Profiles in Spirituality: A New Temple Rises for the Mid-Shore

There are many ways in which people can serve their church or synagogue. They can direct music programs, help with Sunday school, volunteer to assist those in need of food or shelter in the community, or sign on to take charge of flowers for weekly services.

But there is nothing comparable to the extraordinary feeling that comes with building a new scared place to serve the faithful. Whether it be a temple, a cathedral, or a small rural church, to be involved intimately in its design, its concept, its fundraising, and overall leadership is a typically once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That certainly is the case with Rabbi Peter Hyman with the Temple B’nai Israel’s construction of an almost 10,000 square-foot temple just off the Easton Bypass.

But luckily for Rabbi Hyman, one of his most key partners in this endeavor has been around the block before. Arna Mickelson,
who currently is serving as the president of the temple, had already been directly involved in another temple construction project in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Spy sat down with both Arna and Rabbi Hyman for a brief introduction to this valuable new addition to the Mid-Shore that should open its doors within the next few months.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Temple B’nai Israel please go here

Profiles of Our Community’s YMCA: Shania Gregory

Over the course of the next twelve months, the Spy will be presenting several profiles of individuals who make up the YMCA family on the Mid-Shore. Almost since the Spy started in 2009, we have been exceptionally impressed by the unique success story of the YMCA of the Chesapeake and its leadership, programming, and sense of civic responsibility. From chess classes near Chincoteague to rumba instruction in Cambridge, diabetes prevention in Denton, yoga in Centreville, swimming in Elkton, senior fitness in St. Michaels or even pickleball in Easton, the Y stands alone in the scope and scale of their work.

We decided to start our series with one of the more moving examples of how this regional resource has changed lives with the story of Shania Gregory. Growing up in Easton with her three brothers and a single mom with multiple jobs, Shania’s family had limited recreational options until her mother, determined to give her children a safe place to play, reached out the YMCA and found an organization eager to help make that happen regardless of costs.

So it was particularly exciting to note Shania returned to her beloved YMCA as part of the staff and more recently she was named as the Y’s membership director whose primary responsibility is to encourage families, like her own years ago, to become involved and stay active.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the YMCA of the Chesapeake please go here

Grants in Action: The Ladies of Nia and Women & Girls Fund Prepare Young Girls for Real World

While the accomplishments of the BAAM program in Talbot County has become well known for its mentoring programs for young boys, it was comforting for the Spy to learn the other day that there was a Mid-Shore equivalent just for girls, thanks in part due to the sponsorship of the Women & Girls Fund.

Nine years ago, six young women took a “girls trip” to reunite with childhood friendships from Lockerman Middle School in Denton many years after they had graduated from college and had started professional careers. As Malica Dunnock, one of the ringleaders of the group recounted in her interview with Spy, every woman on that trip had an extraordinary sense of being blessed to find a way to higher education and all the promises that it brings to young people. And like many who have had good future like this, the ladies quickly moved on to talk about ways to help a new generation of girls have that same experience

That was when this special friendship circle formed of The Ladies of Nia, which borrows the African term for “purpose” in the organization’s title, which has been working with dozens of girls growing up in and around Denton to find a path forward to the same opportunities as the founders.

The Spy talked to both Malica and Alice Ryan, the founder of the Women & Girls Fund, about The Ladies of Nia, their young students, and their special partnership.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Women & Girls Fund or to help support its work please go here 

The Face of Suicide in All Seasons with Beth Anne Langrell and Lesa Lee

For the record, there is no such thing as a “Suicide Season.” While it may be tempting to think of these long dark days of winter as a critical time for those contemplating ending their lives, this has shown to be statistically not the case.

In fact, the risk of suicide is a four-season phenomenon which makes it all the more understandable that our Mid-Shore’s suicide crisis and prevention center is called For All Seasons. A mental health agency tasked with being the community’s front line to save those suffering from these impulses, For All Seasons have significantly invested resources and public education programming over the years to provide a safe and caring place for those at risk and their families.

The Spy recently sat down with For All Seasons director Beth Anne Langrell and its clinical director, Lesa Lee, to talk about the ongoing threat of suicide in the region and their views of how best to attack this cry for help from loved ones.

As part of that interview, the Spy wanted to match some of Beth Anne and Lesa’s comments to the real and recent faces of suicide in our country that were found online.  Young and old, male or female, white or black, over one million Americans are trying to end their lives each year. Those images say so much more about these avoidable tragedies.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about For All Seasons please click here 

YMCA’s Robbie Gill on Mergers, Facilities, and Future Plans

Perhaps the last organization one would consider doing mergers and acquisitions would be local YMCA.  But that would not be true this year.  In fact, the YMCA has never been so active in its history as when it formally brought in the Dorchester and Cecil County YMCA programs year while also moving forward with building plans in St. Michaels, Salisbury, and in Centreville.

With those additions, the YMCA serving the Eastern Shore now has ten centers, over 35,000 members covering 2,500 square miles, ranging from Elkton to the North all the way down to Chincoteague Island.

It has been quite a feat for the YMCA’s board as well as staff under the direction of Robbie Gill, which made the Spy all the more curious about this dramatic expansion and what it means for the future of Y programming throughout the region.

In our interview with Robbie, the CEO of this remarkable enterprise makes the persuasive argument that through effective management and efficiency of scale, these ten independent YMCA programs can be united through cost savings, resource sharing, and most importantly to Robbie Gill, the sharing of knowledge and experience.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the YMCA of the Chesapeake please go here

The Kaleidoscopic Memoirs of Will Howard

While Will Howard should feel great satisfaction that he is able to document some of the great highlights of a life spent in Talbot County, it will be future local historians who will be the most grateful for his recollections.

Will’s memoirs, which starts in 1936, when his future parents first met at a boarding house on Harrison Street when Will’s father became the manager of the Avalon Theatre at the same time his mom became a public school music teacher, span over the opening of the family-owned bowling alley, the start of the fine dining movement in Easton with the opening of Chambers, the saving of the Avalon, all the way up to the present day.  But he also talks about the darker sides of living on the Eastern Shore with his early news reporting of the Cambridge riots in the 1960s and his own experience with racism in Talbot County when the bowling alley first opened its doors.

Scheduled for release starting this Saturday, October 21, with a book signing at the News Center in Easton, A Kaleidoscopic Memoir has over forty stories that shed a special light on a unique life well lived.

The Spy caught up with Will at Bullitt House last week to share some of those memories with us.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about A Kaleidoscopic Memoir please go here

Spy Eye: Twenty Years of Art, Faith, and Friendship on Harrison Street

What has a Russian name, a Christian foundation, just turned twenty years old, and represents over thirty of the region’s best artists? If you answered the Troika Gallery in downtown Easton, you are correct.

In fact, Troika Gallery Fine Art Studio has been one of Talbot County’s most successful art galleries for most of that time. Humbly started in 1997 when it opened up in the Talbottown Shopping Center (now where Jo-Jo’s Cupcakes resides), Troika has matured to the point where it now offers art from less than a $1,000 to over $50,000. It is a remarkable case study of working artists coming together to build what Laura Era, one of the c0-founders, has called a special ministry, combining the talents of professionally trained artists and sculptors with a clear spiritual component.

The Spy has always been interested in this landmark art center on Harrison Street for some time, and finally had the chance to sit down with Laura and Jennifer Heyd Wharton, two of three co-founders (Laura’s mother Dorothy Newland retired in 2012) to talk about some of the history and personality of this popular art showcase, as well as their profound sense of faith, after twenty years of showing art as well as using the space to create their own work.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Troika Gallery please go here

Taming the Monster at St. Mark’s for Fifty Years with Dr. Bill Wharton

There are very few examples of a partnership that has lasted 50 years where one partner speaks of the other as a “monster.” But that’s what Dr. Bill Wharton says about the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church’s 1962 Tellers organ that he has worked to master since he arrived in Easton as the Church’s principal organist in 1967.

In Bill’s case, however, the use of the word monster is one of great affection and respect. In his interview with the Spy to celebrate his fifth decade not only playing the organ there but also a lifetime career in teaching music on the Mid-Shore, the Centerville native talks about harnessing the power that comes with this colossal instrument with its 2,437 wood and model pipes.

By his own admission, Bill does not put himself in the 1st tier of organists but is extremely grateful that he studied with some of them. The first being Clarence Waters, his college organ tutor and mentor at Trinity College. And it was through his relationship with Waters that he gained access to the famed Marcel Dupré in Paris, considered one of the finest organists of the 20th century.

Bill also talks about the exceptional spiritual connection that music provides a church and its congregation, as well as his personal experiences of sensing the divine when witnessing the masters perform in the World’s great cathedrals.

In celebration of Bill’s 50th anniversary, St. Mark’s has commissioned a unique composition that will be performed by Bill in late November one of a series of official acknowledgments by the Church of how valuable his service has been to the music on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about St. Mark’s and its music programs please go here.

Commentator Craig Fuller Comments on ESN (Easton Airport)

When people ask Talbot County’s Craig Fuller about his opinions these days, it is more likely to be of a political nature.

There’s a good reason for that. Craig was one of the early members of the Reagan team that moved into the White House after the 1980 election. From there, he became the chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and later chaired Bush’s transition team after the 1988 vote.

And a lot of people are asking Craig Fuller’s opinion these days. He can regularly be found on cable news as a commentator or writing Op-Ed articles for leading journals.

One can count the Spy as another media outlet also seeking out Craig’s thoughts, but with an entirely different subject of mind, namely small airports.

Beyond the significant political experiences the Fuller had in his early years in Washington, he left public service to become the CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During that time, his familiarity with rural and small regional airports was not only part of his job, but he was also able to critically evaluate the good and the bad ones of the more than 5,000 small airports in the country.

As the Mid-Shore approaches the annual Airport Day at the Easton Regional Airport on September 30th, the Spy saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk to Craig about the importance of small airports and his thoughts on ESN.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Airport Day at the Easton Airport please go here

The Queens of Washington Street: The Drag Race for Talbot Hospice

It’s safe to say that Washington Street never gets campier in a given year than during the annual Talbot Hospice Drag Race. Ten or so men in full drag take to the streets of Easton in September to win the support of blue-ribbon judges on their wardrobe and charm.

Its also a wonderful way for the community to support the work of the greatly respected Talbot Hospice, which has helped so many families on the Mid-Shore with end of life support and treatment.

The Spy was there to catch some of the fun.

This video is approximately five minutes in length.  For more information on Talbot Hospice please go here