They were meeting, greeting, eating, reading



November 19, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

Now, this was the way to holiday shop. Stroll through the book stacks and gift sections of Greetings & Readings, with a drink in one hand, and something to nosh on in the other. Hmmm. That book looks interesting. Why, let's just stop and chat with the author. Maybe pick up a couple of personally signed copies for that extra-special gift.

That's how a few hundred folks went about it recently at Book Bash 2006 in the name of a good cause -- raising money for Literacy Works Inc. As guests arrived at the store in Hunt Valley Towne Centre, they were greeted with the music of a live jazz band at the top of the escalator. That was the first of many treats during the evening.

Tucked away in a corner, an acoustic guitarist serenaded the shoppers. In the stacks marked Humor and Games, a flutist tootled away. Meanwhile, at a small stage set up in the back, WBAL-TV reporter Jayne Miller interviewed some of the more than 50 writers who were there. Edible goodies were around every corner, courtesy of several local restaurants and caterers. There was someone dishing up hot seafood chowder next to the dartboard display, while a line formed to the right for sushi and spring rolls, in front of the ceramics.

"We've never been to this before," said community volunteer Alyson Meister, as she gazed around the room.

"It's cool," concluded her husband, business and technology consultant Andy Meister.

"Look what I'm getting for my secretary's 1 year old," said Judy Waranch, Townsend Capital general counsel. She pulled a book out of her shopping bag -- My Numbers in French -- which had just been signed by author Zakiyyah.

"I'm just getting started," Waranch added, as she headed off to talk to another author.

Speaking of the authors, they too were having a good time, getting a chance to talk one-on-one with people about their work.

Writer Eve Herold said she'd been having some very interesting conversations with people about her book, Stem Cell Wars.

"I haven't gotten any death threats tonight. But it's still early," she joked.

Poet Walter Collins found the evening's combination of books, food and wine an interesting mix.

"I'm having a lot of fun here. Most of the young people who come by are a bit drunk," he noted with a cheeky grin.


He's in business to help

Robert L. Wallace grew up in Baltimore's Cherry Hill. After graduating from Baltimore Polytechnic, he got degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Wallace, 50, is chairman of BITH GROUP Technologies Inc., an information technology consulting firm he founded 14 years ago. He's also the founder of Entreteach Learning Systems, which is aimed at helping minority and women entrepreneurs. Wallace lives in both Mount Vernon and Clarksville with wife Carolyn. They have five children.

How do you describe yourself?

I'm an entrepreneur. I look for value and opportunity in life.

But, you do something interesting with some of your business profits every year.

If we've been blessed, we take 10 to 15 percent of our profits and we plow it into the mission field. We've built churches in Ghana, schools, clinics -- primarily in Africa, but also in Latin America. Our main thing now is building orphanages for children whose parents have died from HIV / AIDS. ... As you know, it's a huge problem in Africa. [So far] we've built three buildings of a 12-building [orphanage and school] campus in Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro.

It sounds like business for you isn't just about making money.

I didn't get into business just to get into business. It's a means to an end. The end is to help humanity. I'm a Christian. I have Christian values and morals. So the business just provides a means to help humanity. To spread the Gospel.

Do you have other passions in life?

I do. ... Physical health is important to me. I exercise. I'm careful with what I eat. I find I can be more competitive in business if I'm physically fit. ... [But] every now and then, I have a Krispy Kreme moment. I get a few doughnuts and hide away and eat them. And I don't tell my wife. ... My problem is I love sugar.

Are you ever a slug?

No. Even when we go on vacation. I drive my wife crazy. She'll say, "sleep in, stay in bed." And every morning, I'm up at 5 o'clock ... I want to see everything. I want to experience everything. We go all over the place -- Mexico, Africa, Asia, Hawaii. My wife tries to get me to relax. But, wherever we are on the planet, I'm up at 5.

What do you do in your down time? Read, see movies?

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