Churches open homeless shelters


December 16, 2007

Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center has resumed operation of its cold-weather shelter program for homeless people in Howard County.

This year, 14 churches are to provide shelter for one or two weeks from now through March 16. Church volunteers will also provide meals, transportation, clothing, medicine and laundry services for those in need, including families, who are unable to get into the Grassroots shelter because it is full.

Grassroots provides the county's only shelter for homeless people. It also serves as headquarters for the county's Mobile Crisis Team, which responds to psychiatric emergencies and family crises. Grassroots also responds to walk-in and telephone requests for crisis counseling.

While construction is underway to expand Grassroots' Columbia facility on Freetown Road, Grassroots has moved its shelter programs to a two-story cottage on the property of Taylor Manor in Ellicott City. Grassroots' crisis-intervention programs are now at a county-owned house on Vollmerhausen Road.

To volunteer for a cold-weather shelter: Anna Katz, 410-531-6006. To reach the Grassroots hot line: 410-531- 6677.

FIRN classes to help with citizenship test

FIRN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing resources and help to the foreign-born, will offer free classes to local foreign-born residents seeking to become naturalized.

Classes to prepare students for the federal government's new U.S. Citizenship Test, to be taken by naturalization applicants beginning Oct. 1, will begin in June. Classes to prepare for the current test begin in February.

Information: 410-992-1923.

Volunteers needed for MLK board

The Martin Luther King Holiday Commission is seeking residents from diverse communities in Howard County to serve an initial term of two years on the commission.

Volunteer commissioners meet on the first Wednesday of each month to plan the county's annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration.

Those interested should send a letter and a biography to the Office of Human Rights, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia 21046, or call 410-313-6430. Commissioners are appointed by the Howard County executive.

Festival of the Arts has gift certificates

Columbia Festival of the Arts will offer an opportunity to "Give the Gift of the Arts" in the form of gift certificates for the 2008 performance season.

The certificates, which will help support the nonprofit Columbia Festival, are available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100.

The 2008 performance schedule will be announced in March. Gift certificates can be redeemed for tickets. The certificates are not redeemable for cash and cannot be returned for a cash refund.

Information: 410-715-3044.

The Arc collecting linens for homes

The Arc of Howard County is collecting linens to refurbish residential homes for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Needed are bath and kitchen towels, pillows and pillow cases, twin- and double-bed sheets, mattress pads and comforters. The drive runs through Dec. 30.

Donations can be dropped off at the Arc's offices, 11735 Homewood Road, Ellicott City.

Also, the Arc is selling raffle tickets for a Bose home theater system with 50-inch plasma television. The tickets cost $25 each; 1,000 tickets will be sold.

The winning ticket will be drawn at a Super Bowl Social to be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Arc's offices. Refreshments will be served.

The Arc was started by a group of parents in 1961 as an advocacy and support group. The organization provides housing, job placement, vocational training and a variety of individual and family-support services to people with cognitive and developmental disabilities and their families.

Information: 410-730-0638.

Veterans invited to tell life stories

The Howard County public library is seeking veterans to interview as part of the countywide "This Is Your Life" initiative to encourage residents ages 50 and older to record their personal histories.

The Columbia Archives will preserve the oral histories in its permanent collection.

Veterans who have lived or worked in Howard County and are interested in recording their memories should contact Lois Sanders, 410-313-7791.

Information: 410-313-7750, or

Symphony of Lights open through Jan. 5

The Symphony of Lights, a display benefiting Maternal Child Services at Howard County General Hospital, is open to vehicles -- and this year, groups of walkers -- through Jan. 5.

Hours for the display of more than 70 giant animated and stationary light creations are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, including holidays.

Admission is $20 a car for vehicles of up to 11 passengers; those holding 12 to 24 passengers pay $35; and buses of 25 or more passengers pay $125.

Groups of 50 or more may walk through the display between 4:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. The cost is $5 a person. Reservations are required.


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