Christmas In April showers blessings on the needy


IT'S THAT TIME of year when April showers bring May flowers and people spring into action to help others.

This weekend, Christmas In April, a national volunteer organization with a chapter in Howard County, will pair people in need of home repairs with the real-life equivalents of Tim Taylor, the character in "Home Improvement." Across the nation, thousands of volunteers will wield hammers and paintbrushes to help people in need.

Tomorrow, members of Savage United Methodist Church will volunteer for a fifth year.

According to Larry and Rhonda Smith, church members will repair two homes in Guilford. They raised the funds to purchase materials, and a slew of volunteers signed up to assist.

Team leader Larry Smith has met with the homeowners to assess problems and to estimate the resources needed.

"He's the chief in charge of all the Indians," said his wife, Rhonda, whose title for this function is house ambassador.

She said that the advantage of going to the houses before the work date is that sometimes the houses need skills that volunteers might lack.

The first year she was involved with the group, volunteers put a roof on a house. Prior notice allowed the group to request help from Christmas In April. A professional roofer volunteered to direct the technical portion.

There was plenty of work for even the least knowledgeable. Rhonda spent that first occasion picking up the old shingles from the ground as the volunteers put up the roof.

Many of the Christmas In April houses have elderly owners who might have trouble keeping up with repairs on an aging house.

The first house she helped repair was owned by a 90-year-old man. The volunteers put on a roof, paneled a room and installed a bathroom.

About 30 people have signed up from the church, Rhonda Smith says. She's also expecting a contingent from Fort Meade and a group of students from Howard County public schools.

Everyone meets at the designated house and receives a T-shirt and instructions. Then it's off to work.

The church's Ladies' Group will provide lunch for the working crews -- special mention of Agnes Riley's iced tea is made -- and by the end of the day the residents have sparkling, freshly repaired homes and the work crews have the satisfaction of a job well done.

Many hands make light work.

Technology challenge

It's time to boast about academic achievements at Hammond Middle School.

Pupils swept the awards at the Howard County Technology Challenge last month. Thirty-four teams participated in five challenges.

The school swept the Dare Devil Car Jump, a competition to see whose car could jump the farthest without falling apart. Five Hammond Middle teams competed, and the school took home all three top prizes.

Congratulations to the the first-place High Flyers: Alex Magner, John Stephens, Brice Hartsell and Shezad Nazir.

Second place went to the Free Flyers: Chris Corwin and Jonathan Chang.

Third prize went to the Mad Dogs: Vincent Barrachinni, Tony Gregg and Joey Czaplicki.

The school fielded 11 teams for the Magnetic Levitated Train contest. Future rail engineers designed trains that ran on magnetic tracks.

The Ladybug team, with lone member Jessica Elmore, took second place.

The most popular event for Hammond Middle pupils was a straw bridge competition. Fourteen teams entered this event with generous assistance from the PTA, which procured 5,000 drinking straws from McDonald's.

The teams were to construct bridges spanning 20 inches and supporting a 7 1/2-pound truck.

Kudos to first-place winners, the Thunderbolts, also known as Alpesh Patel and Brad Tinney.

T-Bird and the Pink Ladies took third place. They are Jay Song, Morgan McCallister and Natalie Brooks.

In the CO2 car race, Chris Tran came in first. Unfortunately, he eliminated two other Hammond teams in the early rounds.

Finally, the school teams competed in the On Site Challenge. With only an hour to construct a device, they were to keep two balls in continuous motion for as long as 20 seconds.

The team of Chris Barrachinni, Tony Gregg and Joey Czaplicki took first place.

It was a great day for all involved and a wonderful demonstration of the school's commitment to science and technology education.

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