Transplanted Canadian helps school to flower


January 11, 2001|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FAIR OAKS RESIDENT Susan Morrow considers Maryland winters almost tropical. A slight exaggeration? Not for someone who grew up with temperatures hovering around 40 below zero in her hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, in western Canada, where she says eight-month winters send the land into silent hibernation.

Add to that a five-year stint living in blustery Chicago, and Morrow, her husband, Stan Gent, and son Sean Morrow, a seventh-grader at Severna Park Middle School, were happy to move south to Maryland.

She laughs when someone says the weather here is cold. "This is the southernmost that I have ever lived," says the transplanted Canadian, whose husband retains the soft brogue of his native Ireland. He describes this Maryland winter as typically Irish, with broad stretches of green grass still showing below blue skies with occasional rain and snow clouds.

It's the Maryland climate that has encouraged Morrow to try her hand at gardening, a choice that has benefited the entire community - from her home to the grounds of her son's school.

In September, she attended a meeting of volunteers at the middle school, and when no one offered to help with some sorely needed landscape improvements, she raised her hand.

The self-described amateur gardener from the frozen north was prepared to spend the next two years digging in the soft Maryland soil. She advertised for help in the school newsletter and organized fellow parents.

They met each Wednesday morning during the fall, trimming, digging, and mulching flowerbeds near the main entrances to the school.

"We planted fall flowers, hardy mums and perennials," says Morrow. The PTO donated $450 to buy plants and supplies. The school staff was very encouraging, she adds.

She was only too happy to transform the school's weed-infested flowerbeds into gardens that would give the teachers and children something to enjoy, and give her ground to work in during the extended Maryland autumn.

Her commitment to improving the landscape extended to the classroom, where the middle school pupils are divided into teams and they move through the school day in those groups. After lecturing a team of sixth-graders about daffodils, the pupils chose this as their service project, and Morrow helped them plant 200 spring bulbs.

The parent volunteers planted an additional 200 daffodil bulbs, and now the entire school awaits the appearance in a few months of a beautiful display of spring flowers.

For her efforts, Morrow was named January's Volunteer of the Month for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools. She's not certain who submitted her name for consideration, but it was probably one of the teachers or staff members who enjoyed the sight of her lovely gardens each morning and afternoon.

Morrow was not the only person at Severna Park Middle honored by the school system.

Teacher Kerryanne Kennedy was named Educator of the Month. Kennedy's work with school choral groups in putting on a December holiday show and helping the children record a money-raising compact disc for sale at the event was the subject of a recent column.

New volunteer effort

The National Assistance League, a resource for linking volunteers with programs, is coming to Maryland. The philanthropic organization began in California 66 years ago. Self-described as nonprofit, nonpolitical and nonsectarian, the league has more than 100 chapters with 24,000 members across the country.

"We need between 30 and 40 people to start a chapter," says Dee Campbell, chairman of a steering committee of 15 women from the greater Severna Park area that is organizing an informal coffee to introduce residents to the program.

National leaders (volunteers themselves) will attend the coffee planned for 10 a.m. on Feb. 8 at Severna Park United Methodist Church. Men and women are invited to the meeting, where they will be informed about the league's accomplishments and objectives, which are largely to help needy children.

"We start by donating time, since we don't have money now," says Campbell. "We will raise funds, and all the money we earn stays in our community."

Operation School Bell, the league's primary effort, consists of projects chosen by local chapters that help children. But chapters are free to select their own community project in such areas as helping abused women or the elderly.

The chapter in California that Campbell worked with ran its own thrift shop, and with the proceeds clothed and outfitted needy children.

For information on the National Assistance League in Maryland, call 410-544-1691.

New chamber officers

The Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce will introduce its new officers and directors at the annual installation dinner Jan. 24 at Chartwell Country Club in Severna Park. The social hour begins at 6 p.m., the dinner at 7 p.m.

Incoming officers are: Bruce Karner of Family Floors, president; Karen Trettin of ComNet Mortgage, first vice president; attorney Jim Thompson, second vice president; Charlene Carr of the Bank of Glen Burnie, secretary; and Jeff Morris of NORELF financial services, treasurer.

Chairman of the board is N. Scott Gardiner of the Gardiner Group. Directors are: Cheri McCollough of Help-U-Sell Real Estate, attorney Mike Wilsman, Nancy Sabold of Chesapeake Academy, George Maloney of Helix Construction Services, and Jeff Franklin of BeBeep A Toy Shop.

The dinner speaker, Christopher McCleary, founder and chairman of Usinternetworking Inc., will discuss business, technology and the economic climate.

The cost for members and their guests is $30, and for nonmembers, $35. Information: Linda Zahn, 410-647-3900.

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