Those who complete the Leadership Howard County (LHC) program often make deep and lasting connections with classmates. After they graduate, many seek to maintain those connections while strengthening and learning new ways to serve their community.

With more than 1,100 graduates who have made a commitment to be actively involved in the community, the goal of LHC’s membership program is to educate graduates on the critical issues of the day and to offer opportunities to stay connected through social and networking events.

In September, LHC launched its program year by marking its 30th anniversary. The event was co-hosted with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, in recognition of Leadership Howard County’s beginning as a program of the chamber. The guest speaker for the event was Norman Augustine, former Lockheed Martin CEO and chair of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, who discussed state and local business-related taxes and tax incentives in Maryland.

In November, LHC’s luncheon featured Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner, who discussed the impact of recent events in the community concerning police/community relations, as well as highlights of the local Community Policing Survey. For LHC’s annual November gift drive, members brought generous donations in support of the Child Advocacy Center.

At the January general membership luncheon, Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn discussed the transportation issues and challenges affecting the region and state. At the final session of the year, in March, members heard from Evan Lutz, the co-founder and CEO of Hungry Harvest, a local social entrepreneur who won an investment on the TV show “Shark Tank.” Members responded enthusiastically to his message about creating a business that worked to eliminate both hunger and food waste while giving back to the community.

Members also continued to explore “hot topics” through LHC’s roundtable forum, “This Just In.” The December forum addressed the topic, “The New Face of Heroin Addiction,” led by Joan Webb Scornaienchi, executive director of HC DrugFree, and Sgt. James Capone, head of the HCPD Narcotics section. They provided important information and discussed solutions and public policy to address the issue both locally and statewide. [See photos on page B-8.]

In January, members learned about the growing concerns of preventing prison re-entry. Howard County Detention Center Director Jack Kavanagh and his team discussed many of the challenges and barriers to successfully building a life after incarceration.

Members and their families turned out for LHC’s annual community service day at the Robinson Nature Center in July. They learned about invasive plants, and worked hard to spruce up the gardens and landscaping.

The eighth annual Iron Chef Cook Off Challenge in February is a popular event that benefits Leadership U and the Howard County Food Bank. Six teams competed for the title of best appetizer, entrée, dessert and overall Iron Chef. The competition was intense, but the creativity of themes, costumes and recipes kept the audience entertained as LHC gathered more than 1,000 pounds of food for the Howard County Food Bank and raised funds for Leadership U. [See photos on page B-10.]

Leadership Howard County continues to meet the challenge of empowering and inspiring community leaders to take their place. As the community continues to grow, it holds to the belief that these programs help the organization fulfill our core purpose — keeping our members connected and informed so we can make a difference.

Karen Trendler, vice president at Sandy Spring Bank, serves as general membership chair and is a member of the Leadership Premier Class of 2012. She can be reached at Karen Trendler: ktrendler@sandyspringbank.com.