Kids' museum's volunteers seeking new meeting place


March 27, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

VOLUNTEERS ARE frequently obliged to hide under their beds, lurk in the shadows, peek around corners. No matter how well they conceal themselves, they know that when the call comes -- "Can you help with such-and-such?" -- something inside them will scream, "Yes! Yes! Don't hold me back!"

They know they will be summoned to a firehouse, school or some such place where something vital -- yet another meeting -- will take place.

One group of volunteers who are eager to meet lack a place to meet in. They are the folks of the Chesapeake Children's Museum. They functioned for 5 1/2 years at the Festival at Riva Shopping Center, but were obliged to move this month when their rent-free lease expired.

The museum is the creation of Debby Wood, who founded it 7 1/2 years ago. "It's a nonprofit organization meant to serve children through hands-on exhibits," she said. "It's for all our children and for the children within us all."

The museum grew with an emphasis on preschool children and was sustained in many ways by hundreds of volunteer mothers over the years. "It became sort of a haven for stay-at-home moms," said Wood.

A variety of programs evolved: Toddl-Art, ELF, Musikgarten, Mom's Morning Out, Art Splash Jr., Girl Scout Overnights and Brownie Try-Its.

Boats, models of docks, fishing nets and toy crabs were enlisted to show what life in these parts was like. A 7-foot sculpture of a human body was brought in to the museum, as were some live critters, fish and turtles, from the Chesapeake Bay.

There were some nonindigenous ringers, too, like Madagascar hissing cockroaches. "They reproduced madly," Wood noted.

She and her charges also discovered that Madagascar hissing cockroaches have another feature: They secrete a milklike fluid for their wee ones.

Wood brings several degrees in counseling and human development to her project. Son Jamie, 20, and daughter Mandy, 17, almost certainly contributed to her education. She is confident that the museum will find some new digs soon.

It is expected to open an office in the Eastport Shopping Center soon for administrative purposes. That arrangement will permit the Girl Scout Overnights and Brownie Try-Its programs to continue.

Parents, when they join, usually sign on with groups to be close to their children. Wood has mothers coming back after their children have grown out of the Chesapeake museum, quiet testimony to the good work it does.

Hot stuff

Which neighborhood in Annapolis concocts the best chili?

Those who have tortured themselves with this question for the past 12 months will get their answer tomorrow evening when the Community Associations of Annapolis stages its annual chili-tasting contest from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Maryland Hall. The event is open to the public, with a $5 admission.

The competing pots are chosen by civic associations citywide. They will be judged by Lt. Robert Beans of the Annapolis Police Department, Fran Jaques of the Capital newspaper, pub owner Ted Joyce, activist Jim Turner, and Peggy Wall of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau.

Last year's winner was Germantown-Homewood's Cindy Jones. Tamara Thiel won for Eastport two years ago. One judge remarked on the superb taste of the meat in Thiel's chili. She got a chuckle out of that: Her chili is meatless.

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