TAKING CARE of the environment has become a family affair for the Slaytons.
Working through Howard County's Adopt A Road program, the Clarksville family keeps Simpson Road free of litter and other debris.
The road runs behind Jeff Slayton's home in Ashleigh Knolls.
"The street was always a mess because of construction garbage," Slayton said. "I would stop while driving, pick up the trash and put it in my trunk."
About 1 1/2 years ago, Jeff decided to formalize his cleanup efforts and involve his family by joining the county's Adopt A Road program, in which individuals, families or groups commit to clean up a road at least four times a year.
The county provides trash bags and safety vests, and puts up one of its familiar "Howard County Adopt A Road" signs with the sponsor's name on the nameplate.
Jeff was joined Saturday by his wife, Barbara, and children Melanie, 6, and Michael, 3, for the family's winter cleanup.
"It's important that the kids see us doing things like this," Jeff said.
"Melanie is a real trooper out there," Barbara added, "and to her, it's an adventure."
"There was trash in the grass," Melanie pointed out, "and I put it in the black bags so the road wouldn't look dirty."
Michael isn't able to help out a lot yet, but when the family is driving in the area, he often yells, "Garbage, Dad, garbage!" and expects Jeff to pull over and pick it up, Barbara said.
Neighbors pitch in, too. Since the Slaytons' name has been on the sign, others in the community say they feel an obligation to keep the road clean.
Anyone interested in adopting a road should contact Larry Wiley of the Department of Public Works at 410-313-7472.
If you're in the West Friendship area Tuesday, you might feel the ground tremble.
Hundreds of students at West Friendship Elementary School will be jumping rope to raise funds for the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
According to Principal Sandra McAmis, the children have been gathering pledges since the program kicked off Feb. 15. They will jump Tuesday -- "leap day," as McAmis calls it.
Proceeds will go toward the Children's Center to help it procure the Starbright program, which uses technology to improve life for sick children. Included in Starbright are video teleconferencing with other children's hospitals nationwide, a video series for sick teens and a CD-ROM program for children with diabetes.
The community is invited to sponsor a student or to volunteer at the jump-a-thon.
Information: physical education teacher Kim Morris, 410-313-5512.
There's time -- but not much -- to get tickets to the dinner dance and silent auction sponsored by the River Hill High School Boosters.
The event will be held from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. March 10 at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville.
Items up for bid at the auction include a wine-tasting party for 10 in a private wine cellar and a long weekend at Bethany Beach, as well as tickets for a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance, a Baltimore Ravens football game and a Washington Wizards basketball game.
Twenty seats to the River Hill graduation ceremony at Merriweather Post Pavilion also will be auctioned.
"Tickets are selling fast, and there's only one week left to buy them," says Patty Wessel.
Tickets are $40 and include a buffet dinner, beer, wine and sodas, and dancing.
Call Wessel by Sunday at 301-490-1901.
Derek Burroughs, 14, of Clarksville, has made the dean's list at Randolph Macon Academy for the second consecutive quarter.
He is a freshman at the military college preparatory school in Front Royal, Va.
In addition to his academic achievements, Derek is also talented in music.
He was selected by Randolph Macon Academy to participate in the Festival of Bands concert to be held in Indiana this month.
He plays piano and other percussion instruments.
Parents Mindy and Michael Burroughs and brothers Alex, 12, and Tyler, 10, report that they are proud of Derek's accomplish- ments.
Help with food
Glenwood Middle School seventh-graders are asking the community for help with their nonperishable food drive.
Bring cans or boxes of food to the school on Route 97 by Monday.
The food will be donated to needy Howard County families.
Manor Woods Elementary has kicked off a reading program that will result in a tile mosaic mural for the school's lobby.
Each student who reads for 150 minutes can place a tile on the mural, which will be called "Manor Woods 2000 -- Brilliant Path, Bright Future."
The school's goal is 200,000 minutes read and a mural completed by April 7.
With this column, I am bringing my tenure as a community correspondent to an end.
I want to thank everyone I have met for making this such an enjoyable experience.
You welcomed me, and sometimes my children, into your homes, schools and churches and, most important, into your lives.
I loved having the chance to tell your stories.
I will continue to write for The Sun but on a less regular basis.
My three boys are growing up, and their activities with school, sports and Scouts are taking up a larger portion of our lives.
Thanks for making the past 13 months so much fun for me.