In the middle of winter, comfort from the warmth of community

FEBRUARY, THE middle month of winter, is here and with it the winter blahs.



The end-of-year celebrations are over, and springtime is still down the road, yet February's chill makes us appreciate the coziness of a pair of worn-in slippers or the comfort of a hug from a friend. And the winter blahs offer a time to pause and reflect on what we have -- our surroundings, neighborhoods, neighbors.

Nearly 30 years ago, Life magazine heralded Columbia as "the most ambitious" of the new towns being built in America, a place where "residents have developed pride in the town."


"The pride," the Life article explained, "comes mainly from a sense of neighborhood and neighborliness."

As The Sun's new east Columbia correspondent, I look forward to hearing what you know and cherish about our community east of U.S. 29.

Have you been watching something grow, change or succeed in our neighborhoods -- a business or an organization, a landmark that's meant something to you and your neighbors? Or a do you have a friend with a compelling story?

Or perhaps you're seeing history in the making -- a new group, class or program being formed, or a resident accomplishing something that deserves to be shared.

As a 30-something lifelong resident of Columbia, I've grown up along with our town. Some of you may remember me as the editor of Howard County's Jambalaya Magazine in the 1990s and director of the 1996 Maryland Jambalaya-Fest at Lake Elkhorn, a festival celebrating the diversity of people of African descent.

Do you think east Columbia has lived up to expectations?

I do. If you do too, let me know how.

I'm here to report on what's special about our area and how we live. I may not be able to cover it all, but ideas are welcome.


Just as an acorn becomes an oak, your bit of information may lead to a powerful story.

Let me know the reason why you appreciate, congratulate and celebrate east Columbia and its residents by calling me at 410-997-5040 or by sending a fax to my attention at 410-715-2816.

Love is all around

Looking for a different way to celebrate Valentine's Day? Try the "Focus on Peace Week" interfaith convocation at 3 p.m. Sunday at Owen Brown Interfaith Center.

The program is sponsored by Howard County Clergy for Social Justice -- an interfaith task force of the Columbia Cooperative Ministry, which is made up of 16 Christian congregations.

The event, scheduled each year during the week of Valentine's Day, uses the holiday's theme of love to promote nonviolence and peace.


Bring your sweetheart, a loved one or just yourself.

The idea is to "focus on peace within our homes as well as within our communities," said the Rev. Cynthia Snavely, minister of the Columbia Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

The afternoon will feature an address by Rufus Clanzy, administrator of the Howard County Office of Human Rights, and participation by Snavely, Murray Simon of the Columbia Jewish Congregation and Ellen Hinton of Locust United Methodist Church.

The Children's Class Chorus of Baha'i Spiritual Assembly, Students Against Violent Encounters (SAVE), and Young Kids Against Violence (YKAV) will perform.

George Martin, chairman of Clergy for Social Justice and a deacon at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, said the program is designed to encourage conversation and "celebrate our oneness and yet celebrate our diversity."

"I think that makes for peace," he said.


Martin and Simon are among the organizers of Peace Week, as are Emma Byrne of Patapsco Friends Preparative Meeting, Suzanne Waller of Columbia Jewish Congregation, Harold Brown of Baha'i Spiritual Assembly and Akil Rahim of Dar Al-taqwa, an Islamic mosque on Route 108.

Additional "Focus on Peace Week" events may be announced Sunday.

Owen Brown Interfaith Center is at 7246 Cradlerock Way.

Information: George Martin, 410-730-7862.