Howard County is putting out an all-points bulletin for more teddy bears.
Without more donated bears, children will get no more of thestuffed animals from police officers, firefighters and ambulance workers.
"The demand has been far exceeding the supply," said Battalion Chief Donald R. Howell, who has been coordinating the teddy bear giveaway for the fire and rescue services.
"I have 29 bears in the fieldright now, and I've only got four or five on reserve," Howell said.
"I can only give two bears per unit, and every unit is going to have to start rationing the bears they have."
The Howard County Child Safety Fund, a non-profit citizens organization, has been supplyingbears to police and rescue workers since June.
Any child between 1 and 10 who has been through a traumatic situation is entitled to receive a bear from the safety officer on the scene. But everyone wantsa bear, Howell said.
For instance, Howell said, rescue workers recently handled a call in which a small boy was choking. The food was eventually dislodged from his throat and the rescue worker gave the boy a bear, Howell said.
"But we also felt compelled to give a bearto his little sister, who had witnessed the whole thing," Howell said.
"She wasn't directly involved, but she wanted a bear, and she had gone through the trauma of watching her brother choking and turning different colors."
Howell estimated that it will cost about $5,000 to keep the program well-stocked with "child-safe bears," which are the only types that the county authorizes for use. The bears do nothave buttons, since they may fall out and be swallowed by a child.
"We've gotten a lot of accolades about the program, and we think it's a great thing," Howell said. "It means a lot to a kid when we givethem a bear. They really give it a bear hug."
Anyone interested in making a donation to the program can contact Howell at 313-6000.
THAT'S SHOW BIZ
It was the proverbial chance of a lifetime.
Merriweather Post Pavilion was seeking a backup choir for pop singer Michael Bolton's concert last month. In the right place at the right time was the folk singing group from the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City.
"It was the dream of a lifetime," said group leader Elizabeth Coolahan, who admits to having spent part of her adolescence daydreaming about what performing on stage would be like.
The folkgroup, which performs more contemporary music than the Resurrection Church choir, sings regularly at the 9 a.m. Mass. The group doesn't have a name, Coolahan said. "It's just the folk group."
The group usually sings in street clothes, but Bolton's representatives wanted choir robes. Members of Resurrection Church got on the phone and were able to borrow dark blue choir robes from Liberty Baptist Church in Lisbon.
Thus outfitted, seven folk singers -- joined by two Resurrection choir members and the Rev. Michael Mason, the youth minister --reported to Merriweather at 3:15 p.m. on the day of the concert.
They rehearsed with Bolton's keyboard player, then with a backup singer who taught them choreographed movements. The folk group backed up Bolton on two songs, "Time, Love and Tenderness" and "When I'm Back on My Feet Again."
Dinner with the band followed rehearsals. The folk singers were given local crew passes that admitted them to backstage areas of the pavilion, areas they had never seen as members of theaudience.
The only disappointment was that they never got to meetthe star. Coolahan said she was thrilled by the chance to perform, but she had hoped Bolton might stop by after the concert to say thanksand shake the singers' hands.
NECTAR OF THE GRIME
The thermometerstill says summer, but the bees and yellow jackets know they don't have many months left to hit up the residents of Howard County for free drinks before winter comes.
Stinging insects have been gorging themselves on the liquids left in cans at the Alpha Ridge landfill recycling center for several weeks, although recycling coordinator RandyBrown says he has no reports of anyone being stung.
"They're really happy bees," Brown says. "They get Coke and Pepsi and Juicy-Juice and beer," all the sweet residues that people failed to rinse out before bringing cans to the recycling center or putting them out for MoRT (mobile recycling trucks).
The coordinator has adopted a live-and-let-live attitude toward the bees and yellow jackets. "They don't seem to have hindered our operation and it's only in the last couple weeks that they've been really bad," he says.
The movable feast is new this fall at the recycling center. Last year, cans were hauled away daily. This year, the county has expanded its capacity for handling recyclable materials, so each day's collection of cans goes into a large container to await transport.
And the insects love it.