Town Council Meeting: WAC Students to Clean Up Rail Trail

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Gilchrest Rail Trail in Chesterown

Washington College students will conduct their annual cleanup of the Gilchrest Rail Trail this coming Sunday, Oct. 22,

Arianna Hall, the secretary of service and community relations for the college’s Student Government Association, told the Chestertown Mayor and Council at their Oct. 16 meeting that students will gather at the Dixon Valve parking lot at 1 p.m. Sunday  She said the students invited community members as well as college faculty and staff members to join in the effort. Hall said it is important for the campus to be more involved with the community, “We want the event to serve as an opportunity for all of us to come together,” she said.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the town welcomes the effort. He said he would be on hand with his pickup truck to help haul away bags of trash collected by the students. He said previous cleanups had gotten “incredible turnout,” He said his truck could carry as many as 25 bags of trash.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town has in the past supplied trash bags and gloves to students working to clean the trails. He said town crews may need to do some pre-cleaning, removing fallen limbs and cutting back weeds so cleanup crews can see the trash along the trail.

Hall said the SGA would like to know other ways student volunteers could help out around town — “big or small things,” such as raking leaves or shoveling snow.

Police Chief Adrian Baker promoted Reynolds Peele (front) to Patrolman First Class

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper invited students to volunteer for the Chestertown Tea Party Festival committee, which has been short of members. She said she knew most students would be away from campus on Memorial Day weekend, when the festival takes place, but there is plenty of work to be done before the weekend. She said the committee would especially welcome students who could help with marketing or social media.

Also at the meeting, the council appointed Robety Ortiz to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors of  Elections. Ingersoll said the vacancy arose after Don Cantor asked to be removed from the board to deal with hurricane damage to his Florida vacation home. The council unanimously approved the appointment.

Police Chief Adrian Baker promoted Reynolds Peele to Patrolman First Class. Peele has completed two years of service with the department and met proficiency requirements. He recently returned to duty after completing a year’s deployment with the U.S. Army Reserve in Guantanamo, Cuba.

 

Affordable Care Act: One Young Cancer Patient in Maryland

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Presents sat unopened in her family’s Davidsonville house in April, while at Johns Hopkins Hospital her parents told her she had Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous tumor growing in her stomach. The disease is so rare that only about 225 children in the United States are diagnosed each year.

Ella Edwards, 9, holds the opening page of a story she is writing about her fight with cancer. Ella was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma on her birthday. Capital News Service photo by Aaron Rosa.

The Edwards family entered a new reality of oncologists and treatments.

“It was crazy fast,” Jen Edwards said. “We were taken up to oncology, and I was thinking, what are we doing here? There are kids with cancer here.

“At that point we weren’t even thinking of insurance.”

The Edwards family hadn’t been following the congressional debates over the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” But now they, like millions of other Americans, would have to deal with a pre-existing condition — which before the Affordable Care Act meant companies could refuse insurance.

Though Congress and the Trump Administration have tried — and failed — to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, these patients remain worried about their future.

“The ACA was something I never paid attention to,” Jen Edwards said. “You just assume your child is never going to get sick and be healthy all their lives.”

Brian Edwards runs Hague Quality Water, a water treatment company, owned by his father, that has been in his family over 20 years. He purchased health insurance for his children, which, he said, cost less than what he would have to pay through work.

A week before Ella’s birthday, a stomach flu hit the family, but Ella did not respond to the usual medications.

Ella Edwards walks into the room where she will receive the third of six proton radiotherapy treatments. Capital News Service photo by Aaron Rosa.

Doctors at Anne Arundel Medical Center found a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing against her bladder and transferred her immediately to Johns Hopkins University for further testing.

There, the doctors diagnosed the cancer. And two days after her parents took her to the hospital for what they thought was a stomach bug, Ella began receiving chemotherapy.

At Hopkins, Jen Edwards recalls, hospital administrators made a crucial discovery: Ella had been admitted through the emergency room. If Ella was discharged, Johns Hopkins would not readmit her because, though the emergency visit was covered, Hopkins did not accept her insurance for continuing treatment, a staff member confirmed.

They stopped the family from leaving. The administrators recommended that Brian Edwards purchase a new plan, under “Obamacare,” that would cover Ella’s future treatment — avoiding a bill of $80,000.

In a stroke of luck, Hague Quality Water was in a two-week period where the business could choose a new insurance provider for their employees. Brian Edwards switched his company’s coverage to Evergreen Health, a plan on the state health exchange that offered in-state health insurance for Ella’s condition.

Ella’s newly diagnosed cancer is included on a list of declinable conditions that would have caused her application for insurance to be automatically denied in all but five states before the health care law, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Evergreen Health’s monthly premium is $1,900, nearly 30 times the $66 premium he previously paid for insurance covering all his children — the policy from a company that Johns Hopkins would not accept.

“Even if you can’t pay the bills in that moment, you’re still going to do the treatment,” Jen Edwards said.

She leafed through a thick, worn binder filled with letters from doctors, scraps of paper with hastily jotted notes, and bills — dozens of bills.

Ella’s initial seven-day hospitalization topped $41,000, including $17,000 for room and board, and $20,000 for her first round of chemotherapy.

Four months of cancer treatments, visits with specialists, and hospitalizations racked up over $200,000. All but their $1,500 deductible was paid by their insurance company.

Before the Obama health care law, those costs led many families to bankruptcy.

A study conducted by Harvard University and published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that from 2001 to 2007, bankruptcies attributable to medical problems increased by 50 percent and comprised 67 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States.

Cost of life, a metric used to quantify one year of life with cancer treatment, rose from $54,100 in 1995, to $207,000 in 2013. This statistic does not include expenses like surgery or home care, nor does it account for the loss of income resulting from a chronic illness.

Brian and Jen Edwards held a different view of the health care law before Ella’s diagnosis. Back then, they viewed “Obamacare” as socialization of health care.

“For me, Ella’s cancer changed my perspective about the Affordable Care Act,” Jen Edwards said.

“Knowing some of these children that are also at Hopkins, I know their families can’t afford it,” she trails off. “Every child should get care.”

Jen Edwards has quit her job at a local church to care for Ella.

Brian Edwards supplements his work-provided policy with an additional policy to cover the more expensive drugs not covered by Evergreen.

The additional policy is income-based. With five children and a single income, the Edwards family qualifies for its insurance. But if Jen Edwards were to resume working and the family income increased, they would be ineligible.

But even with government subsidies, the Edwards family’s health insurance policies cost him over $2,500 a month.

“It’s overwhelming,” Brian Edwards said. “I don’t know how people do it without insurance.”

Ewing’s sarcoma has a good prognosis if it has not spread. Ella’s has spread to her lungs.

Ella has completed nine of 14 rounds of chemotherapy and is undergoing an eight-week proton radiotherapy treatment plan in lieu of a surgery that would have removed two of her vertebrae.

The family’s life is now shaped by cancer.

Ella and her siblings manned a lemonade stand on the side of a nearby road this summer to raise money for Ewing’s sarcoma research. The family visited Hershey Park. And Ella attended a special week-long camp sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Hospital and staffed by medical personnel.

What they did not do this summer was watch the healthcare debate on television.

Brian Edwards canceled their cable TV subscription. The Edwards children watch cartoons on Netflix.

“Nothing good comes from watching the news,” Brian Edwards said.
But the next wave of bad news didn’t come through the television. It came in the mail.

As a non-profit, Evergreen could no longer cover the costs of its clients, and in a final desperate measure, converted to a for-profit model and sought an outside investor.

Investors dropped out of the Evergreen acquisition deal this summer. In August, the Edwards family received a letter from Evergreen Health announcing that it would be going out of business, honoring existing contracts but closing its doors for good in 2018.

“We’ve been lucky to have coverage so far,” Brian Edwards said softly. “But with Evergreen going out of business, next year is going to be very different.”

Brian Edwards again switched his company’s insurance from Evergreen to Maryland Blue Cross Blue Shield.

His monthly premium increased by $400.

By Aaron Rosa

Talkin’ Baseball at the Historical Society

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the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame

The Historical Society is pleased to announce a special lecture, Hot Air and Hubris: Baseball and the Rural Culture of the Eastern Shore”, that will coordinate with our window exhibit  “When Hometown Baseball Was King.” Marty Payne and Donnie Davidson, both representing the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame, will be with us to discuss baseball and just what it means to this area. The talk will focus on how technology brought baseball to the Eastern Shore, the social and economic impact that this had on the region, and the quality of players and teams.

Payne is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research and has presented his findings to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Davidson is one of the premier collectors of Eastern Shore baseball historical items and is the historian for the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.

The talk is at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, in the Bordley Building. We hope to see you there! Ifor more information, call 410-778-3499 or email atadmin@kentcountyhistory.org.

 

Ryan, Harris Tout Tax Reforms in Dixon Valve Visit

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Dixon Valve CEO Dick Goodall, at right, introduces House Speaker Paul Ryan (L) and Rep. Andy Harris to employees

Chestertown received a rare visit of a national political figure Thursday, Oct. 5 when Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, came to town to promote the Republican Party’s tax reform proposals.

Accompanying Ryan on his visit to Dixon Valve and Coupling was Rep. Andy Harris, whose district includes the Eastern Shore. In the two-hour visit, Ryan and Harris toured the factory floor, had a question-and-answer session with workers, and met with management. At the conclusion of the visit, Ryan briefly took questions from members of the press.

Ryan and Harris talk to Dixon Valve workers during a plant tour

Dick Goodall, CEO of Dixon Valve, introduced the visitors, said he was really pleased to have Ryan and Harris. He said the visit was “a good opportunity, because we’re all invested in this country,” including all the things that happen in Washington. He told the assembled employees to ask questions freely – “I know you won’t hold back,” he said before turning the microphone over to Harris.

Harris, who introduced Paul, said he noticed several new pieces of equipment in the factory since his last visit, about four years ago. He said that was a good sign, because business needs to grow and progress to keep up with foreign competition. He said the two things most businesses worry about are regulations and the tax rate. He said he and Paul had just cast votes on the budget for next year, which would include a tax plan to improve the prospects for business.

Paul thanked Harris for being a leader on both taxes and health care. He said the two congressmen were here because they want the country to prosper in the face of global competition. “We need to be ahead of the global competition if we want good jobs, good futures that pay us well,” he said. He said Dixon is in competition with Chinese companies that make the same products, but while China taxes its businesses “at no higher than 25 percent,” Dixon faces taxes of 35 percent – not counting state taxes that raise the rate even higher. “That’s the story of America,” he said, Overseas, taxes can be as low as 12.5 percent, as in Ireland. He said the U.S. tax code was last reformed in 1986, while other countries have adjusted their rates many times since then. “This is messed up and we’ve got to fix it,” he said.

House Sp[eaker Paul Ryan

Paul also said the Republicans want to make it possible for companies to write off equipment purchases the year they make them, rather than waiting to recoup the expenses. With these incentives, he said, American companies will be encouraged to keep their operations in this country instead of moving them overseas.

Finally, he said, the tax code is so complicated that nobody without an accountant to help them navigate it can benefit from its various provisions. He said the GOP plan would allow most workers to fill out their tax forms “on a postcard,” while retaining “good middle-class incentives” like credits for home owners or saving for kids’ college education.  By doing so, “w know we can be a more prosperous country,” he said.

During the question-and-answer session, a young Dixon Valve employee asked how long it would take for the benefits of the GOP tax plan to take effect. “I’m 20 years old, and I’d like to move out of my parents’ house,” he said.

“Don’t worry – there is a future,” Ryan said. Congress will lower individual tax rates as well as business rates, he said. He said the plan will remove the marriage penalty and make it easier to save money to raise a family. He said American businesses have to pay higher wages and provide more benefits than Chinese companies. “The very least we can do is lower their tax costs” so they can hire more workers and pay them more, he said.

Ryan also talked about educational reforms to give young people the skills they need to operate the kind of advanced machinery in plants like Dixon Valve. He said House Republicans have passed bills to give workers the skills they need in the modern workforce. He also said the nation needs to reduce the cost of higher education.

After the employee Q&A session, Paul met with Dixon management and with the head of the American Association of Manufacturers to discuss how tax reform would help them.

During the press session, Ryan was asked about a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that said 30.5 percent of Maryland taxpayers would face an immediate tax increase under the GOP proposal, the highest percentage in the nation. The report said the increase would arise from the proposal’s elimination of a deduction for state and local taxes. Ryan said he hadn’t seen the report, but he said its analysis is likely to be slanted due to the Institute’s liberal bias. He said increasing the standard deduction and eliminating loopholes would benefit most middle-class taxpayers.

Ryan was also asked if Congress is contemplating a ban on the “bump stock,” an attachment that allows the AK-47 rifle to fire on full automatic, as in the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. He said he had never heard of the attachment before news of the shooting broke, but he said fully automatic weapons have been outlawed for many years. The bump stock appears to be a way to dodge that prohibition, he said. He said regulations should catch up with that development, and that more research would be needed “to find out how this happened in the first place.”

Protesters hold signs outside Dion Valve

Across High Street, outside the Dixon Valve plant, a group of protesters – about 60 at its peak – held signs and chanted slogans. The total number of protesters was somewhat higher  as people came and went over a three-hour period.  The first protester arrived before 1:00 pm while the last ones went after the press conference ended and Ryan’s caravan with police escort left at about 4:15 pm.  At the height of the demonstration, around 2-3 pm, there were several groups representing various organizations such as Indivisible.  Many cars honked and their occupants waved energetically in support of the demonstration. Four or five students from the Washington College Republican Club were also present, though it is unknown if they were there in protest, in support, or just out of curiosity.  There were no disturbances. Two police officers were present and directed traffic.

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Meet Jim Shea, Candidate for Governor

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Jim Shea

Saturday, October 21 Jim Shea, a candidate for Maryland Governor, will meet with interested voters at the Kent County Democratic headquarters, 347 High St., Chestertown from noon to 2 p.m.

Jim Shea is a native of Baltimore, and has lived in Baltimore County for the last 40 years with his wife, Barbara, and their family. After graduating from University of Virginia law school in 1977, Jim was a federal law clerk before entering private practice. Shortly after that he served as a Maryland Assistant Attorney General. He then went to work for the law firm of Venable LLP in 1983. For 22 years beginning in 1994, he served as Venable’s managing partner and its chairman, making it Maryland’s largest law firm.

Shea’s civic involvement has included serving as chairs of the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland, the Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. He has also served on the Equal Justice Council Of the Maryland legal aid bureau, the board of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the board of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding member of the Board of the Hippodrome Theater.

First Friday: RiverArts Reception and Exhibit

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Opening Reception: First Friday, October 6, 5 – 8 pm.  Join us for refreshments and the new Artists Exhibit for October. Be sure to vote for your favorite in the People’s Choice award. The exhibit will be on view through October 29.

Join the HP Festival fun with RiverArts!

This is your chance to

learn how to mix magic spells and potions to take home! 

Friday 5pm-7:30pm: Register here

Saturday 10am-4pm: Register here

 

 

 

At KidSpot – Friday5-7pm

 

Collage created by students at Kent County Schools with Aimee Boumeia

Concentric Circle Quilt by Kindergarten and 1st Grade classes

Triangle designs by 2nd and 3rd-grade classes

Wall Hanging by 4th and 5th-grade classes

Want to learn more about upcoming events, exhibits, classes?

Read all about it on our website.

Maryland Oyster Season Opens with Bad News – Harvest Last Season down 42 Percent

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The public oyster harvest season began Monday, with Chesapeake Bay watermen no doubt hoping for a better haul this fall and winter than last. For Maryland watermen, though, there isn’t a lot of room for optimism.

Despite mild weather last winter, Maryland’s 2016-2017 harvest from public oyster bars was off nearly 42 percent from the year before, a steep drop from the modest decline seen the previous two years. Last season, 1,086 licensed watermen harvested 224,609 bushels of bivalves, down from a 384,000-bushel catch in 2015-2016, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Chris Judy, DNR’s shellfish division manager, attributed the harvest decline last season to lower “spat sets” of juvenile oysters since 2012, the last year in which there was good recruitment or reproduction. Spat sets since then have been poor to middling.

Disease made a dent as well last season, at least in some areas. Intensity of Dermo, one of two parasitic diseases afflicting oysters, rose last year above the long-term average for the first time in 9 years and was the highest since the last major outbreak during a drought in 2002. The survey found elevated intensities from Pocomoke Sound north to the Wye and Miles rivers. Dermo-related mortalities also increased in some areas.

MSX, the other parasitic oyster disease, increased in prevalence on bars where it had been found previously, reaching a level 20-fold higher than what it was three years ago.

The DNR team that conducts annual surveys thought that the state’s oyster population last year had reached a crossroads, either pausing briefly before continuing to recover or on the cusp of another major decline. “Only time — and weather — will determine which direction Maryland’s oyster population will take,” the 2016 fall oyster survey concluded.

In Virginia, by comparison, harvest from public bars slipped 5 percent last season over the previous season’s take. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission tallied the harvest from public oyster bars at 246,000 bushels in 2016-2017, down from 259,000 bushels in 2015-16, according to Laurie Naismith, spokeswoman for the commission. The higher salinity of Bay water in Virginia tends to yield better oyster reproduction.

Maryland’s public oyster harvest season runs through March 31, 2018, while Virginia’s extends into April. The busiest portion of the oyster season will kick off Nov. 1, when harvest methods in Maryland expand from hand and patent tonging and diving to include power and sail dredging in designated areas of Calvert, Dorchester, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Wicomico counties. Virginia’s public harvest is limited in early fall to the use of hand tongs and “hand scrapes,” a rake-like device; the fishery expands in November to include patent tonging and in December to power dredging.

Of course, for many consumers, the concept of an oyster “season” has blurred, if not faded altogether, as aquaculture has gained strength in the Bay. The output of Virginia’s private oyster farmers, who harvest bivalves year-round, has matched or exceeded the public oyster harvest most years. In Maryland, the growing but still fledgling industry produced 64,609 bushels last year, up from around 50,000 bushels in 2015.

Timothy B. Wheeler is managing editor and project writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.

Recycling — Make It Better

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Ford Schumann

“We’re doing our small part to save the Earth.”

So said Ford Schumann of Infinity Recycling, appearing at the Chestertown Council meeting Oct. 2. After giving an update on the program, he offered suggestions for improving the town’s curbside recycling program.

At present, Schumann said, 1367 — about 58 percent — of the households in town take part in curbside recycling, which he said is very good for a voluntary program. He said he has been distributing door hangers promoting the program to houses not yet enrolled.

Infinity conducts a dual-stream operation, in which residents are asked to sort their recycling into two categories: paper and containers – glass, plastic or metal. He said the advantage of dual-stream is that it produces a much higher level of usable material for the company. In single-stream programs, Schumann said, there is a 25 percent contamination rate, and almost none of the glass can be reclaimed. Because of the dual-stream operation, Infinity is able to reclaim almost all the glass it collects for recycling.

Also, the dual-stream system allows hand-sorting of the containers into marketable components on an assembly line. The assembly line crews are from the Benedictine School and Kent Center, Schumann said. For hiring Kent Center workers, Infinity received a Governor’s citation last week. He said he hopes to expand his payroll as business allows.

Schumann said Infinity has run out of the green recycling bins that were distributed by Kent County when it had a curbside recycling program, but has some in different colors for anyone who signs up for recycling.

As far as ways to improve recycling, Schumann noted that the town’s recycling bins are too similar in appearance to its trash cans, which means the two are often confused. “If you look at the contents of the two, they’re pretty much the same,” he said. He said it would make sense to paint the recycling cans blue, which is the color widely used for recycling containers. He said he could get volunteers to repaint the cans.

Also, if the recycling cans were placed next to the trash cans, it would make it easier for users to use them properly, instead of having to walk several yards to find the right container. He said New York City places recycling and trash containers next to each other and it seems to work well. “It would be great if we could do it,” he said. Also, he said, the town could require events to offer recycling. Many already do, but it could be made universal, he said.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked how Schumann is working to increase participation in the program. Schumann said he has begun distributing door hangers. He said he would also be willing to go door-to-door in evening hours to publicize the program. He said he signs up one or two households a week, on average.

Stetson asked if a once-a-week trash pickup would improve recycling participation. Schumann said that might work if the town began a program to pick up and compost organics. That could reduce the need for trash pickup to once every two weeks, Schumann said.

Stetson said it might encourage people to recycle if they knew it would reduce the amount going to landfills, which in the long run would result in a reduction of taxes that support operating a landfill in Kent County.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper noted that the town pays a flat amount for each household in the recycling program, whether they put out recycling every week or not. She asked if the charge to the town would increase if more households recycled. Schumann said there would be an increase, but the town would also benefit from wider recycling and less trash going to the landfill. He said he would be willing to work out a town-wide rate, but that would mean the responsibility for increasing recycling would fall on the town, which might not be as aggressive in recruiting new households into the program.

Schumann was appearing on behalf of the town’s Environmental Committee, which makes monthly reports on its activities.

 

 

 

Marylanders Collect Donations to Help Puerto Rico

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Organizing aid collections is one way that many Puerto Ricans on the mainland have begun to shake off the “impotencia,” or powerlessness, they feel since Hurricane Maria slammed into their home island almost two weeks ago.

While Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he was sending a 26-member team of the Maryland National Guard to assist on the ground in Puerto Rico, many people from the territory believe that more work needs to be done. As a result, donation sites, many set up by former residents of Puerto Rico, have sprouted across the state.

A sign on the front door of the Tabernacle Church lists items it is collecting in its lobby for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Helen Parshall / Capital News Service)

“The fact is that our families being alive is not enough,” said Carolyn Faría, of Gaithersburg, Maryland. “It is a blessing and we are happy that they are alive, but it is not enough. We need them being okay day-to-day.”

Faría, originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, was one of several people in neon vests directing cars through the drop-off lines at Dynamite Gymnastics Center on Saturday. The Rockville site served as a centralized hub for some of Maryland’s suburbs to send donations to be shipped to the island through the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).

“Everyone here today has been touched by a family member who is suffering in one way or another,” Faría said, speaking both for herself and other volunteers, many of whom have family on the island. “We are voters, we are citizens and we are part of the United States. We are here and we need help.”

There were more than sixty volunteers on site Saturday, Faría told Capital News Service. On Sunday, the number had almost doubled with more than 100 people lending support.

Over the course of the two days, Faría said that volunteers filled a dozen 26-foot trucks with the donations bound for Puerto Rico.

“We’re a big community of Puerto Ricans in this area,” Faría said. “When bad things like this happen, although I pray they never do again, it doesn’t matter what town you’re from. We’re all working together because our families need us.”

Hyattsville was another of several sites in Maryland that sent shipments to the Dynamite Gymnastics Center. Candace Hollingsworth, Hyattsville’s mayor, was outside the municipal building with several volunteers to “stuff the van” for Puerto Rico on Saturday morning.

Hollingsworth has been critical of the federal government’s actions since the storm, saying in a tweet that President Donald Trump should “work harder” at relief efforts in the Caribbean. She drove the van to Rockville herself on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m here because I have friends from Puerto Rico, and I think it’s important that we help since the federal government isn’t doing anything in a timely fashion,” said Justine Christianson, one of the Hyattsville volunteers.

In the days after the storm, friends Waleska Cruz, Tanya Malpica and Eileen Romero channeled their heartbreak into working across almost two dozen local collection sites to gather supplies to send through PRFAA to communities on the devastated island.

“Being in the United States, you never think you’re going to get the call from your family that they need food and water,” Romero said. “The tedious work of these donations is almost therapeutic when you’re stripped of the ability to be there and help them.”

All three women are from Carolina, a northeastern town in Puerto Rico. While Malpica and Cruz were friends growing up, they did not meet Romero until they were living in and around Laurel, Maryland.

“Most of my family is on the island,” Malpica said. “I’m blessed that even though I can’t be there yet, I have amazing friends checking in, and I know people are taking care of my family.”

“I want to be there and help,” added Cruz. “From food, water, gas – there are so many concerns, and we want take a flight down there to do anything we can.”

Tabernacle Church and Loving Arms Christian Center are two of the main collection sites the women are working with in Laurel, Maryland. The churches’ involvement means a lot because it is the “home churches” opening their doors, Romero said.

Vernice and Roberto Gonzalez, the pastors of Loving Arms Christian Center, canceled the usual Thursday Bible study to be able to organize donations and fill trucks with supplies.

“We are joining forces with everyone willing to sow a seed to Puerto Rico,” Roberto Gonzalez said as he led the community in a closing prayer. “In this difficult and trying moment, this is where the Bible becomes reality.”

“This is us putting our love for one another into action,” said Vernice Gonzalez. “We’re praying for God to help them, and we will be continuing to do this as long as there is need.”

For Cruz, Malpica and Romero, it also important to plan for the future.

“In the longer term, things will stabilize and get better, but right now we don’t want to deplete resources from people who need them on the island,” Romero said.

The three are brainstorming ideas – from 5K races to dance parties – to keep communities on the mainland engaged once the immediacy of the storm damage begins to fade from public consciousness. They hope to be able to fly down by the end of October to be able to help rebuild and clean up their homes.

“The hardest part is the waiting game,” Romero said. “It feels like it’s been a month since Maria but it’s not even been two weeks.”

“We have to understand that this is not a three-, six-, or even one-year situation,” Malpica added. “This will take years to recover from. When the hype dies down, people on the island will still be suffering. That’s when our support matters even more.”

by Helen Parshall