ON WEDNESDAY, more than 75 employees of Verizon Wireless at the North Laurel office gave up their lunch breaks to help those in need. They spent the time assembling personal-care kits for women sheltered by the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County.
Like many great ideas, this one was sparked by a casual conversation. Sandra Langville of the Verizon human resources department had been speaking with Sarah Tucker, director of community education at the center in Columbia. The two women keep in touch because Verizon has supported drives for winter coats, canned goods and school supplies for the center.
Tucker mentioned that the center had lost its storage space. Langville thought that perhaps her company could help by assembling packages of personal necessities and storing them until needed. Verizon employees would deliver the packages.
That's how "From the Heart," a Verizon program, began last month. In less than six weeks, employees had gathered enough material for 560 kits. The packs contain necessities such as combs and toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and feminine items, as well as a few luxuries - makeup samples or perfume. Many of the center's clients left their homes in a hurry; often they arrive at a shelter with minimal luggage.
"All of our drives have been very successful," said Langville, the primary organizer. "It's great to have employees who are so helpful. It's the best part of my job."
She credits the more than 100 co-workers who donated items to the project, the 75 who gave up their lunch hour to pack the items, and especially Idell Tillman and Colleen Mortenson of the human resources department and Chris Klapproth of the facilities department for their help in organizing the event.
Agnes Riley and friends
Savage United Methodist Church holds two gastronomic fund-raisers each year: the Strawberry Festival in June and the Ham and Oyster Dinner in November - Nov. 3, to be exact.
Agnes Riley, a longtime church member, said the fall fund-raising dinners have been held by the church forever. She remembers when the fare was ham and turkey, with the birds being roasted at homes. But that was a great deal of trouble, so the turkeys were replaced by fried oysters.
"It's 20 to 25 years since we've been doing them," Riley said of the popular oysters.
The church served 500 diners last year - a record. Last year, a crafts bazaar was added to the event and really took off, so much so that this year church members have been meeting twice a week in Riley's home to make crafts.
It's a serious crew - no children or coffee klatch here. Sue Dixon, Linda Yuose, Nancy Henson, Brianne Rollman, Rhonda Smith and Patricia Riley are among the core members busy making Christmas ornaments and snowmen for sale.
In another corner of the house, Connie North, Roxanne Mendis, and Erin and Jeanette Volmerhausen have been making holiday wreaths. "We're very serious because you want people to get good products," Riley said.
The church members have been doing this for so long that they have the schedule down pat. On Nov. 2, the hams go in the oven and the potatoes are peeled. The next day, the hams are sliced and the oysters breaded. In the afternoon, everyone cooks.
"We want people to get their meal hot," Riley said. "The only things not hot are the beets and the apple sauce."
The fall festival, as it is sometimes called, also includes a bake sale with plenty of apple dumplings (they went fast last year). The event will be held at the church from 3 p.m. to whenever the food runs out.
Come early for the oysters. The menu will include the aforementioned ham and oysters plus parsley potatoes, string beans, coleslaw, applesauce, rolls, apple and pumpkin pies and drinks.
Adult dinners are $11; children's dinners are $6. Children age 3 and younger eat free. For those who like to eat later, carryout is available.
The church is at Foundry and Baltimore streets.