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What's Up Magazine

'Tis the Season for Giving… and Giving

Dec 02, 2013 10:43AM ● By Cate Reynolds

Left to right: Ashley Fishell (in blue) and her two children with Annapolis Community Foundation co-founder Ellen Moyer (seated) representing the ACF and Justin Fishell Memorial Fund; Kate Rollason, executive director of The Arc of the Central Chesapeake Region; Mary O’Malley of the Assistance League of the Chesapeake; Jen Smell, Pediatric Nursing Director, and Dr. Michael Clemmons (in white lab coat) both representing Anne Arundel Medical Center; and Kelly Brown, president of SPCA of Anne Arundel County.

By Beth Rubin
Photos by Tony Lewis, Jr.

During this season of “getting and spending,” we at What’s Up? Annapolis pause to count our blessings, and applaud the efforts of local organizations that epitomize the holiday spirit, not just around Christmas, but year-round. We culled several of their stories, each a demonstration of goodwill within our community.

Healing Holidays at Anne Arundel County Medical Center

Image titleA year ago, as Parker Harris of Shady Side approached his ninth birthday on December 21st, more than sugarplums danced in his head. Like any red-blooded kid, he daydreamed about the presents he would receive. A thoughtful lad, he also wondered about the children who would have to spend Christmas in the hospital. One thought led to another, and an idea was hatched.

“I always have a good Christmas and a great birthday, too,” Parker says. And so, in a demonstration of generosity and empathy uncommon in one so young, he asked his friends to give presents to the kids in the hospital instead of to him. “That way those kids can have a good holiday, too,” he says.

At his request, Parker’s parents called the AAMC Pediatric Department to find out what kind of gifts would be appropriate for children who had to spend the holiday in the hospital. A few days before Christmas, and armed with gift-wrapped Barbie Dolls and GI Joe’s, board games, and other holiday goodies, Parker and his friend Carson arrived to play Santa Claus. Before you get out your handkerchief, let it be known that Parker and 14 of his friends celebrated his birthday with a pizza dinner and visit to AAMC’s annual Lights on the Bay. 

AAMC: 2001 Medical Parkway, Annapolis; 443-481-1000;

Assistance League of the Chesapeake Spreads Goodwill to All

Image titleIn this season of office parties and gift swaps, the Assistance League of the Chesapeake is at its busiest, aiding numerous individuals, families, and senior citizens through a variety of programs.

You may have already heard of the Assistance League via its well-known Operation School Bell Program, which furnishes school-age kids in need with clothing, shoes, outerwear, and toiletries. The league also promotes literacy programs for children and adults in the community. Their mantra: “Readers today…Leaders tomorrow.”

And on December 12th, the Assistance League will hold a “baby shower” to benefit the Stork’s Nest program, which is fostered by the Baltimore Washington Medical Center. Stork’s Nest is open to any pregnant woman in Anne Arundel County. The organizers hope to draw women who do not receive regular prenatal care and are at an elevated risk for having a low birth weight or premature baby. As a points-based incentive system, the program encourages women to attend classes emphasizing the importance of prenatal and basic infant care. The women then use the points they accrue to purchase items from the Nest for themselves and the nursery.

Extending their reach in the community, The Assistance League also serves homebound senior citizens and disabled individuals through distribution of emergency kits. The League also holds seasonal sing-a-longs at assisted living locations.

Assistance League of the Chesapeake:,

Annapolis Community Foundation Keeps Memories Alive

Image titleJennifer Navabi, executive director since 2004 of the foundation started by former mayor Ellen Moyer (in 2002), oversees this small nonprofit whose mission is “to improve the lives of locals.” The foundation, which gives one-time grants to local organizations, is not associated with city government, Navabi is quick to point out. To date, they’ve given $100,000—all in small grants. “Each grant has a max of $2,500,” Navabi says, but for “some groups it’s enough seed money to get going.”

Case in point: A year ago, she heard from a woman who wanted to start a dedicated fund to help families affected by the death of a loved one in a fatal auto accident. The woman was motivated when her good friend, Justin Fishell, died in a tragic accident and left a young widow and two small children.

She brought together a group of Fishell’s friends who raised money to help the family. When they found out that Fishell had life insurance, they decided to help others in the same situation. Since 2012, the Justin Fishell Memorial Fund has held two fundraisers and a crab feast. The proceeds have gone to help families with daycare, school tuition, and such.

Through their generosity, Navabi says, “they are keeping Justin’s memory alive.” While foundations usually call to mind large organizations with many members, she says, “here is an example of a community foundation reaching out to individuals on a one-to-one basis.”

Annapolis Community Foundation:

Holiday De-stress with Anne Arundel County SPCA’s Furry Friends

Image titleOn November 22nd, shoppers took a break from combing box stores and malls to flock to the county SPCA on Bay Ridge Avenue in a pre-holiday quest to help creatures great and small.

At the Third Annual Black Friday Sale, black cats were free to good homes, and a 50-percent discount was given to adopting individuals who chose dogs with black in their coats. The animals that were candidates for adoption had been spayed or neutered and had their shots. (It’s important to note that the shelter hands over animals to approved applicants only, and only adults over 18 can apply.)

The idea for the Black Friday Sale was started at a West Coast animal shelter in 2009, according to Margaret Bowers, director of the SPCA shelter. “It was a big success out there so we decided to try it.” The first Black Friday Sale in our area took place in 2011. Last year, the shelter placed 30 animals on the day better known for congested parking lots and frayed nerves.

But frayed nerves are not in the lexicon of Margaret Bowers or the AAC SPCA staff. “It’s my favorite day at the shelter,” Bowers says. “People are lined up around the building, waiting to see the animals. More animals go home on this one day than usually go home in a week or two.”

AAC SPCA: 1815 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis; 410-268-4388;

All for One through The Arc of the Chesapeake

Image titleYear-round, The Arc of the Central Chesapeake Region’s mission is to “promote respect, create opportunities, and advocate for equal rights for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” The organization offers support services for independent and community living, employment training and placement, and fiscal management assistance. And each holiday season, more than 50 children in our area with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism benefit from the efforts of The Arc’s Holiday Giving Program, now in its 10th year. Community sponsors and supporters band with The Arc staff, donating time, money, and toys to special needs children whose families are overburdened with extraordinary medical and insurance bills.

A mother of three, Tania Hendrickson says “normal” financial worries are through the roof, especially around birthdays and the Christmas holidays. In 2012,“The Arc and its supporters stepped up for our family, and not only provided the essential things that my children were lacking—clothing and bedding—but also the things they wanted like games and toys that we could never imagine buying for them. The Arc and its supporters gave our family so much more than gifts. And they turned what would have been a disappointing day into a memorable and happy one.”

The Arc’s Holiday Giving Program:; 410-990-1908.

This selection of holiday spirit stories represents but a few of the many, many charitable organizations within our community. To meet more charities and learn about their missions, we invite you to visit our website for comprehensive listings of these fine philanthropic entities: