Man spearheads camp for youths


August 31, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ROB HARPER helped children learn the "3 R's" this summer -- respect for self, for neighbors and for community -- much as his father had taught him when he grew up in East Baltimore some years ago.

Harper helped create the Orchard Summer Recreation and Education Program in his neighborhood, Orchard Crossing, a rental community near Routes 100 and 108.

More than 60 children, ages 5 to 14, were bused to Ellicott Mills Middle School five days a week for six weeks. They played sports and games, did arts and crafts, swam, developed social skills and participated in other events.

Sandra Lambert of Elkridge directed the camp; her children, Dionne and Shantee, were volunteers; and Chris Grabowski of Elkridge served as group leader.

Every morning, Harper stood at the bus stop and greeted the campers. He didn't want an adult to walk by the children "like they're nothing and nobody," he says.

Harper had moved his family from East Baltimore to Columbia in 1968, drawn by what he saw as the business opportunities of the Rouse Co. vision of an interracial community. He opened Harper's Cleaners in Oakland Mills Village Center, the first black-owned and black-operated business in Columbia.

This year, he noticed children congregating outside his apartment, disturbing the neighbors. Beth Mundy, the apartment manager, says that children broke the swings, pulled leaves off the trees and jumped off low buildings, in addition to other minor mischief.

Harper, Mundy and Mary Armiger -- one of the owners of the complex -- and Brian Pugh, recreation supervisor with the county Department of Recreation and Parks, discussed the problem last winter.

They agreed that the community needed affordable, quality programs for children, such as a summer camp. The Columbia Foundation; Target; Howard County Housing Commission; and Howard County Recreation and Parks Department served as major sponsors.

Contributing were Old Navy; the Columbia Animal Hospital; Kenneth M. Klebanow, M.D. & Associates; the law offices of Fila and Saphos; Sea King; Encore Screen Printing and Embroidery; Armiger Management Corp.; Orchard Crossing Apartments; Frank Turner; and Harper.

Parents, including Julia Stokes, who agreed to serve as president of the program, became involved. Stokes' sons, David Jr., 10, and Jacob, 6, attended.

Carol Mister sent her son, Ernest, 9, to the camp. She says she generally had kept to herself, but now knows more of her neighbors.

All agree that the complex is neater because of trash cleanups organized by Harper and Mundy on Saturdays.

Harper is working to organize an after-school program at Phelps Luck Elementary School.

Teen programs

Five years ago, Ellicott City resident Eric Heinlein took a part-time job at Howard County YMCA for extra cash. He and Web Lippert, a senior at Towson University, worked in the weight room and began teaching teens to use weights properly.

They have expanded the Y's programs for middle school students to include day trips, dances, all-night lock-ins featuring movies and pizza and a fitness routine.

This summer, they organized sessions for teens featuring rock climbing, tubing and hiking. Participants also helped rangers clean trails in Patapsco Valley State Park.

On Wednesday evenings, the two men held Teen Night, with a bonfire and a swim.

Lippert estimates that this year's teen programs have attracted more than 3,000 participants, mainly from local middle schools. The two did not set out to create a new program, they just had an idea that took off.

Inventive Allen

At 84, Ollie Allen, known locally as "Jim," can't remember when he didn't have ideas -- he's invented all his life. His father, a banker in St. Louis, lost his job when the banks closed at the start of the Depression in 1929. He moved his family to a log home in a place referred to as "Swampeast Missouri."

The younger Allen played trumpet in the high school symphony orchestra and had won a full music scholarship to college. But he never completed high school.

In the Ozarks, Allen rigged an automobile engine to a plow and rope to till the gardens that fed his family. The area was so poor that his family took in a neighbor's cow when the neighbors ran out of food for her.

Allen enlisted in the National Guard and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before he retired in 1960. He designed and built the AN-GRC-9, known as the ANGRY 9, a radio widely used by troops in World War II.

After the war, he was interviewed by Westinghouse Electric and was told that the company had no positions for "inventors." It offered him a position as "research engineer." While he worked for Westinghouse, he developed a sonar transducer and filed a patent for ultrasound.

He and Bea, his wife of almost 50 years, traveled widely before settling in Ellicott City.

Allen also has had profound experiences of faith. While he was in Korea before the Korean War, Allen says he heard God speak to him clearly. Later, God called him to lay his hands on others for healing.

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