Home-state holiday wishes


Inspiration: From a picture of...

December 14, 1997|By Jennifer E. Mabry | Jennifer E. Mabry,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Home-state holiday wishes; Inspiration: From a picture of a 0) friend in a Santa suit, John Strohsacker developed the idea for a business of his own.

It started with some sand, sun and a Santa on an Ocean City beach in midsummer. John Strohsacker, then 26, was looking for an offbeat way to wish family and friends "Season's Greetings."

Being a self-taught photographer, the accountant took a picture of a friend dressed as Santa, had it printed as a greeting card and mailed it out.

Three years, a little research and several greeting-card photos later, Strohsacker is now the consummate young salesman of his own greeting-card line, featuring scenes from Maryland. The cards are currently debuting in area stores.

Mystro Greeting Cards offers 14 scenes, from Baltimore's Mount Vernon decorated in holiday splendor to Maryland great horned owls at the height of a winter storm. They come packaged -- 10 cards, one scene per box -- for $10.

"When you look at some of the scenes, you gasp," says Strohsacker. "You're like, 'Wow! that's my city.' And you're proud of that."

Strohsacker has incorporated the work of two well-known Baltimore photographers -- Middleton Evans, who has published three books, and Herman Heine, who has been in the greeting-card business before.

Harvey Pollack, owner of Harvey's Cards & Gifts on West 41st Street, says the cards have "far outsold" other lines in his store.

Paul Kuppalli, owner of Manasa's Cards, Gifts and Flowers on South Charles Street in Baltimore, says he's had to order a second shipment. Kuppalli, a Baltimore businessman for more than 20 years, says this is the first year he has had a line of cards with ties to the area.

Strohsacker quit his job as an accountant early in November to concentrate on his business, but says he will be back at work, somewhere, in January.

"I probably couldn't do this full-time," says Strohsacker.

Mystro Greeting Cards can be purchased at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Gift Shop, the Tin Rooster at 3139 Westminster St. in Manchester; John's Hallmark in the Frederick Towne Mall in Frederick; Gift Ahoy on Main Street in Annapolis; and at the Celebrate Maryland stores on Main Street in Ellicott City and BWI airport. Or you can e-mail John Strohsacker at strolark.net.

Janet Bouton is a health-care savant, and that means Helix Health, the largest integrated health-care delivery system in Maryland, has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

Bouton, Helix Health's senior vice president for strategic planning and marketing, is one of the more conspicuous reasons that the company has expanded from a small, two-hospital system to an $850 million industry giant during her three-year tenure.

Late last month, Bouton was honored, but not for her business savvy. She was honored by the Maryland Lupus Foundation.

Bouton has labored under the yoke of the debilitating disease lupus for the better part of the last two decades, steeping her in strength and resolve. This doesn't include being held up as a "triumph over adversity," movie-of-the-week martyr.

"I hate to be held up as some kind of example," says Bouton, 54, a Canton resident and graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.

"My case of lupus is a relatively mild one. I've gotten to know a lot of individuals who have had their lives destroyed by lupus. People who haven't been able to work for 20 years and depend on their families for support. If my disease was as advanced as theirs, there is no way I would be doing what I'm doing. I'd just be trying to survive."

A recent survey by the Lupus Foundation of America suggests that close to 2 million Americans suffer from lupus -- more than AIDS, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia combined. Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease with differing levels of severity that can cause inflammation of the skin, joints, blood and kidneys.

"I was diagnosed about 18 years ago," says Bouton. "I had a strange combination of symptoms, like very bad joint pain and sensitivity to the sun. I was so weak, I couldn't even hold a coffee cup or brush my teeth.

"Quite a bit was known about lupus back then, but the information wasn't well diffused throughout the medical community. Some of the doctors I went to didn't even think to test for lupus."

Eventually, doctors were able to pin down Bouton's illness and prescribe an effective "cocktail" of drugs that has kept her lupus in check and allowed her to lead an active life that has included a 12-year volunteer stint on the Maryland Lupus Foundation's board of directors and seven years in the same capacity with the national foundation.

Juggling all of her responsibilities, both professional and philanthropic, can take a toll, Bouton admits.

"I've never allowed my lupus to affect my work," she says, "although during the week, I really can't do anything but work and sleep. If I don't get enough sleep or become too stressed, my lupus can flare up."

As a health-care executive who has spent time on the flip side of the provider/patient dynamic, Bouton sees her experiences with lupus as an education.

"My experiences as a patient convinced me that we as health-care providers have a long way to go," says Bouton. "I don't see the problem in health care today as broken bones and the flu, I see the problem as being how to treat patients with chronic illnesses like lupus and make them understand that their life isn't over."

For information about lupus, call the Maryland Lupus Foundation at 800-777-0934 or 410-337-9000 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.


Jarrett Graver

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