MakingChange Provides Free Income Tax Preparation

MakingChange, a Howard County nonprofit organization, is hosting a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at the Multiservice Center in North Laurel, starting Jan. 25.

This site, like other VITA sites across the country, offers free tax assistance preparation and filing to most taxpayers who earned up to $54,000 in 2015. The taxpayer’s eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also will be determined. In addition to free tax return preparation, the site offers free direct deposit of refunds, free pre-paid cards for receipts of the refund, letters to cash refund checks for free at a local bank and the option to purchase U.S. savings bonds.

The VITA site is located at the Multiservice Center, 9900 Washington Boulevard (Route 1). Appointments can be scheduled at http://bit.ly/makingchangevita or at 410-313-0220. Alternatively, taxpayers who made less than $62,000 can file their own federal and state tax returns for free at www.myfreetaxes.com. This year’s tax deadline is Monday, April 18. MakingChange provides group seminars and personal coaching to teach people to manage their money and change their lives. Its programs are offered in schools, human service agencies and businesses. For more information, visit www.makingchangecenter.org.

Kittleman Announces GO50+ Initiative for Howard’s Older Adults

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the launch of the county’s new GO50+ fitness initiative at the Ellicott City 50+ Fitness Center in Ellicott City. Geared toward adults 50 and older, GO50+ combines affordability and accessibility in one membership. Residents are now able to purchase the GO50+ membership package, which provides access to four fitness facilities (North Laurel, Gary J. Arthur and Roger Carter Community Centers and the Ellicott City 50+ Fitness Center) for $75 per year. The new package includes an optional Roger Carter pool membership for an additional fee.

At the launch, Kittleman introduced several current users of the county’s fitness centers, including 92-year-old Ernie Dawson, who works out several times a week to maintain strength in his legs. For more information about GO50+ fitness memberships, contact one of the four participating locations (Ellicott City 50+ Fitness Center or the Gary J. Arthur, North Laurel and Roger Carter Community Centers), or visit www.howardcountyaging.org.

HCAC Celebrates 35th Anniversary With New Exhibits

In 2016, the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) will celebrate 35 years of fostering the arts and artists. To commemorate the occasion, HCAC will begin the year with two new exhibits: a special edition of HoCo Open, the popular all-hung exhibit of Howard County artists, and Let’s Keep in Touch, an exhibit of postcard-sized works by artists from throughout the HCAC galleries’ past. Both exhibits open Jan. 15 and run through Feb. 27.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, from 4:30–6:30 p.m., artists aged 18 years and older who live, work or study in Howard County may submit one piece of original artwork, completed in the last two years, for HoCo Open 2016. This exhibit is expected to feature approximately 100 artworks in a wide variety of styles and include 2-D as well as 3-D works in such diverse media as watercolor, oil painting, collage, line drawing, photography and ceramics.

Artists who have exhibited in HCAC’s galleries at any time during its 35-year history were invited to submit an “artful postcard” for Let’s Keep in Touch, an eclectic exhibit of works limited only by size: All artwork must conform to standard postcard dimensions: 4 inches by 6 inches, or 6 inches by 9 inches. Entries for Let’s Keep in Touch must be delivered to HCAC, via postal mail or in person, by Jan. 11.

The HCAC and Howard County Tourism (HCT) will hold a reception for both exhibits on Friday, Jan. 22, from 6–8 p.m. and will welcome HCT’s partners for a pARTners in ART networking event. The event is free and open to the public. To learn more about these and other HCAC programs, call 410-313-ARTS (2787) or visit hocoarts.org.

Maryland Buyer-Grower Expo to Be Held on Jan. 20

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) will host a wholesale local food trade show on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The purpose of the expo is to provide an opportunity for Maryland farmers and processors to connect with buyers from grocery retailers, restaurants, schools, food distributors and other venues.

This year the event will again be held at the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium’s “N” Room in Annapolis. Maryland growers, producers and processors will be charged an exhibitor’s fee to help offset costs of the event, with an early registration fee of $40. In 2015, there were more than 400 registrants. There is no fee for buyers to attend. For questions or help registering, contact Stone Slade at 410-841-5779 or stone.slade@maryland.gov.

Howard Office of Children’s Services to Hold Preschool/Child Care Info Fair

Howard County’s Department of Citizen Services will host its annual Preschool/Child Care Information Fair, “Children On Board,” on Sunday, Jan. 24, from 1–4 p.m., at Ten Oaks Ballroom, 5000 Signal Bell Lane, Clarksville. Admission is free; however, attendees are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Howard County Food Bank.

Coordinated by the department’s Office of Children’s Services, “Children On Board” will provide parents, guardians, grandparents and child care personnel with “one-stop shopping” for information on child care, pre-school and summer programs, as well as the opportunity for personal contact with teachers and program directors.

Representatives from community service organizations that offer programs and services to Howard County’s young children will be on hand to provide information to interested parents. Attendees also will have the opportunity to attend free informational sessions on “How to Choose an Early Childhood Program,” offered each hour by the Parents as Teacher’s Program.

The new 2016 Parent’s Guide to Howard County will be distributed at the event free of charge. For more information about the fair, contact the Office of Children’s Services at either 410-313-1940 or via e-mail at children@howardcountymd.gov.

Applications Being Accepted for Annual NGC Engineering Scholars Program

Applications are being accepted for the 14th annual Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC) Engineering Scholars competition, which will provide $240,000 in college scholarships across Maryland in 2016 to promising high school seniors interested in studying engineering.

Individual scholarships of $10,000, payable in $2,500 installments over four years, will be awarded by NGC this spring to a qualified graduating high school senior in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. Candidates must plan to attend an accredited college or university school of engineering as a full-time student in an approved engineering program. The funds may be used for tuition, books, room and board, and lab fees.

A committee of NGC employees will select the winners. Applicants must have a minimum composite SAT score of 1,700 or ACT score of 27 and a minimum GPA of 3.5. The application deadline is Feb. 3. To apply, students must complete the application available at www.northropgrumman.com/CorporateResponsibility/Community/Pages/engineeringscholars.aspx.

The Arc Presents 19th Annual Chocolate Ball in Memory of Ecker

The Arc of Howard County will present the 19th annual Chocolate Ball on Saturday, March 12, 7 p.m.–midnight, at Turf Valley, Ellicott City. The black tie preferred event will celebrate “Lives Well Lived,” including the life of Chuck Ecker, former Howard County executive and longtime supporter of The Arc, who died in October.

The Chocolate Ball is chaired by Howard County businessman and philanthropist Chip Lundy, with dozens of volunteers providing support. Sponsorships are now available from $1,000 to $15,000 and come with commensurate benefits, including recognition and seats at the usually sold-out event, which will feature dinner and dancing to music by Oracle and a silent auction.

Proceeds from the Chocolate Ball benefit The Arc of Howard County’s vocational and residential support and services, respite care, and other programs and services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For further information, contact Dee Athey at 410-730-0638, ext. 306, and dathey@archoward.org.

The Columbia Town Center Rotary to Host Valentine’s Gala

The Columbia Town Center Rotary Club is gearing up for its next major fundraiser. The annual Valentine’s Gala will be held at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel on Feb. 6 from 6:30–11:30 p.m.

The gala will feature music by the award-winning NightLife band (playing current and popular classics spanning fromthe ’40s through today’s hits) and a silent auction, as well as dancing and culinary delights throughout the evening. The cost per ticket is $100. Special rates on hotel accommodations are available from the Sheraton for those wanting a getaway weekend.

This year, the Columbia Town Center Rotary club is focusing on community service projects, programs and organizations that support children in need, education, mentoring and services to citizens in crisis. For more information about the club and gala tickets, visit www.ctcrotary.org or contact David Rodriguez at 410-531-9470.

Annie’s Project to Focus on Women in Ag

Annie’s Project focuses on the various aspects of farm management and is designed to empower women in overall farm decision making and to build local networks throughout the state. Topics for the sessions cover the five areas of risk management: production, marketing, financial, legal risk, human resources.

The course will be covered during five sessions starting on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m. The University of Maryland Extension Office in Ellicott City will be a host site. The cost of the entire course, including meals and materials, is $75. Register by Jan. 10. For more information, visit www.extension.umd.edu/annies-project or call 410-313-1908.

Annual Maryland Farmers’ Market Conference Scheduled for March 15

The Annual Maryland Farmers’ Market Conference will be held on Tuesday, March 15, from 8 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, located at 50 Harry Truman Parkway, Annapolis.

Conference sessions will include marketing tips for farmers markets, updates on current regulations guiding the 2016 season, food safety and more. Training and certification sessions also will be available for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Fruit and Vegetable Check program. For more information, contact Shelby Watson Hampton at Shelby.Watson@Maryland.Gov or 410-841-5776.

Candlelight Kicks Off Second Semester with ‘Junie B.’s’

Candlelight Concert Society (CCS) continues its CandleKids Series with a new musical based on the best-selling children’s series by Barbara Park. Theatreworks USA will perform “Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School” on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 2 and 4 p.m., in the Horowitz Center’s Smith Theatre, which is located at Howard Community College, in Columbia.

CCS’s CandleKids Series provides a stimulating introduction to the performing arts for families with children ages 4–10. Performances have included classical ensembles, opera, jazz, dance, percussion and puppetry. These engaging, 50-minute performances are followed by a question-and-answer session with the performers.

Tickets are $11 in advance and $12 the day of the performance. For tickets or more information, or to download the performance study guide, visit www.candlelightconcerts.org. To purchase tickets by phone or to reserve handicapped accessible or ASL seating, call 410-997-2324.

The Mall in Columbia Forms Partnership With Grassroots

The Mall in Columbia has entered into a partnership with Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center that calls for the mall to provide promotional and fundraising opportunities for Grassroots, Howard County’s 24-hour crisis intervention center and shelter for the homeless. “Change Matters” signs are set up at the fountains in Center Court and in front of Sears, and the collected money will be donated to Grassroots.

The mall recently hosted Breakfast with Santa at Nordstrom Café as a benefit for Grassroots, and it is also a sponsor of Soup’r Sundae, Grassroots’ annual family fundraiser, which is set for March 13 at Wilde Lake High School. For information, visit grassrootscrisis.org.

The Mall in Columbia has set up “Change Matters” signs at the fountains in Center Court and in front of Sears. The collected money will be donated to Grassroots.

CA to Hold Public Budget Forum on Jan. 21

Columbia Association’s (CA) board of directors will hold a public budget forum on Thursday, Jan. 21, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

The forum will be hosted by the board’s Planning and Strategy Committee. This forum is for the draft budgets for the next two-year budget cycle, which includes fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Speakers are encouraged to provide written versions of their remarks, as there will be time limits. Testimony also can be provided via e-mail at Board.Members@ColumbiaAssociation.org or by regular mail to Columbia Association Accounting Department, 6310 Hillside Court, Suite 100, Columbia, MD 21046.

Additional budget work sessions are scheduled through the end of February and are expected to begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. The full CA budget schedule can be found at http://bit.ly/cabudgethearings1718.

The Village in Howard Celebrates First Year

In January, The Village in Howard, a nonprofit membership organization that supports residents aged 55-plus who choose to remain in their own homes, reaches its one-year anniversary. The Village offers services that are provided by fellow members and community volunteers to assist with simple household chores and limited transportation. Each month a variety of recreational, social and educational programs are offered to help enhance the quality of life.

The more than 100 members and friends will gather Saturday, Jan. 23, at 2 p.m. at Oliver’s Carriage House to enjoy refreshments, entertainment, learn about future plans and mingle with members, elected officials and guests. To learn more, call 443-367-9043 or visit www.thevillageinhoward.org.