A lot of building, blessing and biomedical learning going on in Towson [column]

Monsignor Richard Tillman sprinkles holy water at the Blessing of the Animals held Oct. 4 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson. Dennis Kenney, of West Towson, stands behind Monsignor Tillman as he blesses attending pets and their human familiy members, including Aidan, Julia and Patty McCarty, of Lutherville; Lori Ryan, of Riderwood; Linda Biagioni, of Lutherville; and Reagan Burke, of Springlake.

The Assistance Center of Towson Churches (ACTC), adjacent to the Towson Calvary Baptist Church, is getting more than a few upgrades to the one-car garage structure that was built in the 1930s.

Members comprising the "Builders Squad," more than 30 volunteers representing numerous churches in the greater Towson area and ranging in age from 21 to 81 years, have made plans to insert a time capsule behind the drywall of the expansion. The capsule, a project initiated by Bob Hoyt, contains photos of the crew, highlights of the construction project, and other relevant artifacts.


Volunteers have been donating their time and talents during the past five months to demolish and rebuild the original building. The target date for completion is Nov. 1, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for January 2014.

Several members of the Builders Squad have been involved with other charitable construction projects in recent months. Construction director Paul Dickover, of Glen Arm, led the Timonium United Methodist Church team of youth summer construction workers who went to the Appalachians for a rebuilding project in conjunction with the Appalachia Service Project. Another volunteer, Yarb Ballard, celebrated his 81st birthday working with a group rebuilding homes in a New Jersey town that had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Charlie Utermohle, volunteer and former ACTC client, is on the Assistance Center job site every week and is the project's supervisor.


The Assistance Center was formed in 1985 and subsequently moved into the original building that same year. They It serves 48 churches, many of them in the Towson area, by providing help to poor and needy families throughout the community.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson celebrated the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4 with a Blessing of the Animals. The event, officiated by lifelong Towson resident Monsignor Richard Tillman, was attended by 25 area residents who brought their pet dogs, cats, and even guinea pigs to the annual blessing.

On Oct. 8, about 180 fifth-grade students from Halstead Academy and Pleasant Plains Elementary began their internship-mentorship program with Randallstown High School's biomedical magnet students, who collectively conducted an investigation of a DNA extraction from a fruit. The program is available to fifth-grade students at both schools. Participants have the opportunity to use the SciTech Student Learning Laboratory at the Columbus Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor at Pier VI, under the guidance of Dr. Mary Stapleton, director of biotechnology education and outreach at Towson University's Center for STEM Excellence.

Calvert Hall College High School students have plenty of opportunities to find their niche in more than 50 student clubs and activities offered by the school. The latest group, a new Cyber Security Club that qualifies students for credit in Calvert Hall's STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program, already has more than 20 students who are training to compete in regional tournaments against other high schools and, eventually, in the Air Force Association's CyberPatriot Competition. The team is coached by mathematics instructor Chris Taddiken, as well as by Calvert Hall alumni currently working in the technology and defense fields. On Oct. 9, CHC '92 alum Rick Mellendick, of Hampton, led the team in their training.

Notre Dame Preparatory School is recognizing six seniors from the class of 2014 who have been named commended students in this year's National Merit Scholarship Program.

Congratulations to Erin Caubo, of Phoenix; Victoria Gabor, of White Hall; Eibhlin Goggins and Margaret Lane, of Baltimore; Kelsey Hoffman, of Towson; and Grace McKenna, of Catonsville. They are among 34,000 commended students nationwide who have shown exceptional academic promise.