We are fortunate to have two organizations in Ellicott City that are sponsoring upcoming blood drives to help the Red Cross. Blood is needed any time of the year, but especially now after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit our area recently.

The Y of Central Maryland Dancel Family Center, 4331 Montgomery Road, will have its drive Thursday, Oct. 6 from 1 to 7 p.m. and donors will receive a lapel pin, while supplies last. Call 410-465-4334, ext. 237 or 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767) for an appointment.

For more information on the Y of Central Maryland, go to http://www.ymaryland.org or go to the group's Facebook page.

Your second chance to help comes Oct. 16 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in a blood drive sponsored by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in the Harrison Hall. To schedule an appointment, call Lori Merl at 410-455-9440.

And remember, in order to donate blood you need to be at least 17 years old, in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds.

It's time again to head over to the Ellicott City Volunteer Fire Department's annual open house Oct. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Fire Station #2, 4150 Montgomery Road.

Kids will have an opportunity to be Junior Firefighters for the day by exploring the fire trucks, using a real fire hose and even carrying a dummy to safety during the Junior Firefighter Challenge.

The event will also feature blood pressure checks for adults, vehicle rescue demonstrations, tours of the station and of course valuable public safety information.

You might see a firefighter with a boot collecting donations. While the firefighters would greatly appreciate any contributions you make, it is not necessary for admission to the event. The event is free to the public.

For more information go to the department's new website at http://www.ellicottcityvfa.com or call 410-313-2602.

Join the 11th annual Walk for Paws, Sunday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Howard County Board of Education on Route 108 in Ellicott City. Sponsored by the Animal Advocates of Howard County, this rain-or-shine fundraising event helps the save the lives of animals.

If you don't participate in the walk, there are still plenty of fun activities to enjoy including games, contests and raffles. You'll see dog training demonstrations, meet animal caricaturists, pet photographers and an animal communicator. Dog merchandise and gift items and low-cost microchipping will be available for sale. Don't forget to stop by the homeless pet section. There will be a number of cute pets looking for forever homes.

To register for the Walk for Paws or for more information, call the Animal Advocates of Howard County at 410-880-2488, ext. 4, email aadvocates@hotmail.com or go to its website at http://www.animal-advocates.org.