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Unitarians explore the meaning of “Unitarian Universalism”

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On Sunday, February 19 at 10 a.m., Mr. Ron Schaeffer will give a sermon entitled “What It Means to Be a Unitarian Universalist” for the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, 914 Gateway Dr., Chestertown. It is important that we occasionally ask the questions, “What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist? And, why is it important that we discuss this as a congregation?” In a religious denomination that allows the individual to decide what to believe, can we get consensus on our basic values and why we are here? During a time of major change for our congregations, Ron Schaeffer, a long-time UU, explains his view on what Unitarian Universalism means to him.

Special Music for this service will be performed by violinist/violist Nevin Dawson.

Childcare for infants and toddlers will be available during the service. Join us for this thoughtful discussion; all are welcome. For more information call 410-778-3440, or visit us on Facebook.

Legislators Consider a Bill to Legalize Aid-in-dying Medicine

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In 2014, Alexa Fraser’s 90-year-old father successfully ended his life with a gun to the head after two failed suicide attempts.

Her father, whom Fraser described as a “fiercely independent person,” suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a progressive movement disorder marked by involuntary tremors and slowed movement. His condition had worsened and he feared he would be kept alive beyond his will in a nursing home so he decided to take action, Fraser said.

Since his death, Fraser has been on the forefront of Maryland’s legal aid-in-dying movement, which advocates to allow patients with a terminal diagnosis to receive a lethal prescription to painlessly end their life.

The Maryland legislature for the third year in a row is considering a joint House and Senate bill that would legalize aid-in-dying. Sponsors of previous bills have withdrawn them before a vote, citing lack of support.

“Mom has told the hospice nurse — on numerous occasions — that she just wants to go to sleep and not wake up,” Kevin Gillogly from Silver Spring, Maryland, wrote in testimony for a Thursday hearing before a pair of House committees. His mother entered hospice care in December. “As a son, I want my mom to live out her life — and death — with dignity.”

The language surrounding the issue has been contentious. Opponents resist the term legal aid-in-dying, deeming it instead as physician-assisted suicide.

“It is very important to be up front, clear and honest about what this is,” Anita Cameron, director of minority outreach for Not Dead Yet, wrote in testimony submitted for the hearing. Cameron, who also had two degenerative disabilities, wrote that the bill is referring to physician-assisted suicide.

“Couching it in pretty language and hiding the truth is disingenuous, at best, and dangerous, at worst.”

The bill would undermine the doctor-patient relationship, according to a Maryland physician.

“Instead of the doctor’s role being one of caring for those at all stages, including at the end of life, the shift would be toward patient abandonment at a time when a patient is most vulnerable,” Dr. Ellen McInerney, who practices internal medicine in Edgewater, Maryland, wrote in testimony to the committee.

Fraser, who was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer in December, remains optimistic that the bills will garner enough support this year to pass. Although this legislation may eventually directly affect her own end-of-life choices, Fraser said, she continues her fight for her friends and family, not herself.

“I don’t know when I’m going to die, but what I know is there are people who right now are dying in ways they don’t want to,” Fraser said. “That is what is urgent. My situation isn’t urgent.”

Fraser testified Thursday that her son has been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis that has not changed her support for death with dignity.

Delegate Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, and Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Howard, are sponsoring the bills in their respective chambers.

Pendergrass said her support for the bill stems from witnessing her grandfather’s battle with Parkinson’s. Her parents eventually no longer took her to see him in a nursing home because they didn’t want her to remember him in a debilitated state.

His brain was “absolutely alert to the very end,” Pendergrass said, but “he was locked in his body and his body was locked away from us.”

“We’re all one bad death away from supporting this bill,” Pendergrass added. “Nobody wants to see their family suffer.”

The climate surrounding the issue appears to have shifted in favor of the bill since 2014, the first year it was considered.

In 2016, the Maryland State Medical Society, composed of 8,000 licensed physicians, changed its position on aid-in-dying from opposition to neutral after 65 percent of its members advocated for either support or a neutral position on the legislation.

Delegate Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore and Howard, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service that as a physician, he supports the bill because it enables the patients to have control over their own end-of-life decisions.

“It’s a very difficult time for patients and I’ve seen folks face some very difficult, challenging decisions,” Lam said. “For me it’s really a patient empowerment bill.”

Moreover, 69 percent of Americans say doctors should be able to end a patient’s life by painless means, according to a 2016 Gallup poll.

“I don’t see this as a partisan issue,” Lam said. “The tide of public support … has really gone in the direction in favor of this type of legislation and we feel that if folks are able to set aside their partisan biases that people will act in accordance with what’s best or their community and the other constituents (who) support this bill.”

If the bill passes, Maryland would join six other states—Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California and Colorado—that allow legal aid-in-dying. Congress is also reviewing a Washington, D.C., Council bill that would authorize the end-of-life option.

The Maryland Catholic Conference and some disability rights groups remain opposed to legal aid-in-dying legislation.

Lori Scott, a director at disability rights organization The Arc Maryland, said it’s not uncommon for someone with a disability to feel like a burden to family members, which could lead them to feel compelled to request a lethal prescription. She fears this could affect her own daughter, who is wheelchair-bound, she added.

“Disabled people are vulnerable because they like to have the assurance of people that they work with and they want to have their approval,” Scott said. “They may undertake something that they really shouldn’t be doing or don’t want to do, but want to please a provider or please a family member.”

However, Scott said, a doctor could incorrectly give a terminal diagnosis causing “someone to end their life prematurely—an irrevocable decision,” adding that a six-month prognosis can often be “unreliable.”

Pendergrass said the bill is “tightly crafted” to protect patients from this type of abuse.

Patients eligible for the lethal medication must have two doctors diagnose them with a terminal illness with only six months or less to live, the patient must be a mentally competent adult, they must issue one oral request followed by a written request, there must be two witnesses, including one who could not directly benefit from their death, and the patient must be able to self-administer the drug.

“There are a lot of concerns about how patients may be coerced or how physicians may … lean towards greater treatment or lean towards greater end-of-life options,” Lam said. “The bill strikes a good balance between those competing concerns to make sure there are strong safeguards in place.”

Dr. Samuel Kerstein, a philosophy professor at the University of Maryland, said legal aid-in-dying legislation may be garnering more support as this generation — who have had more control over their lives than previous generations — want to be able to control their end-of-life choices as well.

Many of the arguments for legal aid-in-dying legislation — easing suffering, respecting a person’s choices and individual liberty — could also be used to support arguments for legalizing aid-in-dying for non-terminal patients as well, such as a chronically depressed individual who wanted to end his or her suffering, Kerstein added.

But Donna Edwards, Compassion and Choices Maryland campaign manager, said legal aid-in-dying legislation is far from suicide.

“The definition of suicide is a mentally incompetent person, who otherwise is fairly healthy who wants to end their life,” Edwards said. “The patients who take this, they are already terminal. They have done everything they can do to save their life. This is at the end of their lives when they decide how and the when, but the disease is killing them.”

Scott said she thinks instead of legal aid-in-dying legislation, Maryland should allocate more resources toward palliative care, which focuses on providing relief from pain, hospice care and expanding education.

“This is an option that shouldn’t even be on the table for people,” Scott said.

Fraser said palliative care and aid-in-dying aren’t mutually exclusive, adding that many people who request lethal medication don’t end up taking it, but rather use it as a source of comfort. About one-third of patients who request the prescription don’t use it, according to a 2013 report by the Oregon Public Health Division.

“This is a totally voluntary bill,” Fraser said. “If you don’t like it, don’t use it. But it’s a two-stage bill. The first stage is the legislature approves it, and then every person, with the help of their family, their doctors, their conscience and their ministers, … reaches their own conclusion.”

If the bill passes through both chambers, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Catholic, could veto it. Although he hasn’t made any public statements on the issue recently, in 2014 Hogan told a diocesan magazine, The Catholic Standard, that he would oppose the measure.

“I believe in the sanctity of human life, and I believe a physician’s role is to save lives, not terminate them,” Hogan said in that report.

A statement from the governor was unavailable at press time on Thursday afternoon.

However, Pendergrass said she doesn’t assume Hogan would veto the bill because of his religious beliefs.

“The governor has been through cancer treatment,” Pendergrass said. “I’m sure he’s suffered—not that he had a terminal diagnosis—but I suspect he came across people who did. I don’t think that they governor would want people to suffer.”

Fraser, a Unitarian Universalist minister, said there is a misconception that anyone of faith has a common view on this issue, adding that many faith leaders who have seen their congregants suffer are becoming more bold in speaking out in favor of legal aid-in-dying.

“We in public office are entrusted to keep the church and the state separate,” Pendergrass said. “We can have our personal beliefs, but we can know that our values may be different from some people and we can give them the ability to use this as one more tool.”

By Natalie Schwartz.

Carrie Snurr contributed to this story.

Attorney General Frosh asks for $1 million to Exercise New Powers to Sue Federal Government

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Hours after the House of Delegates gave final approval to broad new powers for Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the federal government, he was in front of a House committee asking for $1 million a year to hire five lawyers for his new mission.

The delegates approved the new powers for the Democratic AG to go after the Trump administration without the permission of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in a straight party line vote 89-50, with all Republicans opposed.

Republicans on the House Health and Government Operations Committee wondered why the fiscal analysis of the just passed Maryland Defense Act, SJ5, and its House companion, HJ3, stated that “The Office of the Attorney General can use existing resources to handle any litigation initiated as a result of the resolution,” yet here he was asking for a million dollars in mandated spending in HB913.

The mandated spending would not kick in until the fiscal 2019 budget begins July 1, 2018. For the next 16 months, Frosh would be using existing attorneys in his main office, but they would be pulled from other duties, he said.

The new spending mandate was sponsored by Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, who also was the lead sponsor of the House joint resolution. The bill contains the same language as the resolutions authorizing the attorney general to pursue lawsuits.

The bill and the resolution explicitly mention “ensuring the availability of affordable health care; safeguarding public safety and security; protecting civil liberties; and preserving and enhancing the economic security of workers and retirees” along with protection of consumer rights, pensions, the environment and “the general health and well-being of [state] residents.”

A key difference between what the House passed Wednesday morning and the bill in committee is the joint resolutions go into effect immediately without the signature of the governor and HB913 is regular legislation that needs the governor’s OK.

“We’re opposed to mandated spending,” said Hogan communication director Doug Mayer, who refused to speculate about whether the governor would veto the bill. Hogan has consistently pushed legislation to reduce spending mandates, not increase them, since they control over 80% of the discretionary general fund budget.

Asked how they arrived at a figure of $1 million for five new assistant attorneys general and support staff, Rosenberg and Frosh said the model was a federalism division in the office of the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican.

Pruitt has been nominated as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency he has sued 14 times.

Frosh said he might wind up suing Pruitt if he tries to dismantle the Chesapeake Bay clean-up, an EPA program that was the subject of a Pruitt lawsuit.

By Len Lazarick

1st District Health Care Town Hall Meetings to be Held Without Rep. Andy Harris

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Constituents in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District are growing increasingly concerned about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and are looking to their elected officials to help address those concerns. Many calls, letters, and emails to Representative Andy Harris’s office have gone unanswered, or answered without addressing specific concerns. Constituent requests for Representative Harris to hold an in-person town hall meeting have not been successful.

Citizens for Health Care, a local grassroots organization, has heard these concerns and will host a series of citizens town hall meetings entitled “Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Town Hall Meetings” intended to inform and educate constituents about the ACA and what it’s repeal could mean to them and their families and to consider methods to improve the ACA.

These town hall meetings will feature speakers from the professional healthcare community for an information session, as well as an open-panel question and answer session for public attendees. Representative Harris and other local elected officials have been invited to attend, in hopes of opening the lines of communication with their constituents and allowing for a discussion of what might come next. Hundreds of constituents have indicated they are interested in attending.

“At Citizens for Health Care, we understand that the subjects of health care and the ACA are not partisan issues: they are human issues,” said DeLane Lewis, one of the founders of Citizens for Health Care. “Congress is facing a dilemma at this moment, arguing whether to repeal or repair parts of the ACA. However, any decision they make will have a real, lasting impact on all U.S. citizens. It is our mission to keep the public informed and aware as to how these proposed changes could affect them.”

One of the major aims of the town hall meetings will be to answer the many questions that citizens currently have, including: What will be the impact on employer based plans? While all current and proposed plans, would continue to offer insurance for pre-existing conditions, under the ACA insurance companies are not allowed to charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions. Will that be true under any new plan? In Maryland alone, almost 500,000 people are enrolled in health care coverage through the ACA. What will be the impact on the State of Maryland financially? On jobs?

Proposed plans that would eliminate current provisions of the ACA for federal financial assistance and Medicaid expansion are also of significant concern. According to research by the Urban Institute, eliminating individual and employer mandated, federal financial assistance and Medicaid expansion would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22.5 million. The group estimates that an additional 7.3 million Americans would lose their insurance due to anear collapse of the non group insurance market.

Speakers at the citizens town hall plan to review and compare coverage options and statistics from pre-ACA, versus current options, as well as the various policy aspects of proposed changes or replacements. Health care professionals will also be available to discuss the implications for addiction treatment and mental health care in the community, as the ACA has greatly expanded coverage in both of these areas. Additionally, the financial costs of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses will be discussed to get a clear picture of the impact on the average healthcare consumer’s wallet.

The town hall meetings will be held as follows:

Tuesday, February 21, 6:30 pm, Harford Community College, Darlington Hall, Room 202, Bel Air
Thursday, February 23, 6 pm, Queen Anne’s County Library, 200 Library Circle, Stevensville
Friday, February 24, 6 pm, Salvation Army, 429 N Lake Drive, Salisbury
Thursday, March 2, 6 pm, St Paul’s UCC, 17 Bond Street, Westminster

Current guest speakers scheduled to appear include:

– Sue Ehlenberger, Maryland Health Connection-Seedco
– Mark Romaninsky, Maryland Health Connection-Seedco
– Jeananne Sciabarra, Consumer Health First
– Scot Hurley, Ashley Addiction Treatment
– Katia Callan, MSW, LCSW-C, Insight Wellness of Maryland
– Dr. James Burdick, author of Talking About Single Payer: Health Care Equality for America
– Dr. Margaret Flowers, Healthcare is a Human Right
– Kaylie Potter, Door to Healthcare

About Citizens for Health Care: Citizens for Health Care, located in Bel Air, Md., is a grassroots organization dedicated to providing education and information regarding the Affordable Care Act and proposed changes to the bill. For more information, please visithttps://www.facebook.com/CitizensforHealthCare/

 

Workshop for Rural Health Care Businesses offered in Centreville

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Chesapeake Charities will provide capacity-building training for businesses that provide health and fitness services in rural areas. The workshop, “Development Strategies for Rural Health Care Providers” will be held on Thursday, March 2 at the Queen Anne’s County Building, 110 Vincit Street, in Centreville.

Led by Chesapeake Charities’ Grants and Evaluation Specialist, Mary Ann Gleason, and Executive Director, Linda Kohler, the workshop will provide business leaders with new ways to diversify funding resources, improve sustainability and strengthen their businesses. The workshop is funded through the Rural Business Development Grant Program of the USDA and there is no charge for attendance.

“We know first-hand how challenging it is to stay on top of new funding opportunities, but it is critical for success,” said Kohler, “We have put together a very focused workshop for busy managers. It is a small investment of time with potentially big rewards.”

2-Mary Ann Gleason        1-Linda Kohler

Photos: Mary Ann Gleason (left) and Linda Kohler (right)

Course content will include:
– Identifying rural health resources and opportunities
– Addressing new market opportunities in population health and preventive care
– Developing effective strategies to make the case for funding
– Diversifying the funding base to improve sustainability
– Partnering with the community and connecting with local government officials

The workshop runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon in the conference room at the Queen Anne’s County Building on Vincit Street in Centreville. Online registration is available at http://chesapeakecharities.org/events. For questions, please call Mary Ann Gleason at Chesapeake Charities (410) 643-4020 or send an email to info@chesapeakecharities.org.

Chesapeake Charities is a community foundation with over a decade of success in obtaining funding for local programs and initiatives, and supports a wide range of charitable causes including arts, education, health and human services, animal welfare, and the environment. All of our 75 component funds have a common cause – a passion for making a difference in their communities. Together we have invested more than $9 million in the Chesapeake Bay region since 2005.

Chesapeake Charities is accredited by the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. For more information, visit our website at chesapeakecharities.org.

Rural Homelessness Is Real on the Mid-Shore

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Homelessness is real on the Mid-Shore. As we sit snugly in our homes this winter, there is another population not quite so fortunate who might be “couch surfing” with family or friends, sleeping in cars, or even living in makeshift tents on the outskirts of our towns.

According to Julie Lowe, Executive Director of Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS), “Rurally, homelessness looks very different than in urban areas. Here on the Mid Shore, it can go unnoticed because it doesn’t look like the people we may see with signs asking for money on the streets in our cities.”

Lowe goes on to explain that many people hear the word “homeless” and it strikes fear in their hearts as they think of urban stories about people being robbed or hurt by people in the cities which might have mental illness or substance abuse. She adds that the reality in rural areas is that more of the people who become homeless have fallen on bad luck – lost jobs, illness, accidents, or divorce or changing family status.

Lowe adds, “The people who are homeless on the Mid Shore can go unnoticed because they want to be unnoticed. There is a stigma attached to homelessness. People judge you because they don’t understand how your situation happened.” She adds, “Many of these people are trying to piece it all together themselves and don’t want people to know their struggles. It is often a crisis, like cold weather, that has them coming to the doors of our shelters.”

Haven Ministries - New Space Sleeping

Haven Ministries – New Space Sleeping

Krista Pettit, executive director of Haven Ministries of Queen Anne’s County, adds that it is difficult to know the true number of homeless individuals on the Shore because the population is dispersed in a rural area. Funding for homeless programs are greater in the metropolitan areas where the numbers are more concentrated. According to Pettit and Lowe, because funding is limited in rural areas, partnerships with community organizations are crucial to meeting the needs, in particular, the role of the church community in meeting the needs.

Lowe adds, “The church model is how the Shore originally dealt with the homeless population in the winter months. Through a rotating seasonal shelter, communities were able to offer shelter in the evenings for people in need in area churches.”

Talbot Interfaith Shelter was a rotating church model for six years, rotating during the winter season between seven to 10 churches and the Synagogue, before finding a permanent shelter location in Easton two years ago. Haven Ministries Shelter has also operated as a church model for the past 12 years, utilizing Kent Island United Methodist Church in Stevensville as its seasonal shelter location. Both TIS and Haven Ministries still utilize churches to provide funding, meals, and volunteers to help run their shelters.

Lowe comments, “There seems to be more acceptance of the church model and more stigma associated with a permanent shelter.”

Pettit adds, “Churches are shelters for the shelter.”

Both Lowe and Pettit agree that the neighborly feeling in rural areas contributes to the communities taking care of their own. Many people have grown up volunteering in the church shelter model, but as a new generation comes of age, many have never had the experience.

Pettit adds, “There is now need to educate the next generation about how they can volunteer and help with this issue.”

The issue today with homelessness can be complex. According to Lowe and Pettit, people don’t realize how hard it is for people with children to get jobs because of the issues around child care in our rural areas. Other issues involve the availability of mental health treatment/counseling, and getting proper documentation (birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses). With the Shore’s immigrant population, there can also be language barriers and an insular community to contend with.

Jeanine Beasley, Continuum of Care Manager at Shore Behavioral Health, the core service agency for behavioral health in the five counties on the Mid Shore, comments, “Like most rural areas, there are limited resources to deal with the issues surrounding homelessness. In the area of mental health treatment/counseling, it can take a while to be seen by a mental health provider. Talbot Interfaith Shelter and Haven Ministries both have partnerships with area outpatient mental health providers – For All Seasons and Corsica River Mental Health – which can help address these issues more quickly.”

In addition to mental health issues, Beasley points to the lack of affordable housing and sustainable employment as other issues facing our communities today. She adds, “There is a lack of awareness about this issue on the Mid Shore. Most people don’t understand the reasons people find themselves in these difficult situations. Not everyone has a safety net of family and friends to help them when a crisis happens. Both TIS and Haven Ministries are trying to help their clients build that safety net to help them get back on their feet.”

Pettit states, “Year to year, the age of clients in our shelter can vary. Because you have to be 18 or older to stay alone in a shelter, there are issues with youth homelessness in our county. We are now exploring ways to address this.” She adds, “There are also issues with the elderly due to financial and health issues, being disconnected from family, and having no support systems.”

The goal of both TIS and Haven Ministries is to get shelter clients stabilized through case management services so that their clients can transition into housing of their own. Both communities face challenges in finding affordable transitional housing. Talbot Interfaith Shelter partners with the Housing Commission of Talbot to provide apartments to their families transitioning into their own housing.

According to Carlene Phoenix, Deputy Director of the Housing Commission of Talbot, “Although Talbot County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state of Maryland, we need more affordable housing units for our workforce. Specifically, we need more income-based units for our minimum wage earners.”

Phoenix explains that although The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8 Program) can help provide rental assistance for housing for eligible families, the program’s federal funding is not at a level to meet the needs in Talbot County.

Until some of these changes occur, individuals and families on the Mid Shore face the reality of quietly piecing together resources to meet their changing needs when crisis happens – often going unnoticed in our communities.

For information about how you can help with rural homelessness by volunteering, partnering, or donating to either Talbot Interfaith Shelter in Talbot County or Haven Ministries in Queen Anne’s County, call Julie Lowe (TIS) at 410-310-2316 or Krista Pettit (Haven Ministries) at 410-739-4363.

WIN has Donated its Dodge Ram Van to the Bayside H.O.Y.A.S., Inc.

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The mission of Women in Need, Inc. (WIN) has expanded over the years and it has supported many initiatives in the county, including the Alley Teen Center from 2007 to 2015, offering tutoring, counseling and after school activities for middle and high school students and activities such as Girl’s Circle and Boys Council. The rise of other services for area youth like the Kent County Community Center and the progressive programs like the H.O.Y.A.S. allowed the organization to focus on new endeavors like Project M.E. (Microenterprise Empowerment) providing support and location space for new start up businesses to gain exposure to the region and customers at its downtown location, Finders Keepers.

WIN HOYASThe van, originally purchased to support the Alley Teen Center and was used for other partnerships such as the Kent Shoreman Basketball team, will be put to use by the H.O.Y.A.S. for travel around the county and for away games throughout the Eastern Shore. It is fitting that it will pass from one youth basketball program to another and we hope it will serve them well as they continue to serve and do good work with the kids of our community. “Our organization is grateful that the citizens of our community and businesses not only appreciate and value what we do as a program, but want to see us grow,” John Queen, founder of Bayside H.O.Y.A.S., Inc.

In addition to the donating to Bayside H.O.Y.A.S, Inc., WIN will also be making its annual contribution of $1,500 to the Samaritan Group Emergency Homeless Shelter program in addition to other planned contributions to HomePorts and other area organizations.

This year WIN will celebrate 20 years serving the Kent County community. For the last 15 years, Karen Dionisio and company have operated the WIN Thrift Store on Philosopher¹s Terrace (next to Dollar General), as the main source of funds used to provided support various programs for those in need. In addition to providing low cost furnishings and goods, the WIN Store also serves the community by providing home essentials to qualifying families for reduced or no cost.

Women In Need, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization that provides client assistance through programs designed to empower individuals to success. For more information contact their administrative office at 410-778-3844 or email: info@win-foundation.org. Donations to the store are accepted Thursday thru Saturday during business hours.

Kent County Doubles Down on Pre-Kindergarten Education

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Responding to the research, Kent County Superintendent, Dr. Karen Couch, and Kent County Board of Education will continue their investment in early childhood education. In FY 13, Kent County Public Schools began offering tuition free full-day Pre-Kindergarten to all 4-year old children residing within the County. Pre-Kindergarten programs prepare children socially, emotionally, physically, and academically for Kindergarten and beyond and are staffed with early childhood certified teachers and instructional assistants.

Kent County teachers and administrators are committed to improving kindergarten readiness and supporting the needs of young children. Offering tuition free universal pre-kindergarten is one way Kent County is working to make this happen. 85% of four-year-old children in Kent County attend our public Pre-K full day programs. 54% of Kent County’s children enter Kindergarten with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed to fully participate in the Kindergarten curriculum. This is the highest percentage on the Eastern Shore and 11 points higher than the state average! For more information about Kent’s 2016-2017 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) data to http://www.readyatfive.org/school-readiness-data/jurisdictional-readiness-data-2017/kent-county-1.html

Regardless of school consolidation, full-day Pre-Kindergarten classes will continue for all students who are four years old on or before September 1, 2017. Pre-K and Kindergarten registration information will be available by March 15th. The sign-up period for 2017-2018 will be held in May.

For more information about how to get children registered, please call Gina Jachimowicz at 410-778-7116 or e-mail gjachimowicz@kent.k12.md.us

Half Day Retreat in Hillsboro

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On Saturday, February 18, The Retreat House at Hillsboro will be hosting a half-day retreat from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. entitled “Recovering Spirit: The Path to Forgiveness,” led by Reverend Paul Gennett, Jr., pastor of St. Mark’s in Dover, Delaware.

This contemplative session will focus on spirituality using the 12 Steps of AA and other teachings as a guide for exploration and discussion on the subject of forgiveness. The retreat is open to anyone who wishes to expand their spiritual life. Being in a recovery program is not required. Gennett explained, “Many of us struggle with letting go of things that are in the way of our spiritual growth. During this retreat we’ll consider what life might be like without them.”

RHentrance

The Retreat House at Hillsboro on the grounds of historic St. Paul’s Church

The agenda includes discussion and time for quiet reflection and prayer. Continental breakfast and lunch will be offered and to cover expenses, a free will offering of $25 per person will be gratefully accepted at the door. Online registration is requested at https://recoveringspirit2.eventbrite.com.

Located on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church at 22005 Church Street, Hillsboro, Maryland 21641, the Retreat House is open forgroup retreats and meetings, individual hermitages, meditation and any who seek a spiritual connection. A traditional Chartres-style walking labyrinth is always open for walking and prayer. The Retreat House at Hillsboro is a ministry of the Diocese of Easton, MD. For more information contact Francie Thayer, Director, at (410) 364-7042, info@retreathousehillsboro.org, or visit us on Facebook.com/RetreatHouseAtHillsboro.