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Editorial: Thumbs up to Bag Ladies, Mount Airy relief, STEM teacher, Century senior

THUMBS UP: A handful of women who call themselves the “Bag Ladies” convene each week at Carroll Vista retirement community to transform plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. First they sort the many bags, then they fold them. Then they cut strips, knot the strands together and form a roll of plastic string — like a ball of yarn. One sleeping mat requires approximately 700 grocery bags. Until recently, the women crocheted the plastic strands, which was arduous and exhaustive. JoAnne Ward, who joined the group last year, learned how to weave using a loom on YouTube. Ward’s brother made the women half a dozen wood-peg looms. Weaving instead of crocheting increased the group’s output. They now produce one mat per week. The Shepherd’s Staff in Westminster, the Taneytown Police Department and the Taneytown volunteer fire company have received mats. Brenda Meadows, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff, called the Bag Ladies’ efforts “pretty incredible.” “We distribute the mats to the folks that are sleeping out in the weather,” Meadows told us. “The mats help keep them off the ground … the plastic serves as an insulant.” Donations of plastic bags with handles are gratefully accepted. The bags can be dropped off at the Carroll Vista clubhouse at 1 Clubside Drive between 9:30 and 11 a.m. every Wednesday — when the Bag Ladies meet.

THUMBS UP: In an effort to raise funds to aid families affected by the tornado that tore through Mount Airy in November, Wagner’s Meats, at 604 N. Main St. in Mount Airy, donated a percentage of its profits for every item sold last week to the Mount Airy Disaster Relief Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The relief organization was established in 2006 after a group of townhouses were scorched by a fire, displacing roughly five families between Christmas and New Years, said Bill Butts, who’s on the board of the disaster relief fund. The nonprofit will distribute the proceeds from the Wagner’s fundraiser to those impacted by the EF-1 tornado that hit Mount Airy on Nov. 2. The profits from the fundraiser will be coupled with the roughly $10,000 sitting in the organization’s coffers that was raised over the last three months, Butts said. The storm, which touched down near Interstate 70 before moving north toward Carroll County, featured 100 mph winds, and tore the canopy off a gas station and partially collapsed the ceiling of the T.J. Maxx store in the Twin Arch Shopping Center. Rhiannon Mayer, a 15-year-old South Carroll High School student whose family was “hit hard” by the tornado, sparked the idea for the fundraiser, Butts told the Times. Donations to the disaster relief fund can be made in cash, check or by PayPal at www.mtairydisaster.org.

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THUMBS UP: Runnymede Elementary School first-grade teacher Beth Chaney was the recipient of a $500 grant from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. as part of BGE’s Bright Ideas Teachers’ Grants program, which supports teachers working to expand innovative ideas for academic enhancement and workforce development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “It’s all about innovation … and providing technology to kids who don't have access to it at home,” Chaney told us, noting that she’ll be putting the money toward purchasing a touch-screen projector for the classroom which “basically it makes the wall a touch screen for their phonics games and math activities, fact practice … adding movement for those kiddos that need it — and they’re still learning while they’re doing it, so learning is fun.” Chaney has been teaching at Runnymede for 10 years and, before that, was a teacher at Taneytown Elementary School. She said a grant like that which BGE offers is critical because money for technology is rare, and that she gives kudos to the company for offering such a helpful program.

THUMBS UP: Century High School senior Jalen Stanton won four individual state titles — the 55-meter dash, 300 dash, 55 hurdles and high jump — on Monday at the state indoor track and field meet. “It’s awesome,” Stanton told us. “With four events I didn’t think it would happen coming in, but it ended up happening and I really just did it to help the team … whatever I can do to help the team is what I want to do and I did it today.” He helped the team to a second-place finish. Stanton’s first victory came when he made up about 10 meters of ground in the final stretch of the 300 to edge Oakland Mills’ Rafi Casson in 35.85 seconds. The 55 hurdles and 55 dash victories came later, between his preparations for the high jump. He cleared 6 feet 7 inches — 3 inches more than his state title-winning jump last year. Stanton is the Times’ reigning Boys Athlete of the Year.

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