I Didn’t Know about Mental Illness until I Did By Liz Freedlander

For most of my life, like many of my friends and family, I knew hardly anything about mental illness until I started a consulting relationship for a few hours a month with Channel Marker. This piece about my experience has been writing itself in my head for a while.

I have had my heart broken open by the people who Channel Marker serves. I now know about persons diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and their families. Please read these words again: SEVERE and PERSISTENT. You can often tell by looking that people living with mental illness do not fit our definition of normal. We want to look away. I don’t look away any more because I now know about mental illness.

The chemistry of the brain of mentally ill persons usually has been changed. In some cases, by exposure to terrible things as a child that have resulted in PTSD. All this time, I thought PTSD was relegated to war experiences. Channel Marker does serve war veterans. (One Vietnam vet still hears the screams of men and the sounds of gun-fire). It also serves children and youth diagnosed with PTSD.

Many of these ill persons suffer from schizophrenia, often occurring out of the blue while in their twenties. They hear voices or have visual hallucinations – often – sometimes constantly.

During a conversation at the Channel Marker Holiday Party, one of these young men and I were having a pleasant conversation when he apologized for wearing his sunglasses. He said, “They help me with the voices.” This was once a young boy, like any young boy, who grew up riding bikes with pals in his neighborhood and enjoying family vacations. Now, he can look a little scary.

For some reason the tattoos, including the one in the middle of his forehead, give him meaning in his difficult life. He is polite and sweet and has a sense of humor. He religiously takes his meds although the side effects make him feel debilitated. They help him cope.

I have met parents. The heartache never goes away. One mother said, “The stigma of mental illness makes me feel as if my son spends each day out in the middle of a field where he is pecked to death.” One father’s sadness was palpable as he explained that his son does not take his meds so his symptoms, out of control, make it very difficult to have a relationship.  Still this father  faithfully makes an effort. You can see the pain in this man’s eyes as he describes the vibrant young man with a blossoming career who was once his son.

Lisa is a grown woman whose children live with other families. She has pretty red hair like I once did. She has PTSD with symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety disorders. She told me her life story. I cried. Her childhood with a cruel, narcissistic mother portended poor choices of men in her life. The ultimate result was fleeing for her own survival from a marriage so abusive that she had to leave her children behind with their father. She mourns the loss of her kids. I leave it to your imagination as to what might be part of her story – when she wears a skirt, she always wears pants under it. Her anxiety causes her to be unable to work in an environment where she might be alone with a man.

But this is not the totality of my experience. I have experienced hope and help delivered in the most compassionate and professional manner by Channel Marker. While mental illness may not be curable; it is treatable. The caring staff see beyond the illness into the hearts and personhood of their clients. They provide emotional support, life-skills, goal setting, job-training and placement, triage for health problems, places to live, a peer group and just plain normal laughter. There are success stories.

Only the brave and the optimistic can do this work every day. I think they are heroes. Marty Cassell, a therapist who has worked at Channel Marker for 25 years and a married father of four boys, is tall and attractive but rarely smiles. I asked him one day if the work is heavy. He said, “I love my work because I can see positive changes in my clients. Do you know that in addition to my day job here at Channel Marker, I work evenings for Mid-shore Council on Family Violence to provide one-to-one counseling for battered women. I also have a support group for men who are batterers.” He answered my question.

There are victories to be celebrated because of Marty and his colleagues at Channel Marker. Lisa who lost her children is strong and clear about her past and her future. Her goal is to have a job in an agricultural setting and be an advocate for sustainable farming. She has poured her maternal love into her cats and has a fiancé. She is a student at Chesapeake College and was recently invited to take an honors course. She, like many others, credit their successes to Channel Marker.

Channel Marker annually serves about 400 individuals almost 50% of whom are ages 21 and younger, in Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.

Liz Freedlander has been a resident of Talbot County for 41 years. She was executive director of Talbot Hospice from 1990 to 2004 and recently retired as director of development from the Horn Point Laboratory after 10 years. She has been a fundraising consultant to a number of local nonprofits. Liz has been raising money for nonprofits since the age of 9 when she canvassed her neighborhood with a tin can and collected $5.94 for the Baltimore Symphony.


Easton’s Naomi Hyman to Be Democratic Candidate for Talbot County Council

Naomi Hyman has announced that she will be Democratic candidate for Talbot County Council and will launch her campaign and outline her priorities at 2:00pm on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at the Democratic Headquarters at 26 West Dover Street in Easton.

Naomi has been a bridge-builder and collaborative problem-solver in settings ranging from the boardroom to the family room for over three decades. She worked as an adult education and community programming professional, in vocational training, professional development, interfaith education, stress reduction, and wellness. She has lived and worked in Easton for nearly twenty years.


Mid-Shore Health: Aspen Institute Cancels Rehab Center Contract

The Star-Democrat reported today that a contract for a rehabilitation facility proposed by Recovery Centers of America at the Aspen Institute’s Wye Mills site has been terminated effective Dec. 21. The house is part of Aspen’s Wye River Conference Center in Queen Anne’s County.

The full story can be read here (Reader charges may apply)

Health: National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week offers Opportunity for Dialogue

About a third of high school seniors across the country report using an illegal drug sometime in the past year, and more than 10 percent report non-medical use of a narcotic painkiller, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here on the Mid-Shore, more than 7 percent of our high school seniors have tried heroin.

Drugs can put a teenager’s health and life in jeopardy, but many teens are not aware of the risks. Today’s popular culture is filled with inaccurate information about drugs. Without a reliable source of information, teens often turn to the Internet, TV or friends and often get misinformation. And when it comes to drugs and drug use, misinformation can have serious consequences.

We at the Talbot County Health Department Prevention Office think it’s time to ‘Shatter the Myths.’ With science-based information on drugs and their impact on the body, teenagers can make well-informed decisions before engaging in risky behavior.

January 22 through 28 marks National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, which is a time for teens to shatter myths about drugs and drug use. This national observance encourages community-based events between teens and experts to address questions and concerns. As part of the national observance, the Talbot County Health Department Prevention Office is hosting informational tables at Easton and St. Michael’s middle and high schools with games and prizes for students to learn about drug and alcohol facts.

For information, resources, interactive activities and more, visit www.teens.drugabuse.gov. For local prevention resources, contact the Talbot County Health Department, at 410-819-5600.

The Talbot County Health Department Prevention Office helps community groups, agencies and individuals in providing programs and activities to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse, and to build a healthier community. Resources include parenting skills, video and resource loan library, awareness campaigns and educational workshops.


Exelon: Analysis Shows Conowingo Revenues Insufficient to Fund Additional Sediment Mitigation

Providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity has been the paramount focus for Exelon Generation and the Conowingo Dam for the last 90 years.

In December 2017, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy released a statement and accompanying report by Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) that incorrectly assessed the economic status of the Conowingo Dam. The NorthBridge Group, performed a detailed analysis of the E3 report and found that the E3 conclusions are fundamentally flawed due to a gross over-estimation of the future revenues of the Conowingo Dam.

The E3 report inaccurately inflates future revenues in two ways. First, the report greatly overestimates the dam’s capacity revenue, which Conowingo earns for being available as an electricity resource. The dam’s capacity revenue going forward is expected to be roughly 80 percent less than the E3 report estimate. Second, the report bases Conowingo’s future revenues on 2013 energy prices, which are much higher than today’s prices and expected future energy prices. Energy prices in the market available to Conowingo were 30-45 percent lower in 2016 and 2017 versus 2013, yet the E3 report ignored this fact.

When the E3 analysis is run using current information, the analysis demonstrates that Conowingo’s revenues are not even high enough to cover costs plus an adequate return, let alone sufficient to fund additional contributions for sediment. Conowingo provides significant benefits to the region, as confirmed by more than 50 studies since 2010.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay community, Exelon Generation remains steadfast in our commitment to helping identify the most effective ways to address the health of the Bay.

Exelon Generation
Kennett Square, PA


NorthBridge Group Report

Habitat for Humanity Choptank after Twenty-Five Years by Nancy Andrew

A bright light in my holiday season this year happened while meeting with a Habitat home buyer in her future living room. I looked out the window and what did I see? Something better than a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.  A big yellow school bus!

For each buyer who purchases a house with Habitat for Humanity Choptank, we host a dedication ceremony to bless the home and present the keys. This is a celebration by the community with the hardworking family filled with tears and smiles over the dream that has been realized.

Equally exciting, though less visible, are the milestones after a family has moved in. It is rewarding to see how household members having achieved a goal so audacious as buying a home that they helped to build go on to set and achieve other goals.

All of this is rooted in a new confidence and determination that was nurtured through their partnership with Habitat Choptank. Working hundreds of hours alongside volunteers to build our homes while learning construction skills. Attending education classes about budgeting while creating new habits for savings, home maintenance, and being a good neighbor. Paying off any collectible debt and saving thousands of dollars toward costs at settlement.

This is where the school bus comes in. If you’re volunteering on one of our construction sites on a school day and a yellow bus drives by with a honk and big wave, that’s Pumpkin Demby. Pumpkin, as she’s been affectionately known since she was a baby, has worked for a transportation company driving a school bus for one of the local school systems. She purchased her home from Habitat Choptank just before Thanksgiving 2015.

As Pumpkin will be the first to tell you, it took three applications for her to successfully meet Habitat’s financing requirements. Once qualified, she hit the ground running. In a process that takes most 12-18 months, Pumpkin was sitting at the settlement table just seven months later signing the papers to buy her first home. She had set a personal goal of becoming a homeowner before she turned 30. She was 29 when she made her first mortgage payment.

Earlier this year, we surveyed some of our home owners, asking questions about their finances, their neighborhoods and their overall experience with Habitat. In meeting with Pumpkin, I found out that when she set her home ownership goal there was a caveat. Her future home had to have a driveway and one long enough to park a bus because her next goal was to start her own transportation company.

Habitat Choptank focuses its work on infill lots within incorporated communities, mostly building in older neighborhoods. The lots are smaller and don’t have room for off street-parking. However, when Pumpkin joined the program, Habitat had a one-time grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development that made it possible to purchase some foreclosed and bank owned properties with vacant houses that could be renovated and resold. And so it happened that Pumpkin had the chance to buy a home with a driveway.

A new Habitat home is now under construction next door to Pumpkin and we were recently meeting there with her future neighbor. Pumpkin’s driveway runs between the two houses and, being lunchtime, a bus was parked at her house. Looking closer, two simple words on the side of the bus said it all: Demby Transportation.

This year, Habitat for Humanity Choptank celebrates 25 years of wonderful things happening here in our community. A stable, secure place to live is something we all need to thrive, and the years have shown us again and again what a strong foundation a Habitat house can be for a family. Better, more affordable living conditions can be the makings of a future in which stability and self-reliance are actually obtainable, not just aspirational.

Meanwhile, as we know from the calls received at the Habitat Choptank office every day, others in our community continue to struggle in providing adequate housing for their families. A helping hand and the opportunity to be part of their own housing solution can make all the difference.

You can help expand this work to positively impact more families like Pumpkin’s. As you consider your year-end charitable giving or look forward to the New Year resolving to get involved and make a difference, I hope you will consider Habitat Choptank.

Habitat for Humanity Choptank will be celebrating its 76th Home Dedication in early 2018. The community will be invited to help welcome the new family home. For more information about Habitat for Humanity Choptank please go here

Really Good Stuff: Washington College, Faculty and Staff Donates $28,000 to Local United Way

Washington College is donating $28,000 to United Way of Kent County, after 82 faculty and staff responded to President Kurt Landgraf’s pledge to match whatever they contributed.

“I am just so proud of the Washington College community, and I appreciate the generosity and caring of this faculty and staff,” Landgraf says. “This United Way campaign result is yet another indication that we take our mission seriously—they’re not just words on a document, but a living action statement to support our community.”

In late fall, Landgraf asked College employees to consider signing up for a payroll deduction to United Way of Kent County, pledging that he would match whatever they raised. Last year, eight employees gave through the payroll deduction for a total of $1,248. As of December 14, 82 employees had signed up for a total donation of $13,944. Landgraf matched this with $14,000.

“Many members of our Washington College community, including students, staff, and faculty, have had close associations with United Way agencies in a number of capacities,” says Sarah Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and a member of United Way of Kent County’s Board of Directors. “But this recent financial commitment is emblematic of a recognition that we are all partners in improving the lives of Kent County residents. Kurt’s leadership and generosity was just contagious, and the response from our employees was heartwarming. My hope is that this is just the start of a sustained partnership between the College and the United Way of Kent County.”

United Way of Kent County raises and distributes funding to multiple organizations, with a focus on improving the health, education, and financial stability of Kent County residents. In addition to the College’s donations through the workplace campaign, the College has directly supported or provided resources for many United Way member organizations including Character Counts! Kent County, the Kent Center, St. Martin’s Ministries, the Community Food Pantry, Camp Fairlee/Easter Seals, Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council, Kent Forward, For All Seasons, Echo Hill Outdoor School, and the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence.

Early in his tenure as Washington College President, Landgraf made United Way of Kent County a priority as a way for the College to do more to support the surrounding community.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I grew up an orphan. I know what it’s like to seriously need the help of others,” Landgraf says. “This is one of the reasons that I have always been a big supporter of the United Way, and why, as soon as I came to Washington College, I got involved in United Way of Kent County. I know how much good this organization can do. And I want to make sure that everybody at our College knows how much good it can do, how it can lift up whole segments of our community’s population that need help the most.”

Exelon’s Share for Mitigation on the Conowingo Dam by Tom Zolper

The Conowingo Dam 20 miles north of the mouth of the Susquehanna River has been the focus of scientific scrutiny and concern since the 1990s, and public worry for the past five years. The reason is simple: the pond behind the dam that trapped dirt for decades now has filled up.

More of the dirt (also called sediment) and phosphorus clinging to the dirt are reaching downstream water. In addition, storms scour sediment and associated nutrients from the pond and flush it downstream.

These additional pollutant loads are a problem because we already have too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay – from farms, sewage plants, and other sources. These chemicals are plant food, causing algae blooms that suck oxygen from the water when they die and decompose. The added sediment coming through the dam also is a concern for effects on downstream habitats.

When Bay states and the federal government agreed in 2010 to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake —the so-called Bay pollution diet—they thought we had more time to deal with the situation at the Conowingo. We don’t. What to do?

In 2015 the U.S. Army Corps said the most cost-effective solution was to reduce pollution reaching the dam from upstream in Pennsylvania and New York. Governor Hogan has also proposed a small $4 million pilot program to see if dredging at the pond could also be a part of the solution.

Whatever is determined to be the best solution or set of solutions, one thing is clear: it will cost more money. That’s why a new report commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offers some good news: The owner of the dam can help chip in.

The report, “An Economic Analysis of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station,” concluded Exelon can afford to contribute $27 million to $44 million a year to help fix or mitigate the problem and still make a healthy profit. The study used publicly available finance numbers about Exelon’s operations at the dam, as well as standard industry information. It was prepared for Water Power Law Group and CBF and TNC but researched and written by Energy+Environmental Economics in California. Exelon to date has offered to contribute only $200,000.

The company shouldn’t be responsible for the whole solution. It didn’t cause pollution from upstream farms, sewage plants and other sources to discharge into the Susquehanna and flow downstream.

While it is important to hold Exelon accountable for the impact of the dam on downstream water quality and habitat, it’s important to keep the Conowingo issue in context. First, the impacts of the lost trapping capacity and scouring during storm events are significant but not catastrophic. In fact, as the situation at the dam has worsened for the past few years, the water quality in the Bay has steadily been improving.

Also, studies show that the slug of new pollution moving past the dam will cause effects primarily on the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. Most rivers that feed the Bay such as the Choptank, Nanticoke and others will not be impacted, nor will the thousands of fresh water streams in Maryland. Local counties and communities will remain responsible for cleaning up pollution in their backyards.

So, we can’t blame Conowingo for all our water woes. The dam is only one of many problems we face trying to clean up the Bay. But we can ask Exelon to do its share, just as we ask everyone else to pitch in. We know the company can afford it.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Local Author Sophie Moss’ ‘Wind Chime Summer” Becomes Third Novel

Local author, Sophie Moss, recently released a new book in her series of love stories set on the Chesapeake Bay. Wind Chime Summer, the third book of the Wind Chime Novels, is a heartwarming story about a female veteran struggling with PTSD, who reclaims her passion for cooking—and life—on a Chesapeake Bay oyster farm.

Each of the Wind Chime Novels features a military hero or heroine and explores economic, social, and cultural issues that are particularly relevant to the Eastern Shore. The first book, Wind Chime Café, deals with the impacts of an impending development on a pristine island community. The second book, Wind Chime Wedding, is about saving an island elementary school. And the third book, Wind Chime Summer, is about saving the Bay through oyster restoration.

Three years ago, Moss moved back to the Eastern Shore to research and write the series, which is set on a fictional island loosely based on Tilghman Island. “One of my favorite things about writing a new story is getting to know the place where my characters live,” Moss said. “I’ve always been drawn to island settings, both in reading and in writing. There’s something so soothing about being surrounded by all that water. The pace of life is slower. Neighbors look out for each other. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay, I have a deep love and respect for the area. I feel so fortunate to be able to share the rich culture and traditions of this place through my stories.”

The Wind Chime Novels are a series of standalone love stories, each featuring a wounded soul who returns to the island to heal and ultimately finds true love. “The Wind Chime Novels are stories about coming home,” Moss continued. “They are stories about rediscovering your roots, reconnecting with childhood friends, and realizing that sometimes the one place you turned your back on is the only place that can make you feel whole again.”

Moss will be signing copies of Wind Chime Summer at the News Center on Saturday, December 16th from 1-3PM. Her books are available for purchase locally at the News Center in Easton, Chesapeake Trading Company in St. Michaels, and Crawfords Nautical Books on Tilghman Island. Wind Chime Summer is Moss’ sixth published novel. She is a USA Today bestselling and multi-award winning author.

To learn more about the author and her books, visit her website at www.sophiemossauthor.com.

2017 Flags for Heroes Recipients Receive $48,796 in Support

The sixth year of the Easton Rotary’s moving Flags for Heroes project was celebrated last week in Talbot County when the I have attached the picture of the recipients of Flags funds. I have also attached the program from that meeting
and it lists major sponsors and the recipients of the funds.

Starting with John Flohr bringing his idea to then Rotary president Jackie Wilson in 2011, Flags for Heroes displayed over 1,000 flags this year showing how popular the project has become.

Here are some of those sponsors and grant recipients:

Acknowledge $1,000 Sponsors
Aqua Pools & Spa
Dawkins Management, Inc.
Lewis Auto Body Shop, LLC
Londonderry on the Tred Avon
Pixel Print & Post
Preston Automotive Group

Acknowledge $500 Sponsors
Ewing Dietz Fountain & Kaludis
Provident State Bank
Morgan Stanley- Wilford Nagel Group
Invincible Investment LLC
Nagel Farms

Acknowledge od Founding Partners
Town of Easton, The Star Democrat and Easton Utilities

Fund Recipients 
Spring Hill Cemetery, Civil Air Patrol, Talbot Hospice, Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore, Easton Police Department, Easton Volunteer Fire Department, Talbot Paramedic Foundation, Mid-Shore Recovering Veterans, NJROTC at Easton High School, For All Seasons, Inc., Richards Memorial Park, Operation Open Arms, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Tidewater Rotary Club – Talbot Goes Purple,  Lady Patriots of the Eastern Shore, Widows of Warriors, VFW Post 5118.