A Rodgers Forge resident is leading the charge with a neighborhood project called the 'Walking School Bus,' where parents, or drivers, walk groups of students to the elementary school every Wednesday. (Jon Sham/BSMG)

The Valet Safety Program at Rodgers Forge Elementary School kicked off on April 8 to rave reviews. As we went to press, the program was one week old, so we asked Michael Bayer, Rodgers Forge Community Association officer and a Safe Routes to School committee member, for an assessment.

Michael told us that many parents had thanked the volunteers. "It is still a learning curve but it is going pretty well and we are very pleased" he said.

Manned by Safe Routes to School volunteers and school staff, the procedure is as follows: cars drive up to the designated area, a valet opens the curb side door allowing the child to alight and the car then drives safely away.

Our Safe Routes to School program has produced so many beneficial sub-programs in such a very short time — the Rodgers Forge Walking School Bus program began in March! Never estimate the power of Forgers!

We join all Forgers in wishing happy anniversary to the Rev. John S. Ballenger, who will celebrate 10 years as pastor of Woodbrook Baptist Church on May 18.

Rev. Ballenger's tenure has been marked by a great warmth of personality and by his unique gift in the pulpit. Not only does he ignite his own congregants with his spirited and interesting sermons, but he also enthuses other Baptists as a visiting preacher. His sermons have been published in numerous Baptist and religious publications throughout the country.

The son of a Baptist minister and a missionary, Rev. Ballenger was raised in Germany and Switzerland. His undergraduate studies were at the University of Virginia (B.A. in English, German Language and Literature, 1984) and his divinity degrees were earned at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M. Div., 1988) and Brite Divinity School (D. Min., Homiletics, 2003).

Germany and Switzerland will be visited by the Ballengers (the Rev. Susie Ballenger and daughters Sydney and Audra) this summer when Ballenger returns to his denominational roots. This was made possible because he was one of four Maryland clergy to receive the prestigious Clergy Renewal Program award and sabbatical funds from the Lily Endowment.

We were delighted to learn that Rev. Ballenger was also a dedicated member of the Rodgers Forge Elementary School PTA and a "driver" for the school's Walking School Bus Program.

In spring, gardens begin to grow and neighbor Mary Byers has started a Rodgers Forge Vegetable Garden Club. Her first meeting on April 13 elicited several very enthusiastic Forgers with a wide range of experience.

Attendees were flower gardeners, long time veggie gardeners, experienced container gardeners and beginners. Open to men and women, the group will meet twice a month, during the growing season.

If you are interested, you may email Mary at theforgefarm@gmail.com or you can check it out at the website theforgefarmer.blogspot.com.

On another note, former Gaywoodite Sarah Kotula Brandt and husband Chris have started a family – with the birth of Alexander James Brandt on Dec.18. First-time grandmother Nora Kotula and Aunt Meghan Kotula are just beside themselves with joy! Nora beamed as she reported that the baby is called Ian and is an utter joy. "He is so cute and smiles all the time!" What a promising beginning.

Parents, we found a few more summer camps for your youngsters.

Central Presbyterian Church will hold a vacation Bible school July 8-12, from 9:15 a.m.-noon. The cost is $35 per child, but no more than $70, and is open to children entering kindergarten through sixth grade in September. The VBS includes drama, music, crafts, games, etc. The week will culminate in a Celebratory Sunday on July 14 at Central's Worship Service. All families, regardless of religious denomination, are invited to see what their children have learned. Registration is available by logging on to Central's website centralpc.org or calling 410-823-6149.

A vacation Bible school for families is scheduled at Ascension Lutheran Church. The dates are June 24-27, from 5 to 8 p.m. This includes dinner, studies and intergenerational activities. There is no fee, but registration is required by June l. To learn more, you may call 410-825-1725 or go to Ascension's website ascensiontowson.org.

Our neighborhood bargain hunters are just waiting for GBMC's Nearly New Sale to arrive. This fun and fantastic sale will be open on May 4 and 5 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), May 6, 8 and 9 (4-8 p.m.) and May 11 (9 a.m.-1 p.m). May 8 and 9 are Half Price Days and May 11 is Bargain Day. More information is available at 410-828-9467.

Till we meet again —

Sheila.peter@verizon.net