps installed by April 2022.

New Salary Chart Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved a new salary chart for the town based on an employee compensation analysis done earlier in 2020. The new chart moves from pay grades with step increases to pay grades with salary ranges. Employees will also now be assessed on a scale with a maximum score of 45. Employees receiving a score of 27 and above will receive a step increase annually if the funds are available.

Town to Review Water Restrictions

Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets told the town commissioners that they would review the current phase 2 waters restriction after the holidays to see if adjustments needed to be made. She said during the December town meeting that Rainbow Lake was 2.8 feet below the spillway.

Regional Park Coming to Northern Frederick County

Mount St. Mary’s University sold more than 100 acres along Motters Station Road to Frederick County to be developed into a regional park. The park will have ball fields, night lighting, walking trails, tennis courts, and more. The goal is to eventually tie the park into the Mount’s sidewalk system, which would increase park usage.

Committee Appointments

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners appointed Stephen Starliper as an alternate member of the Board of Appeals from December 7, 2020, to December 7, 2023. They also reappointed Conrad Weaver, Tricia Sheppard, and Will Sheppard to the Citizens Advisory Committee from July 15, 2019, to July 15, 2021. Jennifer Joy and Mark Walker were reappointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee to serve from November 7, 2020, to November 7, 2022.

Thurmont

Town Wins Municipal Impact Award

During a recent Thurmont town meeting, Jodie Bollinger with the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, presented the town with a Frederick County Municipal Impact Award for Business Retention and Expansion. It is one of four Municipal Impact Awards the county presented this year. She said it was given for the town’s efforts to do everything it possibly can to support business in Thurmont. Mayor John Kinnaird said, “Main Street has been a real godsend to the Town of Thurmont, with grants we get, the opportunities, and the doors that have been opened with our Main Street designation.”

He also thanked Main Street Manager Vickie Grinder for her tenacity, spirit, hard work, and dedication for the town.

“It’s been a wonderful ride and a wonderful journey,” Grinder said.

Town Seeks to Create System for Determining Road Improvements

The Town of Thurmont conducted an initial survey to apply criteria and a scoring system to some of the roads in town to determine which ones are most in need of repair. While a step in the right direction, the new system does not take into account traffic on the roads. It strictly looks at the condition of the roads. So, while Mountain Road is the most in need of repair, it doesn’t have as much traffic as other roads that don’t need as much repair. One road that will definitely be repaved is Apples Church Road, from Main Street to the railroad crossing. This will cost about $70,000. Some roads can be patched to delay repaving until more funds are available.

The commissioners allocated $250,000, which includes Highway User Funds from the state, to be used to start making needed repairs on roads.

Town Considers Naming Bridges for Veterans

At the request of the American Legion, the Town of Thurmont is considering naming two of the town’s bridges for Thurmont Marines killed in action in Vietnam. Sgt. Woodrow Carbaugh was killed in Vietnam in 1968, and PFC Charles Pittinger was killed in 1969. Both of them were Thurmont High School graduates. The two bridges being considered are the Frederick Road bridge near Community Park and the Moser Road bridge near the library. The commissioners plan to discuss this further, but first they asked that the American Legion develop a set of criteria for how it determines which Veterans to consider naming bridges or stretches of road for and which Veterans should be considered for roads and bridges in the town.

Town Receives a Clean Audit

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners recently received the results of the annual review done of its finances by an independent auditor.

Town Issues Arbor Day Proclamation

The Town of Thurmont issued a proclamation recognizing Arbor Day. Thurmont has been a Tree City USA for four years. A group of town volunteers recently planted 20 new trees in Eyler Road Park, which brings the total of new trees planted in town over the past few years close to 500, according to Mayor John Kinnaird. “That is unbelievable, and this was, of course, sparked by our fear of losing so many trees at Community Park due to the Emerald Ash Borer,” he said.

Playgrounds to be Improved

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved a $40,000 to have Playground Specialists install new playground equipment in the Woodland Park Playground. Program Open Space fund will pay $30,000 of the bid, and the town will pay $10,000.

Playground Specialists was also awarded a bid for $13,726 to upgrade the equipment at the Ice Plant Park Playground. Program Open Space will also pay for 75 percent of the bid.

Emmitsburg

Mayor Don Briggs

Town Christmas decorations are up, and the town’s main streets stand dually adorned. To the broad sweep of the engineered virus a faint tribute, a mere tip of the hat, to all the traditional events we have forgone this past year. The pandemic, with certainty, jarred our routines. We have rubbed two sticks together to make another wonderful year here in Northern Frederick County. We have had to adjust to less, but less has come to be better in many respects. In part because of who we are and the way we live. To the overwhelming generosity of everyone living in our valley. Thank you. It has been the glue.

Somewhere amidst the strands of news coverage over the last weeks was the mention of a C.S. Lewis essay he wrote in 1948, regarding going on with life with the threat of the atomic bomb. Googling to find the essay, I saw where someone had the presence of mind, and connection to the breadth of Lewis’ writings, to suggest replacing “COVID-19 pandemic” in place of “atomic bomb.” Below is the Lewis essay. A year to remember, our stint in history.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

“On Living in an Atomic

    Age” (1948) in Present

   Concerns: Journalistic Essays.

Safe outdoor exercising is a strong ally of social distancing. Wear your face mask. Enjoy our parks and connected town.

From Libby and I: We hope you had a Merry Christmas, and we wish you a Happy New Year. 2020 is behind us; now, by the grace of God, we are armed with several vaccines. Let us go on with our lives, our stockings full.

Thurmont

 Mayor John Kinnaird

The year 2020 is now behind us, and I look forward to a much improved 2021. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I wish you a very Happy New Year and a healthy and happy year ahead.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed and should be broadly available to all of us in the coming months. With that in mind, I ask that all of us keep doing what we can to help stem the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly, wear a mask when out in public and when in contact with others, keep at least six feet away from others whenever possible, and try not to gather in large groups. COVID-19 will continue to be a high health concern until the majority of our residents have been vaccinated.

As I first noted, I am looking forward to the year 2021 being a better year than 2020. It is my hope that all our friends and family stay safe, and that we move forward into the new year with an open mind and with an optimistic spirit.

Please call me at 301-606-9458 or email me atjkinnaird@thurmont.com with any questions or concerns you may have.

The Town of Thurmont has been designated as a 2020 Accredited Main Street America™ program. Accredited status is Main Street America’s top tier of recognition and signifies a demonstrated commitment to comprehensive commercial district revitalization and proven track record of successfully applying the Main Street Approach™.

“We are proud to recognize this year’s 860 Nationally Accredited Main Street America programs that have dedicated themselves to strengthening their communities,” said Patrice Frey, president & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “These Accredited Main Street programs have proven to be powerful engines for revitalization by sparking impressive economic returns and preserving the character of their communities. During these challenging times, these Main Street programs will be key to bringing economic vitality back to commercial districts and improving quality of life during the recovery process.”

In 2019 alone, $6.45 billion of public and private reinvestment was generated, 6,466 net new businesses were opened, 32,316 net new jobs were created, and 10,412 buildings were rehabilitated in Main Street America communities.

“The benefits that we receive from being a nationally accredited Main Street program are a vital component of the critical services the Town of Thurmont provides to our community” stated Jim Humerick, chief administrative officer.  “We are proud to be a Main Street community since 2005 and equally proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far.”

The Town of Thurmont’s performance is evaluated by the State of Maryland Main Street under the Department of Community Housing and Development, which works in partnership with Main Street America to identify the local programs that meet ten rigorous performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, documenting programmatic progress, and actively preserving historic buildings.

Since Thurmont’s 2005 designation, the work of Thurmont Main Street has resulted in: $1 million in 57 private investment projects; $676,985 in 26 public improvement projects; 46 new businesses; 138 jobs created; 17,290 volunteer hours valued at $439,685; grants received $760,205.

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for 40 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Since 1980, communities participating in the program have leveraged more than $85.43 billion in new public and private investment, generated 672,333 net new jobs and 150,079 net new businesses, and rehabilitated more than 295,348 buildings. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Valley of Blessings” Joins World in Celebration of Local Saint

Anita DiGregory

“Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy, and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage.”—Pope Paul VI, in his homily from the canonization of Elizabeth Ann Seton, September 14, 1975.

The first canonized saint born in America, Mother Seton (as she is still fondly known) remains a saint for our country, our world, and our times. A convert, wife, mother, and founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first community for religious women established in the United States, Mother Seton remains today a beacon of hope in a time of pandemic, isolation, and uncertainty. 

On January 4, 2021, the world will celebrate St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s feast day and the 200th anniversary of her death. Locally, the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton will kick off a year-long celebration of this momentous anniversary with a commemorative Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Mass, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., will be aired live on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). Father Ted Trinko will celebrate an additional Mass at 1:30 p.m. that day.

Lori, who at the time of Seton’s canonization was studying to become a priest at Mount St. Mary’s seminary, recalls the day Seton became a saint. He and his fellow seminarians helped the Sisters of Charity coordinate the celebrations in Emmitsburg.

“Looking back on it, I’m not sure that we were much help to the sisters,” joked Lori. “But, I certainly remember how happy we were, how excited we were that a saint, who so loved Emmitsburg and who so loved the grotto, and who knew our seminary, and was the first saint born in the United States…we were so excited about all these things unfolding before us.”

Mother Seton had a deep love for the Catoctin Mountains and Valley, referring to the area as the “Valley of Blessings.” It was here that she walked, and prayed, and served the community. It was in Emmitsburg, in the heart of the Catoctin Valley, where she founded St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by sisters in the United States.  Here is where Mother Seton’s religious community flourished, and she wrote, “Our community increases very fast, and no doubt will do a great deal of good in the care of the sick and instruction of children, which is our chief business.”

The Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph inspired the formation of other communities across North America. Today, her legacy continues as the religious sisters of these communities serve the poor, assist the needy, care for the sick, and educate the young, just as Mother Seton did in countries throughout the world.

“Mother Seton sent sisters out across the country, who in turn have gone out across the world, and they’ve built hospitals and schools and orphanages—all of that came out of our community here,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. “The first American-born person to be canonized as a saint, she’s a saint of the universal church, which of course is international—Emmitsburg’s own, so to speak, has an international footprint. That’s a reflection on the community, and they rightly should have a lot of pride in that recognition.”

Now, on this 200th anniversary, the town of Emmitsburg will join with the world to once again celebrate Mother Seton. In addition to the commemorative Masses, The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton will be hosting a year-long celebration honoring this anniversary and “Two Centuries of Charity.”

On January 4, the Shrine will premiere the new and inspiring film, “Elizabeth Ann Seton:  Seeker to Saint.” Every Saturday throughout the winter, the Shrine will offer free tours of Mother Seton’s historic homes, in addition to exclusive, live virtual tours. They will offer a free, downloadable, spiritual biography, as well as a deep discount on Annabelle M. Melville’s book, Elizabeth Bayley Seton. The year-long celebration has a few surprises in store and promises some big news coming soon. More information on these upcoming events can be found at setonshrine.org/200years.

The Shrine strives to continue Mother Seton’s legacy through prayer, community outreach and support, education, and programs. Some of their newest initiatives include creating a prayer line (where the public can call, and trained staff can offer prayer and outreach), the Seeds of Hope program (offering assistance and support to the community), virtual learning, pilgrimage, educational and spiritual podcasts, and tours that bring guests “back in time” (utilizing adult and junior history interpreters).

“Our goal is to foster devotion to Mother Seton, to continue her legacy, and to make sure that her work remains in the minds and hearts of all,” adds Judge. “This is more than the story of how Elizabeth Ann Seton became an American saint. It’s about a woman who changed the world, the lives she touched, and a legacy that lives on today. That’s why visitors of all backgrounds are drawn here, and why we welcome everyone to share in this celebration.”

James Rada, Jr.

A Gettysburg-based writers’ group has released its first anthology, Four Score & Seven Stories Ago.

Gettysburg is where President Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous speech. It is also where he wrote parts of the Gettysburg Address. The town and its history have inspired many other writers to express their feelings and dreams on paper, whether a nonfiction examination of the historic battle, a story of a restless spirit in town, or poetry about the people. Gettysburg has inspired many authors, including the members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade.

The Brigade was organized in January 2010. Its mission is simple: A group of local writers willing to meet weekly to share and discuss the writing process, writing techniques, publishing, promotion, and marketing, and to help writers work through all these endeavors.

“We have 120 members, although, at any weekly meeting, attendance runs from 6 to 12. Our membership spans the gamut from novice writers with ideas for stories to published authors,” Brigade founder Will Hutchison wrote in the anthology acknowledgements.

Over the past ten years, the group has met over 500 times. The majority were held at O’Rorke’s Eatery and Spirits at 44 Steinwehr Avenue in Gettysburg. The group chooses the topic for each meeting. One member leads a discussion, whether it’s on writing technique, marketing, publishing, finding an agent, or something else.

Four Score & Seven Stories Ago is a collection of fiction and nonfiction about Gettysburg. Eleven talented members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade created stories related to the most famous small town in America. Some of these stories include:

Sgt. Francis Cassidy and Cpl. Paddy Quinn have looked danger and death in the face while fighting with the Union Army. Their friendship and love of their fellow soldiers of the “Irish Volunteers” now takes them to the Battle of Gettysburg, where they must meet their destiny.

Nestled in the rows of flat grave markers in the Gettysburg National Cemetery lies a Veteran of World War II who may be one of the few that knows the true story of the Kennedy assassination.

The death of a father sends a Gettysburg family into crisis. Dark secrets from the past come back to complicate the life of a son struggling to help.

The small garden of her Gettysburg farm was often busy with guests, mostly the ghostly type, and then someone from Abigail’s past surfaced there… as she dug him up in her flower bed.

Hometown hero or traitor? One Civil War soldier’s views of life, family, and friends in Gettysburg, inspired by true events.

The anthology project began last August when a group member suggested the group publish an anthology as a way to put all the skills the group had been discussing over the years into practice and offer novice writers a chance to have a professionally published credit.

The members responded enthusiastically. Eleven members have pieces in the anthology (six are published for the first time). Catoctin Banner editor James Rada, Jr. wrote a story about an aging Veteran’s walk from southern Virginia to Gettysburg to die on the battlefield called, “Finishing the Charge.” Other members helped with different aspects of the project, such as editing, formatting, and marketing.

Within a few days of being published, the book hit the Top 10 in three Amazon.com categories and was the no. 1 new release in several.

Frederick resident Kerry Springle wrote a story called “Past Attentions” for the anthology. “Getting published was a dream come true,” she said.

Profits from the book’s sales are going to be donated to the Gettysburg Area Education Foundation, which supports children’s literacy. The book sells for $14.95. It is available on Amazon.com or from E Plus Graphics in Emmitsburg.

The group has already started planning to put out a second anthology sometime in 2021.

New members are welcome. The group meets weekly, although members aren’t required to attend all meetings. To be kept up-to-date on what the meeting topics will be and other information about the group, sign up for the Gettysburg Writers Brigade on Meetup.com.

Blair Garrett

Children’s books provide immeasurable value to the development of ideas, morals, and creativity for a child’s growing mind.

Stories are the keys to unlock the imagination of a child, and they’re a great gift for a parent to be able to share.

Rocky Ridge-based author Fabiola Miller has published a children’s story of her very own, hoping to give that gift to as many children as possible.

Miller’s book, Playful Princess Panda, tells a story about a princess who rules over a kingdom and her evil sister’s jealous attempts to ruin the kingdom.

The book was originally derived from years of reading stories to her son to help him sleep. “When he was young, he used to have a hard time sleeping, so I used to read him bedtime stories,” Miller said. “When I ran out of bedtime stories that I knew, I started coming up with new bedtime stories.” Coming up with her own stories on the spot developed into lessons and teachings. “I decided to tell him stories that had a little bit more value,” she said.

Her son used to tell other relatives about the bedtime story, and Miller relayed that same story to her niece over and over.

“She would ask me to repeat the story, and after having to recall it so many times, I was inspired to write it on paper.”

Putting it to paper got the gears turning for Miller’s book, and it eventually led to its publication. “It was always in the back of my head, until one day when I could visualize the characters, their message, and how it needed to be told.” Miller’s revelation brought the book to life. Through the colorful illustrations and thoughtful dialogue between characters, the story was told.   

Miller’s Boston Terriers displayed a lot of different personalities throughout her son’s life, and those traits are on full display in the Playful Princess Panda.

The inspiration for the art and characters of the story has deep roots to her son’s childhood, and it was intended to help him connect better with the message of the book. “The characters are based on dogs we’ve had in the past,” Miller said. “Their personalities come off in the book.”

Though the use of familiar characters throughout her son’s life helps him relate to the book, the themes and message are meaningful for all, young and old.

“The book is meant to teach children the importance of kindness and thoughtfulness,” Miller said. “It’s about their attitude toward others and how it impacts them.”

The importance of kindness is often placed on children, but the lesson is transcendent for people of all ages, and in trying times like these, kindness from person to person is more needed than ever.

Instilling those positive values at a young age is the goal for Miller, and through personalized illustrations and unique storytelling, she is well on her way to achieving that goal. “I like to write books that could help children build character,” Miller said. Her immediate plans don’t have more books in the works just quite yet, but it’s a future goal down the line, and Miller always has more stories to tell.  

Miller’s book is available online in paperback and for digital download.

Playful Princess Panda features hand drawn illustrations and valuable positive themes.

Community Still Hopes for Charter School

James Rada Jr.

The Frederick County Board of Education voted to close Sabillasville Elementary School at the end of the 2020-21 school year. The vote was 5-1, with member Rae Gallagher the only opposing vote.

However, the Sabillasville community holds onto hope that the board will approve a charter school for the building. A group of Sabillasville citizens has submitted a concept proposal to Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) for review and planned on submitting a full application by the end of December.

The proposed charter school would be called the Sabillasville Environmental School. It would be a Kindergarten through eighth-grade school, with roughly 23 students per grade. It would begin as a Kindergarten through sixth-grade school and add grades seven and eight in years two and three.

“We want to offer a classical curriculum similar to what the Frederick Classical Charter School offers, with a focus on the environment,” said Alisha Yocum, president of the Sabillasville Elementary Parent Teacher Association. “Given where we are located, we want to reconnect students with nature and agriculture.”

The curriculum, as Yocum explains it, would be based around history, and all the classes will gear their lessons to what history is being taught at the time. The school would also teach the Singapore Math program.

Yocum said that parents of current students in Sabillasville Elementary are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea.

“We want the building to remain a school and serve the community,” Yocum said. “It’s the heart of our community.”

The citizens group has been working hard to pull everything together that is needed to get approval for the school and get it up and running without having an interruption in the students’ education between this year and the next.

The board of education vote hampers that. The Sabillasville parents had wanted the board to show their support by following a part of the state law that allows a public school to be converted to a charter school. This would have simplified the charter process and guaranteed current Sabillasville students a seat in the new charter school.

Superintendent Theresa Alban said she had contacted the Baltimore City school system where schools had been converted, and her belief was that it wouldn’t work for Sabillasville. She said for a charter school to be accepted in Sabillasville, the proposal would have to show that space was available in the town, and the only way to do that was to close the school. However, this also means that the Maryland State Department of Education will have to grant a waiver for current Sabillasville students to be given priority in a new charter.

The group has retained a lawyer to appeal the board’s decision and have a conversion charter school considered. You can donate to the group’s legal fund by mailing a check to: Sabillasville Elementary PTO, 16210B Sabillasville Rd., Sabillasville, MD 21780. You can also donate on the group’s GoFundMe page posted on its Facebook page.

The 56-year-old school has been in the crosshairs for closure for years. Board member Brad Young said it was one of the first topics discussed when he was elected in 2010.

The most-recent discussions about closing the school started in early 2020 when enrollment numbers showed the school had only 70 students. The board’s projections show that shrinking will continue, and in ten years, the school would have only 53 students. This affects how many teachers can be assigned to the school, which has led to some combining of grade levels. The cost of maintaining the aging facility was also cited as a concern. According to the FCPS, it has the third-highest maintenance costs of any school in the system.

Strong community support during that time caused the board to delay its decision as other alternatives were investigated.

The board was supposed to hear an update on the application at its November meeting. However, Alban decided this would create a conflict of interest since the board would also have to make the decision on whether to approve the charter.

“In no way do we wish to deter their efforts, and we would certainly welcome any movement that they want to make towards possibly submitting an application for a charter school,” Alban said.

She did review the results of a survey of Yellow Springs Elementary parents about whether they would support sending their children to Sabillasville Elementary if it was an open-enrollment school. Yellow Springs’ parents were the only ones surveyed because Yellow Springs Elementary is the only overcapacity school within a reasonable distance of Sabillasville. While other nearby schools are overcapacity, their problem will be alleviated when Blue Heron Elementary opens.

Of the 143 parents surveyed, 83 percent said they wouldn’t send their children to Sabillasville. Most parents had transportation concerns, particularly the length of time their children would have to ride the bus to and from school.

During the meeting, it was pointed out that the board hadn’t received any public comment about closing the school. This is because parents had been told there wouldn’t be a vote.

“We were not informed they would be making a final vote on November 23,” Yocum said. “I think the community should have been informed. We would have been there.”

Thurmont Commissioner Marty Burns agrees. During a recent Thurmont town meeting, he said the reason the parents were told there wouldn’t be a vote was because the board knew the Sabillasville community would show up in opposition.

“They didn’t want the opposition,” he said. “They took a quick vote outside the public eye. I bet if it was Urbana, [the board] wouldn’t have even thought about doing that.”

He and some of the other commissioners called it a rushed decision since the new board of education members were sworn in just two weeks later.

Thurmont Commissioner Bill Buehrer said during a town meeting that he wasn’t surprised at the decision and that it was based on politics, not education.

“I feel sorry for the families in Sabillasville,” he said. “You got hoodwinked. You know it, and the public knows it. Not a damn thing you can do about it because they already voted on it.”

Young said FCPS will need to determine whether it has another use for the building. If not, which is expected to be the case, the property is turned back over to the county. The county would then offer the property for sale or lease. This is the point where the new charter school will have to act to secure the property, and it could find itself competing with another business for the property.

Buehrer said that if the community’s charter school application fails, Sabillasville Elementary students will be “embraced” in Thurmont.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help your kids get a good education,” he said.

Blair Garrett

Amidst COVID restrictions and global pandemonium, Mount St. Mary’s basketball is still underway.

Precautions have been put in place to keep players and personnel safe, but the season has not been without its troubles. Breaks in the schedule due to positive COVID tests have put a hold on games through mid-December, but games are planned to resume activity once all proper tests have been cleared.

The NCAA has testing set in place to thin out instances of the virus spreading, and athletic programs around the country are dealing with quarantines and shutdowns following any positive tests.

The Mount is no different, and due to positive tests, the schedule has been shuffled around for both men’s and women’s teams. Games against Wagner College have been rescheduled from their original December 15-16 start date to January 26 and 27. All games and times are subject to change, and with record numbers across the country in Coronavirus cases, more schedule adjustments are likely to happen. 

The men’s team kicked off the season on a high note, taking down Morgan State in a close game on the road, where the team’s veteran players took over late to close the game out. The Mountaineers’ historic season-opening victory against Morgan State was the team’s first win against them since 1984.

The Mount hit a skid after its season opener, facing perennially tough competitors University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University, dropping games to both.  

Despite several postponed and canceled games, the team will have time to regroup and lay the groundwork for the rest of the season after the winter break.

Jalen Gibbs and Damian Chong-Qui have been scoring leaders for the past three seasons, and both lead the team by a substantial amount heading into the holiday break.  

On the women’s side of the court, the team has faced similar challenges with COVID creeping into the conversation. Games against Coppin State University, Maryland, and La Salle have all been canceled due to athletic programs dealing with COVID issues.

Despite dropping its first two games of the season, the team has had positive results against tough competition. The Mount’s offense has thrived on a balanced attack, with everyone on the roster chipping in offensively.

Because of cancellations, Mount St. Mary’s has played just one game in Knott Arena this season, but the team’s home-court advantage was apparent.

The women comfortably beat the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Retrievers in a full-team effort, shoring up their offensive and defensive struggles from previous games.

The Mountaineers have the bulk of their schedule come January, where they take on more of their usual Northeast Conference rivals in multiple series of back-to-back games that will define the team’s season.

The abridged version of the men’s and women’s season follows unanimously approved guidelines by the NEC Council of Presidents to limit travel and potential exposure for student athletes and staff. From January 7, 2021, through the rest of the season, all games will be against in-conference teams.

Men’s and women’s schedules will be mirrored, too, to help limit the amount of travel programs have to do. Games will also be played on back-to-back days at the same site.

The NEC Tournament has been shortened to just finals and semifinals, with the top four teams competing for the NEC Championship. Regular season play resumes January 7, as both Mount St. Mary’s teams take on St. Francis Brooklyn in an away back-to-back matchup.

by Barb Cline

Now is the Time to Apply for a New Passport or Renew

Yes, the COVID-19 global pandemic has undoubtedly turned the world of international travel upside down in 2020. However, U.S. State Department officials say now is a good time for Americans to renew an expired passport or apply for a new one. Currently, it takes about 10-12 weeks to process a passport, from the time of application to delivery in the mail—that’s up from the 6-8 weeks it typically took pre-COVID. The centers where passport processors work have been opening gradually, and applications are being handled in the order they arrive.

It’s never too early to start your worldly travel preparation. To begin the passport process, here are some tips. For those who don’t already have a passport, find your birth certificate and driver’s license or state-issued identification. For those who already have a passport, check the expiration date on your passport. If family members, friends, or companions will be traveling with you, check their passport status as well.

If it turns out any of your passports expire in 2021, apply for a renewal now. Passports are good for ten years (except children; see below), and you will save money and stress by not waiting until the last minute. It costs $110 to renew a passport when you use the routine service. However, if you need to use the expedited service, you will pay an additional $60 per application.

Important Passport Considerations

You can renew your passport by mail without going in-person to a processing center if you can answer YES to these five questions:

You have your passport in your possession to include with your application?

It is undamaged other than normal wear and tear?

Was it issued when you were age 16 or older?

Was it issued within the last 15 years?

Was it issued in your current name, or you can document any name change?

In our local area, you can process passports in person at the Thurmont, Woodsboro, or Smithsburg United States Post Office locations.

Parents may not realize, or they may forget, that their child’s passport (for those under age 16) is valid for only five years, unlike the ten years for adult passports.

Keep in mind that many countries require your U.S. passport to be valid at least six months past your dates of travel. If it is less than that, you could be denied boarding your outbound flight or even turned around at customs. How tragic would that be!

Some countries have also instituted blank-page minimums for entry (such as two-four pages), so you need to make sure your passport has adequate blank pages for the entry or exit stamps.

Starting in 2016, it is no longer possible to pay for the insertion of additional visa pages into your current U.S. passport. Now, if you fill up all your pages, you will need to get a whole new passport—even if it’s well in advance of the expiration date. Several years ago, they began issuing passports with just 28 pages as the standard, down from the prior 52 pages. Luckily, it’s free to request a 52-page passport; just check the “Large Book” box on the application form

Stories of What It’s Like Returning Home After 25 Years

by dave ammenheuser

A year ago, in the January issue of The Catoctin Banner, Blair Garrett wrote a nice profile of me and of how my journalism career took me from Thurmont to across the world’s sports stage.

I was flattered. Thurmont will always be my home. I was proud that my local newspaper cared enough to write about my career.

My mother was thrilled. My father’s friends got him extra copies. My father-in-law, who lived in Delaware, asked for a copy, too. I also coordinated a 40-year reunion of Catoctin High School basketball friends and teammates, while I started planning to take my USA TODAY sports staff to Japan for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

The rest of 2020 wasn’t so great.

COVID-19 impacted the world and our family. There was the difficult day in March when I had 24 hours to get my son out of Ecuador, where he was spending a college semester studying abroad. It was a crazy day. Luckily, he got on the final American plane out before the country closed its airport because of the pandemic. 

But that was only the start of a terrible year. A nasty tornado ripped through the Tennessee town (Mt. Juliet) where we lived. Our home was spared, but hundreds of neighbors lost their homes. Two schools were destroyed. The community remains in recovery mode.

We also learned that my father-in-law, who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, also had melanoma on his brain. The double-whammy cut his life short. He died in July.

My own parents, who have lived near Creagerstown for 50 years, also battled health issues. My father, John, died in September when his heart finally gave out.

Cancer struck my mother, Liz. First, the cancer was located in her breasts, then in her spine. Combine that with dementia, and you have a very unfair battle for a wonderful person in her senior years. She died a few days before Christmas.

I finally decided that it was all too much to handle from afar. Thus, two months ago, I returned home. My wife, Maura, and I sold our home near Nashville and moved back East.

I gave up my amazing career as a sports journalist to care for my father-in-law’s estate in Delaware and to care for my parents’ home in Thurmont and their estate.

It’s been almost 25 years since I left Frederick County. My journalism career took me to the Carolinas, Connecticut, California, and Nashville. Two years ago, I was named the sports director of the USA TODAY Network, overseeing more than 700 sports journalists across the nation.

All of those 700 are important to me. But my family and my mom’s needs were more important.

So, instead of working for a paycheck for USA TODAY in 2021, I’ve volunteered to write a free monthly column for Deb Abraham Spalding and The Catoctin Banner this year. I’ll write about what it is like to return home after being away for 25 years. I’ll recount stories of growing up in Creagerstown and of matriculating through the local school system. I’ll tell what it was like being an Eagle Scout in this community and about being the worst baseball player in the history of the Thurmont Little League.

Without a doubt, 2020 simply stunk for all of us. I’m looking forward to 2021 and hopefully seeing many friends I have not seen in a few decades.

Liz and John Ammenheuser visiting Bethany Beach in 2018.

James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg’s annual Evening of Christmas Spirit had little spirit this year because of COVID-19.

About a dozen people were on hand for the lighting of the town Christmas tree in front of the Emmitsburg Community Center on the evening of December 7, 2020. Christmas music played during the brief event that usually draws a crowd and has local students singing carols.

Mayor Don Briggs thanked the small group for coming out. He acknowledged the problems that COVID has caused this year, and said, “Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you can.”

Briggs asked Dacosta Wivell, 12 years old, and the only child at the event, to assist him with the countdown. Then the pair flipped the switch, and the lights came on.

In the past, “An Evening of Christmas Spirit” at the Carriage House Inn has followed the tree-lighting ceremony. The event typically draws hundreds of people both inside and outside of the restaurant who come to enjoy free food, music, crafts, hayrides, and Santa’s visit.

None of that happened in December. For the first time in 32 years, it was canceled. State restrictions on restaurants and gatherings because of the virus forced the closure.

Mayor Don Briggs and Dacosta Wivell congratulate each other after lighting the town’s Christmas tree.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

On Sunday, December 6, 2020, the family of the late James E. “Jef” Fitzgerald, Sr., gathered at the Vigilant Hose Company’s (VHC) emergency services stationhouse at 25 West Main Street in Emmitsburg to dedicate the apparatus bay in his memory. Jef, a much-respected and well-known area resident, was instrumental in overseeing all aspects of the significantly expanded and enhanced VHC facility back in the decade of the 1990s. The activity included collateral efforts to plan for and acquire the community’s first aerial ladder truck, Tower 6.

Portions of the re-constructed and enhanced complex included dealing with sections dating back over 200 years.

Jef was a life-long dedicated VHC member, including having served for several years as VHC president. Jef passed at his home on January 10, 2013, minutes after arriving there from a work detail at the station.

Jef had also served for several years as president of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire/Rescue Association. Over several decades, Jef assisted Emmitsburg Town Government Officials with assuring proper compliance to specifications and code mandates of a great many community constructions projects.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance at the December 6  event was limited. Thus, it is hoped that all who knew Jef will make it a point to view the permanent plaque on display along West Main Street on the exterior wall out front of where Tower 6 sits.

Plaque unveiling: With Jef Fitzgerald, Sr.’s family in attendance, VHC President Tom Ward (far right) unveils a commemorative plaque dedicating a portion of the Fire Station in memory of James E. “Jef” Fitzgerald, Sr.

Photo Courtesy of Vigilant Hose Company*Along with Jef’s photo, wording on the Commemorative Plaque reads: James E. “Jef” Fitzgerald, Sr., 1942–2013, a 55-Year Vigilant Hose Company Life Member. Dedicated in memory of his unselfish service and extraordinary commitment to the Emmitsburg Community, its Volunteer Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services organization, and the Citizens of Frederick County.

The Thurmont Lions Club is collecting much-needed items for its local homeless shelters: baby diapers, baby wipes, and adult white socks. You can drop off your donations at Hobb’s Hardware on 15 E. Main Street in Thurmont, and the McLean residence on 7 Geoley Court in Thurmont (there will be a container at the garage for items). The donation deadline is January 17, 2021. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

The Grinch visited Thurmont in the beginning of December to the surprise and delight of many onlookers. He could be seen at the square in Thurmont waving as people drove by.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird noticed that the Grinch “really  liked our Christmas tree, so I watched to make sure he didn’t try to take it!”

Many drivers looped around several times, so they could get multiple looks at the Grinch!

“I want to thank Mayor May who from Whoville for letting us know the Grinch would be in town. I also want to thank Jenn and Dave Lewis for making sure the Grinch found his way to the square, so everyone could see him, “ said John Kinnaird.

Photo Courtesy of John Kinnaird

Girl Scout Troop 81069 volunteered at the Black Mountain View Farm Draft Rescue in Thurmont in October to complete their Bronze Service Award.

The girls learned all about the horse rescue on Whates Lane in Thurmont, which takes in draft horses from auctions, kill pens, neglection, and from people who cannot care for them anymore. Black Mountain View Farm Draft Rescue rehabilitates horses that arrive malnourished or with other health problems. The rescue, run by Kelly Black, provides critical care and a loving environment to nurse the horses back to good health and find them new homes.

The troop, along with rescue volunteers, helped with twice-daily grooming, brushing, hoof care, feeding, stall mucking, and sweeping chores. The girls from the troop enjoyed learning about the rescue and its needs and about caring for the horses. The troop looks forward to continuing to volunteer with the rescue.

Pictured from left are Andi Bentz, Lauren Kelley, Katelyn Veronie, June Norton, Hannah Mosiychuk, Monkey (Horse), Bree (Black Mountain Volunteer), Grace May, Elizabeth Blank, Ruby Norton, and Faith May.

Courtesy Photo

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment about the odd effects of grief.

written by James Rada, Jr.

Betty Douglas’s plan to kill Old Kiln Road was working. The tree she cut down to block the road kept cars from killing animals that the road tempted onto it. The road turned gray, and things seemed peaceful. Then a Frederick County road crew removed the tree. No accusations were made against Betty, but she was sure they thought she was responsible for blocking the road.

She had to do it because no one believed Old Kiln Road had killed her son, and Betty refused to have her revenge taken from her.

She replaced the “Slow” signs with “Detour” signs to steer people around the bad stretch of Old Kiln Road. Detour signs wouldn’t annoy drivers like the tree had, and the county road crew wouldn’t respond as quickly as it had for the tree. Still the cars came, but no animals were killed since Betty kept scaring them away from the road. She couldn’t keep her constant patrols up forever, though. She had to stop the cars.

Betty smashed dozens of her empty mason jars at either end of the road. The first few cars that ignored the detour signs were rewarded with flat tires. Traffic stopped and followed the detour.

The next morning, the road was once again a pale gray, starving for food. Betty set more food out in the fields to feed the animals. She checked on her glass traps, but they were gone, as if they had never been. Had the road swallowed them, hoping to lure traffic back onto it?

Betty went into the house and took Jack’s hunting rifle down from above the mantle. She knew how to use it because Jack had taken her deer hunting with him a few times during hunting season when he couldn’t find any friends to go with him. Betty loaded the Remington and went out to the road for her patrols.

About twenty-five yards from the road, she saw a pickup truck ignore the detour sign and head up Old Kiln Road. She raised the rifle to her shoulder, took aim, and fired just the way Jack had taught her. She shot the truck tires out, then ran off before the driver got out of the car. She walked to the other end of the road and waited. Soon enough, someone else ignored the detour sign. Betty put two holes in his radiator, stopping him from going any further.

The road went hungry another day.

The next day another pickup truck tried to ignore the detour sign and lost two tires. Old Kiln Road went hungry for a fourth day.

On the morning of the fifth day, Betty went out to the porch and wasn’t surprised to see the asphalt had dried out. It looked rough, like a patch of dried skin. Cracks ran through, making it look like a sun-baked river bed.

She patrolled the road with the rifle and was satisfied to see all the cars obeying the detour sign. However, police had barricaded the road, and officers patrolled the roads and surrounding woods. One officer questioned her, and Betty played innocent about what was going on.

How long would it be before the police opened the road? Would it be long enough for the road to be destroyed?

As the sun set that night, Betty watched the asphalt finally crumble into dust, exposing the gravel road bed. But there was something else among the gravel. Bones. Lots of them. Probably the bones of every animal that had ever been killed on that stretch of road. The small skeletons gleamed brightly in the fading light. Betty had starved the road to death and won.

How many animals had died to feed the road? How many people like her Peter had been killed?

She walked to the edge of the road and kicked at the gravel to loosen it like a hunter kicks at his fallen prey to make sure it’s dead.

“I don’t know what made you so bloodthirsty, but I hope whatever it was rots with you in hell,” Betty said.

She moved to kick it again, but as she did, Old Kiln Road decayed just a bit more. The edge of the roadway collapsed under her foot. Betty yelled as she lost her balance and fell onto the gravel. She put out her hands to break her fall, but the rifle got caught in between her and the road. It went off, and Betty shot herself in the stomach.

She fell onto the road, not dead but dying. She screamed for help, but no one was nearby to come to her aid. All the drivers were too afraid to travel this stretch of Old Kiln Road, and Jack was in Los Angeles. She was alone.

Her blood pumped through the hole in her stomach, down her side, and onto the road. As it touched the roadway, it immediately turned black restoring the asphalt. The changes spread like a ripple on water, restoring the road even as Betty lay on top of it dying.

Would the police find her body and think she was a victim of the sniper they were searching for?

Betty wasn’t going to let the road take her body. She would not be like the collie that she had seen commit suicide.

Holding one hand against the bloody hole in her stomach, Betty tried to rise up on her knees so she could crawl away. She moved one leg forward, but it was a struggle. Her leg had sunk into the asphalt, and it only pulled free with a loud sucking sound.

She grabbed with her free hand for the fence she had built alongside the road to keep the animals away. Her hand closed around one of the wooden posts, but the wooden post snapped off in her hand. She fell forward on her face and the road sucked her back a few inches.

Betty rolled onto her back and fired the rifle into the road. Again and again she fired until the rifle clicked empty. The bullets didn’t even leave a mark on the road. They simply disappeared into the soft asphalt. She beat on the road with the rifle until she was too weak to pull the rifle free from the road.

The road pulled her a few inches closer. She was now sitting in the roadway.

How do you kill something that is not alive?

Betty realized she couldn’t win, but it made her feel good to resist the evil of the road. With her remaining strength, she lunged out of the roadway so that her upper body fell onto the grass.

Let her blood nourish the ground, not the road. She wouldn’t help the road live.

Once Old Kiln Road restored itself to its original condition, Betty knew she had lost. After all her efforts, the road had finally found its meal. She felt herself pulled onto the road and sinking into the surface as if she wasn’t laying on hard asphalt but thick, black tar. She sunk a few inches into the asphalt, thinking she would stop when she touched the hard ground. But she kept sinking deeper and deeper. As the soft asphalt filled her ears, Betty tried to raise her head to keep it above the surface. She had to stop soon. This is what happened to the road kills that laid on the road for days at a time. Almost like the La Brea Tar Pits.

The road covered Betty’s face.

Jack turned onto Old Kiln Road. It had been a quiet ride home. Not unusual, but the newspaper he picked up at the airport had said there had been a sniper shooting at cars along the road. From the description given, it sounded like it had been close to his house.

As he came over the last rise before his driveway, a chipmunk ran out into the road so fast that Jack couldn’t swerve to avoid it. He hit it with his right front tire and killed it.

Stupid animal. Didn’t they know better to stay away from the road?

The End

The Year is…1808

by James Rada, Jr.

The Mount Seminary Is the “Cradle of Bishops”

From a brick cottage in rural Maryland grew an institution that has educated dozens of young men who became Catholic bishops and archbishops.

Mount St. Mary’s College began in 1808 when “the Society of St. Sulpice in Baltimore closed its preparatory seminary in Pennsylvania and transferred the seminarians to Emmitsburg,” according to the Mount St. Mary’s website.

The first classes were held in the Chinquapin Cottage. The first class was made up of 39 resident students and 7 or 8 day students. Among them were John Lilly of Conewago, James Clements of Littlestown, Rev. John Hickey of Frederick, and Dr. James A. Shorb, according to The Emmitsburg Chronicle.

“Father Dubois enlarged the scope of the institution and established classes of philosophy and theology, so as to retain his assistant teachers as long as possible; this finally led to the organization of the College and Seminary on a basis of entire independence, to be conducted by an association of priests under the jurisdiction and protection of the Archbishop of Baltimore,” James Helman wrote in History of Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The college’s and seminary’s reputations grew over the years. The Mount Seminary can boast 52 episcopal alumni, including John Hughes (Seminary of 1826), first Archbishop of New York; his Eminence John Cardinal McCloskey (Seminary of 1831), also Archbishop of New York and first native-born American cardinal; Most Rev. William B. Friend (Seminary of 1959), Bishop of Shreveport; Most Rev. Harry J. Flynn (Seminary of 1960), Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis; Most Rev. William E. Lori (Seminary of 1977); Most Rev. Michael 0. Jackels (Seminary of 1981), Bishop of Wichita; and Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley (Seminary of 1983), Bishop of Salina.

At present, Mount seminary alumni total more than 2,600, approximately half of whom are alive and active in priestly ministry. Alumni have served as first bishops of 15 newly formed dioceses, and 32 U.S. dioceses have been led by at least one bishop from the Mount.

“Emmitsburg has turned out some of the most notable American Jesuits. Father Early, my predecessor in the presidency of Georgetown, was a Mountaineer. In our needs, we naturally turn to this college. …There is an axiom that there is nothing in the effect that we may not find in the cause: now Mt. St. Mary’s is called the ‘Mother of Bishops,’ and the bishopric is a perfect state; hence, we find perfection in Mt. St. Mary’s that is the envy and the despair of all other colleges. …The secret of this is, I suppose, in the noble-hearted faculty which conserves and holds sacred the traditions of the saintly founders of the College,” Most Rev. John Farley, Archbishop of New York, said during the Mount’s centennial celebration in 1908.

Because of this, Mount St. Mary’s became known as the “cradle of bishops” and the “mother of bishops.”

“All the early universities of Europe were of priestly foundation, and almost all of our American ones had a similar origin. Religion and civilization go hand in hand. Now the priest is trained in the seminary. Hence, the seminary is the nursery of civilization and its preserver, for things are preserved by the same causes that give them origin. Mount St. Mary’s is the second in point of age of our seminaries, and has had very much to do with diffusing and preserving civilization as well as religion in the Republic. A dozen other colleges and seminaries owe their origin to her. Overbrook, her younger sister, acknowledges her precedence and wider influence, and pays her due honor on this her Centennial birthday anniversary,” Rev. Henry T. Drumgoole, LL.D., Rector of St. Charles’ Seminary, Overbrook, Pa., said of the Mount during the centennial celebration.

A version of this story appeared in The Emmitsburg Dispatch in 2008.

A Clean Slate

by Valerie Nusbaum

Happy New Year! I’m hoping that 2021 will be a great year for all of us. I know a lot of you were miserable in 2020. Many people we know suffered job losses, business closings, and illness.  Randy and I were fortunate that, so far, we haven’t been visited by COVID-19, but we know many people who weren’t so lucky. My hubby and I didn’t mind staying at home, although there were times when I know we got on each other’s nerves.

I trust that every one of you had as good a holiday season as possible given the circumstances.  With that being said, it’s time now to take a deep breath—which is difficult when wearing a mask—and figure out what the heck we can do to make this new year better than the last one.

We probably all ate way too much over the holidays. I’ve heard horror stories from friends about how they’ve gained a lot of weight due to quarantine-eating and depression. Maybe that’s where we start: an exercise plan and diet regime. I’ve never been a big fan of dieting, and I haven’t really needed to do it. If I notice that I’ve put on a pound or two, I give up desserts for a while or do a little extra on the treadmill. Or buy larger pants.

Since I know that losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution, I had planned to tell you about the night Randy met Richard Simmons; however, that isn’t going to happen. In mentally writing that story, I realized that there’s no way I can tell it without incriminating myself and my friend, Roxann. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great story. But since it involves a romantic dinner for two at The Quail Ridge Inn, a fit of hysteria, a spinning toilet, and a drive back to Frederick where something illegal occurred, I can’t go any further. I will tell you that I have a lovely photo of Randy being hugged by Richard Simmons, both of them grinning maniacally. And I can still hear Richard yelling, “the thingie, the thingie…” There was even a brief uninvited peek inside Richard’s limo, which only happened because one of us made a friend of the security guard.  Don’t judge me. This happened in 1991 or 1992, and “Sweating to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons was a huge hit. 

So, if I can’t write about diet and exercise, I think I’ll talk about snow since we’re heading into the timeframe where blizzards are possible. The hubby has a snow blower. It’s not the kind of snow blower one would normally use for a smaller property such as ours. Granted, we do have a lot of sidewalks, both surrounding our yard and leading from the front door to the back door to the basement door and crossing the patio, which needs to be plowed, too. Randy also likes to make a path leading back to his workshop, because if he doesn’t do that, I can see his footprints and I know he’s in there hiding from me. 

Anyway, the snow blower is an industrial-sized monster of a machine. Calling it a snow “blower” is such an understatement. I’d say it’s more of a snow “hurler.” If a person is ever unlucky enough to be walking down the public sidewalk in front of our house, he or she would be buried and frozen solid in a matter of seconds. Randy can accomplish this feat while standing at least 100 yards away from said person.  This snarling metal behemoth will also hurl rocks, dirt, and porch furniture, and it makes a growling sound much like an angry hippopotamus, or maybe I mean a rhino. It’s scary, that’s all I’m saying.

The snow blower used to belong to Randy’s dad, who bought it to plow out a driveway that was 150-yards long, and to manage my in-laws’ five-acre property. It was never intended for use in our cozy neighborhood. Consider yourselves warned. If the blizzard that Randy is praying for arrives, you’d do well to avoid us until the walks are cleared. It is kind of funny to watch, though, because the machine tends to get away from Randy. Once, he got his scarf caught in it. Winters are long, cold, and hard. I take my jollies where I can get them. 

Did I mention that I’m not allowed to use the snow blower?  Nope. That’s a job for a big, manly man. I really don’t have a problem with that because I much prefer staying inside where it’s warm and being in charge of the hot chocolate and cookies. Yet, I’m pretty sure Hubby keeps me away from his monster machine because of the incident with our riding lawn mower. Actually, there were several incidents, but maybe I’ll tell you about those in the spring.

Here’s wishing all of you good health, prosperity, and much happiness in the year to come.  And laughs—lots of laughs. Find them where you can, and if you can’t find them, call me. I’ll tell you the Richard Simmons story over the phone.