EVERYONE LIKES a day off, right? Not exactly. When Howard County government offices were closed in observance of Columbus Day on Monday, Edward Davis wished they weren't.
He would have liked to have spent the day volunteering for one of the county's agencies -- as he does five days a week.
Instead, Davis, 60, spent the day shopping for new clothes to wear to the governor's "Maryland You Are Beautiful" ceremony, where he will represent Howard County as its 1999 Volunteer of the Year.
The ceremony, which will be held Nov. 2 at St. John's College in Annapolis, recognizes the contributions of volunteers throughout the state.
Davis was nominated for the county award by the Department of Citizen Services, the Child Care Resource Center, the Howard County Office on Aging and the Tourism Council. The Wilde Lake resident was honored in a ceremony recognizing 26 individuals and nine community organizations Sept. 30 in Ellicott City.
"This was a complete surprise," Davis says. "I go to the awards to listen to the stories of the other volunteers. They're such wonderful people. Listening to what other volunteers do, I say to myself, 'Why me?' I was shocked."
Although officially retired, Davis volunteers more than 40 hours each week. In addition to his work for the county, he volunteers for Christmas in April, the Howard County Police Department, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Wine in the Woods and St. John United Methodist- Presbyterian Church in Wilde Lake. He does clerical work, makes calls, helps with mail, answers letters from schoolchildren, serves food and builds when necessary.
"The biggest change in my life has started since I began volunteer work," Davis says. "I changed it for the better. You've got to take the emphasis off yourself and place that on other people, and your life changes so much for the better."
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Davis, who never married, moved to Columbia four years ago. "It was the best move I ever made in my life," he says. "The people here are so friendly."
A former insurance company clerk, Davis says that when he lived in New York, he didn't have time for volunteer work because "I was in a different world, just concentrating on making a salary and chasing a paycheck." He would come home after work, he said, and just sit in front of the television.
"My job was the priority in my life," he says. "It was a trap I got caught in. The people I knew at work were the only form of socializing I had."
After investing an inheritance from his parents in the stock market, Davis was able to retire and follow his brother's family to Maryland. His brother, Richard M. Davis, lives in Ellicott City.
"Once you get out and get involved, it enables you to get involved with events and activities and lets you meet people and make friends," Davis says. "You're always doing something worthwhile."
Howard Community College will sponsor a viewing of Mars, Jupiter and its bands and moons, and Saturn and its rings from 7: 30 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m. Friday behind the college tennis courts.
Professor Russ Poch says this is an excellent opportunity to see the planets, especially Jupiter: "It's as close to the Earth as it's been in the last 12 years."
Mars is pretty bright this time of year, he said, and although it's been difficult to see Saturn's rings the past few years, the angle should be better for viewing this time.
Poch will set up eight telescopes, including a 17-inch Dobsonian telescope.
"You can see wonderful detail with that telescope," he said.
He hopes the college will be able to obtain funding for a permanent observatory in the near future.
The viewing is open to the public. Information or in case of bad weather: 410-772-4891.
Last month, 24 Howard Community College students began the semester as the seventh class of James W. Rouse Scholars.
The program, named for Columbia's founder, is an honors program that includes projects with community mentors, leadership training and cultural and recreational activities. Students transfer to four-year colleges at the end of their sophomore year.
Four-year colleges participating in the program with transfer agreements include the Johns Hopkins University, Boston University, American University, Howard University, Duquesne University, George Washington University, Catholic University, Hood College and the University System of Maryland.
West Columbia high school graduates participating in this year's program are: Meghan Bailey, Jeannette Crotts, Joel Land, Sarah Lauer and Basima Shah from Atholton High School; and Karla Campbell and Amanda Everhardt from Wilde Lake High School.
Concert for kids
The 85-piece Columbia Concert Band will present a free Concert For Kids at 2 p.m. Sunday, in Smith Theatre at Howard Community College.
Selections will include the Cartoon Symphony -- featuring music from popular cartoons, including the Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, the Jetsons, the Simpsons and the Pink Panther -- and "Thunder and Blazes," music associated with the circus.
The band will perform under the direction of Robert Miller and assistant director Michael Blackman. The concert is expected to last 45 minutes. Information: 410-997-7736.
Halloween is a couple of weeks away. Do you decorate your home in a big way for this spooky holiday, or does someone in your neighborhood? Call me at 410-992-7511 with addresses of west Columbia's best-decorated houses and we'll print a list during Halloween week.
Pub Date: 10/13/99