For the past couple months, students from the Enclave and work-study programs from the Howard County Public School System have been working at various business locations in the Elkridge area. Green Valley Marketplace and the Elkridge Food Pantry both provide sites for 6-8 students to engage in teacher-supervised work experience.

At Green Valley, the students bag groceries, sweep and mop the floor, re-stock shelf goods and corral shopping carts. The Green Valley supervisory team — Bob, Tom, and Donna — are often on hand to greet each student by name and provide a warm welcome as they begin their individual shift. All of the cashiers and store personnel have been very encouraging and patient.

Green Valley is a great new neighbor, giving these students the opportunity to be "on the job" every Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Then, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the students work at the Food Pantry, where they sort and shelve canned goods, toiletries and the miscellaneous donations that are brought into the pantry. As March draws to a close, the students will also help tend the organic garden on the food pantry site.

Elkridge Family Dentistry and Elkridge Elementary School also provide work-study sites for three students, who are directly supervised by the employers, with support being provided by HCPSS staff as needed. The young man that works at Elkridge Family Dentistry has learned to scan data on the computer and completes this task with excellent attention to detail five days a week. The other two students split job duties at Elkridge Elementary, where they work with the head custodian, Donald, and the lunchroom monitors. Their duties as assigned include keeping the floor clear and free of debris, wiping tables and passing out paper goods to the students during their lunch break.

Do you own a business or know someone who might be interested in helping students with disabilities? If so, please contact Alex Gerus or Laura Parsons at Howard High School at 410-313-2867 to discuss how you can help make a difference in the life of one of these young people.

For more information on the Enclave program, email Ellen Roper at Ellen_Roper@hcpss.org; and for the HCPSS work-study prorgram, email Dawson Robertson at Dawson_Robertson@hcpss.org.

The Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department's Junior Firefighters will sponsor a "Spring Fling" youth dance April 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. for ages 9-15 at the fire hall, 6275 Old Washington Road. Tickets are available at the door for $10 per person with a maximum of 200 tickets sold.

Food and beverages, which include pizza, corn dogs, pretzels, nachos, candy, water and sodas, will also be for sale at the dance. The department does have a "no exceptions" policy on appropriate behavior and dress code for its youth dances, and also enforces a strict adult sign-in/sign-out procedure for attendance.

For more information on the dance, call 410-761-6633 (and select option 5), or go to http://www.ElkridgeVFD.org.

Elkridge Elementary School is very excited to announce its second annual Elkster 5K Race that will take place April 15 at 9 a.m. at the school, 7075 Montgomery Road, Elkridge. The event benefits the PTA family programs that are made available throughout the school year to students and their families.

The PTA makes every attempt to provide their family-focused programs at no charge even though hard costs are inevitable. The race proceeds will help cover the cost of hosting such events as assemblies and educational presentations.

If you are a race aficionado and would like to help their cause or volunteer on race day, email the Elkridge Elementary PTA at EESPTA@hotmail.com. If you'd like to participate in the Elkster 5K, race applications can be picked up at the school front office, or you can register online at http://www.runningmaryland.com. For more information, or to make a donation, email Jeanne DeBoy at jld532@verizon.net.

The fifth annual GreenFest will be held April 14th, at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia, Burrill Galleria, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to the GreenFest website (www.hcgreenfest.org), "this FREE family event is filled with hands-on workshops, live animal displays, outdoor activities, local farmers selling produce and meat, document shredding, electronics recycling and over two dozen new vendors this year!

During the event, they are also accepting the following donations on site: new and used bikes and equipment for "Bikes for the World," sewing machines, old tennis shoes for "Nike Re-use A Shoe," and Goodwill donations. They will also have a haircut-a-thon with proceeds going to support a watershed organization. This is the one event you do not want to miss!

The Howard County Government is encouraging residents to sign up for a rain barrel workshop at GreenFest. The workshops are open to the public; however the free rain barrels and parts kits are only available to Howard County residents, and only one rain barrel will be given per workshop attendee (age 14+). Space is limited to 25 people per workshop on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The rain barrels come with pre-drilled holes, and some assembly is required. The barrels and kits are provided courtesy of the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Environmental Services and in conjunction with Kendall Hardware store.

For more information, go to livegreenhoward.com/water/rain-gardens-rain-barrels/rain-barrel-workshop-registration.

In the face of adversity, it is imperative to turn to others for support; and no one should suffer in silence or be alone in a state of grief. "When we laugh and cry together, healing takes place." If you've experienced the loss of a loved one, and want or need to seek the comfort of a support group, please consider the Bereavement Group, offered by the Howard County Office on Aging.

The group provides time to explore the process of mourning, coping strategies, and how to reconnect with life after loss. A nominal fee applies to the eight-week series; however partial scholarships are available. The next session is being offered at the new, state-of-the-art, North Laurel Community Center April 5 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. For more details, call Karen Hull at 410-313-7466 or email khull@howardcountymd.gov.

Registrations are now being accepted for the Howard Boys Lacrosse Camp scheduled for July 16-19 (9 a.m.-noon) at Howard High School. Sign-in will begin at 8:30 a.m. behind the school. The camp is open to student-athletes entering grades 6-9 for the 2012-2013 school year.

All participants will need helmet, gloves, elbow pads, shoulder pads, mouthpiece, cleats, a stick and a reversible jersey. Registration information is available at http://www.howardhighschool.net/index/Lacrosse_Boys.html; just click on the Howard Lacrosse Camp link.

It's been quite a few years now, but the Elkridge Kiwanis Club used to handle "litter patrol" on Washington Boulevard from Interstate-95 to the heart of Elkridge. Connie Bauman, a long-time resident of Elkridge, recently reminded me of the Kiwanians commitment to "keep Elkridge beautiful" but, as she put it, "We all got too old and now no one does it."

That said, Bauman asked if I could make a plea in this space for a new group or organization — whether it's a business, a club or civic group, a sports team, or just a concerned group of high school or college kids that want to make a difference in their own backyard — to step up and take on this project. Perhaps it could be adopted as the "BEAST project," the acronym meaning: Beautify Elkridge - Abolish Street Trash. It's a noble undertaking, so how about it, Elkridge … any takers?

I want to give a great big "happy birthday" shout-out to my daughter, Rachel, who will celebrate her 14th birthday Tuesday, April 3! I know that her brother, Luke, and her father, Greg, join me in wishing Rachel the best of health, a glad heart and a multitude of blessings in the coming year!

If you've got news or upcoming events, kudos, and any other notables to share, I'd love to hear about it. As we bid March a fond farewell, let us welcome those April showers and other delicious rites of spring. Until next time, please practice random acts of kindness and have a stellar week!