Program to send trees to soldiers short of funds

Each of the past three years, James Ward of Westminster has sent 5,000 miniature Christmas trees to soldiers overseas, but this year he might have to leave thousands empty-handed. Ward said he has had trouble finding $25 donations for the 2-foot-tall trees that come complete with lights, ornaments and, most importantly, American soil. The foundation, Operation Christmas Tree, started after Ward sent a few dozen trees to his stepdaughter's unit in Iraq in 2006. When he found out how much the troops loved the trees, he decided to expand the operation to troops in countries around the world. But this year, the foundation has seen a major decrease in donations, Ward said. By the beginning of the month, it had enough money to send out about 200 trees. He blamed the lack of money on a bad economy. The project costs a total of about $125,000 each year, with the price of the trees, ornaments, lights, pots and shipping materials, Ward said. While corporate sponsors sometimes help out (this year Home Depot offered to lend a hand), a lot of the money comes from individual donations. For more information, go to

- Capital News Service

Howard Co. to update residents' water meters


Howard County's Department of Public Works will begin a four-year program to update some of its aging infrastructure by replacing the radio transmitters on residents' water meters. The transmitters send data to meter-reading trucks to compute water bills. The current devices use batteries with a 10-year life span, while the replacements should last 20 years. Bureau of Utilities staff will schedule appointments with residents whose water meter is inside their home. For more information, call 410-313-4900 or go to

Children again allowed to visit patients in Howard hospital


Officials at Howard County General Hospital this week lifted a ban that kept all nonpatient children younger than 16 from visiting. Issued in late October, the ban was designed to curb the spread of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. The measure also restricted visitors to immediate family members and allowed intensive care unit patients only two visitors at a time. Visitors are still encouraged to use hand sanitizer or soap and water before and after patient contact. People with colds or fever should not visit the hospital.

- Howard County Times

Armed man robs Friendly's, puts workers in freezer


Baltimore County police are looking for a man who held up a Friendly's restaurant in Dundalk at gunpoint Friday morning. No one was injured in the robbery, but the masked man, who displayed "a long, black revolver," demanded money and put three employees in a freezer when he entered the restaurant in the 1500 block of Merritt Blvd. about 7 a.m., police said. The employees were able to free themselves and call 911. The robber escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.

- Nicole Fuller

City Council meeting rescheduled for Dec. 10


The Baltimore City Council has rescheduled its next meeting from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10 in order to comply with the city's charter. The charter states that the council must "meet annually on the next Thursday after the first Monday in December." The meeting will be held at 5 p.m.

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