Burleigh Manor Middle School students and staff watch as principal John DePaula gets friendly with Jenny the donkey prior to giving it a kiss. (submitted photo / January 14, 2014)

John DiPaula, the new Burleigh Manor Middle School principal, is a man of his word. Recently he kept a promise to his students that, let's just say, was a bit "hairy".  

During the school's Scholastic Book Fair, DiPaula, along with staff members George McGurl, Michele Pierantozzi-Cassel and Beth Berkeley, went above and beyond the call of duty to help raise money for the All For Books Program, a fundraiser in which students donate coins to purchase books for the school library and classrooms. 

To encourage donations, the BMMS staff members agreed to enter a contest where students voted for them with their spare change.  DiPaula and McGurl agreed to kiss a farm animal, Pierantozzi-Cassel agreed to dress up as a hot dog for a day (a generous offer considering she's a vegetarian) and Berkeley agreed to dress up as Clifford the Big Red Dog.  DiPaula won by a landslide.

To fulfill his promise, DiPaula invited a local favorite from the Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary to visit the school grounds, Jenny the donkey. To the delight of a crowd of student and staff onlookers, DiPaula gave Jenny the promised kiss. 

In the end, the students raised almost $140 dollars in coins that allowed the school to purchase over 20 new books. Creating a love of books was not the only thing that triumphed during the book fair, Jenny the donkey felt the love of the community too — she was ceremonially adopted by BMMS that memorable day. Jenny the donkey is now an official BMMS Bobcat.

Kudos to Ellicott City's Small Miracles cat and dog rescue. It organized a community water donation drive for West Virginia animal shelters whose water supply was contaminated by the recent chemical spill — the same shelters they work with to rescue shelter animals including puppies slated to be put to sleep. 

After Small Miracles made a plea for water and supplies on its Facebook page,  community donations started pouring in. Soon Small Miracles had collected approximately 2000 gallons of water in addition to donations of cash, paper towels, hand sanitizer and baby wipes. 

According to Small Miracles founder Moira Liskovec, volunteer drivers transported the donations to West Virginia animal shelters — a six hour trip one way —  with more than six cargo vans and minivans. When the donations were unloaded, the volunteers reloaded the vans with a different precious cargo — animals. Last week, one return trip netted a dozen rescue dogs including a pair of shihtzus, a shepherd mix, a hound, a beagle mix, a 4-month-old puppy and several pregnant dogs.    

Small Miracles will continue to accept donations for the West Viriginia shelters and their foster home networks.  For more information about Small Miracles and how to make contributions to West Virginia shelters, go to their website at http://www.smallmiraclesrescue.org and their Facebook page at Small Miracles Cat and Dog Rescue. 

Howard County's Winter Restaurant Weeks ends on Monday, Jan. 27.  There's only a few more days to try new restaurants or enjoy old favorites with fixed price meal deals from $10.14 to $40.14. Ten out of the 24 restaurants participating in the Winter Restaurant Weeks are in Ellicott City, including Alexandra's American Fusion, the Diamondback Tavern, Kelsey's Restuarant, Iron Bridge Wine Co., Portalli's, Stella Notte Restaurant, Shanty Grille 620 (new in Turf Valley), Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant and Xitomate (new in Turf Valley).

For more information and a list of all the participating restaurants, go to the Visit Howard County website at http://www.visithowardcounty.com.