Money Management Tips for College Children

Money Management - CollegeWhile the upcoming years will prepare you for your future, you don’t want to let financial difficulties weigh you down when you graduate. Which is why we have pulled together the following tips to put you, and keep you, on the right financial path!

Write it all down
Step one is create a budget. This is as simple as writing down your income (student loans, financial aid, employment pay and any help from family) and your expenses. If listing your expenses seems overwhelming – break it down to what you spend in one day and then gradually calculate the increase to a week and then a month. There are a variety of online money management tools – but a simple Excel sheet works just fine.

Prioritize
Organize your expenses into categories. Make a careful list of the essentials (food, books, health, transportation) and things that are optional (new clothes, concerts etc.). Then take a close look at both categories and see where you might be able to save. Ask yourself the tough questions – do you really need unlimited texting? Could you better utilize all the free communication channels like Facebook and email?

If your budget can’t balance and you are still in need of cash flow – consider these ideas to save and/or generate income or save money.

  • Sell your used books online
  • Tutor other students in your best subject(s)
  • Check with your school. Local residents and businesses often contact colleges when looking for “freelance” help with babysitting, dog walking, tutoring for children, odd jobs, special events, and the like. There may even be interesting part-time jobs available that will fit into your academic schedule.

Credit cards
By now most people are aware of the dangers of credit cards, but a credit card can be a great tool for building credit. That’s why we suggest for everyday expenses, use a debit card linked to your checking account, but have a credit card on hand for emergencies, or to make small purchases on a regular basis. Just remember to pay off the balance as soon as possible.

Keep track
Frequent attention to your budget and cash flow is crucial. As a general rule, the tighter your cash flow, the more often you have to monitor your budget. While daily management may seem like too much, a weekly check-in is a good place to start. Never be late paying your bills – added interest and fees can create additional expenses.

Available tools like Online Banking can help you keep track by allowing you to access your accounts and check your balances easily. E-mail alerts can also help you keep an eye on your accounts by sending you a notice anytime your balances drop below a certain level.

Communication
If you are getting help from home, be sure to communicate all of your spending activity and needs frequently. Do your parents (and yourself) a favor and show them how well you are managing your money – and theirs. Make your budget an open book.

For added convenience, consider linking your accounts so your parents can easily transfer money into your account when you need it.

Beyond monetary reward
Have you ever noticed that people who manage their money well seem so confident? By managing the money you have – you remove what could otherwise be an encompassing stress. Self-discipline and a respect for your financial limitations are empowering and free your mind for learning! Share your knowledge with your friends.

Friday Focus: Historic Sotterley Plantation

sotterleyOccupying a 94-acre piece of land along the Patuxent River, Sotterley Plantation is one of Southern Maryland’s well-known historical landmarks. As the organization enters the final days of preparation for its ever-popular Riverside WineFest event, we caught up with Sotterley’s Executive Director, Nancy Easterling, who shared with us some information about the plantation itself, and gave us an inside look into what 2014 WineFest attendees can expect this year!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, etc.)

A: Sotterley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and one of the oldest museums of its kind in the United States, with a history dating back to the turn of the 18th century.  Many people have called Sotterley home over these many years.  Some came here to prosper; others worked the land, either for wages or under bondage.   Sotterley today consists of almost 100 acres of breathtaking beauty on the Patuxent River that includes over six miles of nature trails, Colonial Revival Gardens, and over 20 historic buildings.  Visitors to Sotterley enjoy a wide range of programming, including award winning education programs, acclaimed heritage tours, and a variety of entertaining and interesting special events for guests of all ages.  This jewel of Southern Maryland represents three centuries of our state’s and country’s history, and has become an integral part of the cultural landscape of our region.  Historic Sotterley, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity with a mission to preserve, research, and interpret Sotterley Plantation’s diverse cultures and environments, and to serve the world as an educational, cultural, and community resource.

Q: What has been your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are so many favorite moments for those of us who work here.  For me, however, the best moments will always be when we touch a guest’s life in such a way that our history comes alive for them, and that from their visit they gain a level of insight into our shared past that had not existed until that moment.

One such moment happened years ago when I took a field trip to Sotterley with my son just prior to my starting to work here.  On the way home while riding in the back of the bus, I heard all of the 8th graders talking – not about what new video games they were playing or what sporting events were coming up for them, but they were actually talking about the information they had learned during their Slavery to Freedom program. Yet another student stood up at her 8th grade graduation ceremony and said that her field trip to Sotterley was her favorite 8th grade memory because it was the best field trip she had ever taken – we had made history come alive for her.  Making that same connection to our students and heritage tourists is at the core of our mission, and for me these “a-ha” moments are always the most magical.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Sotterley is blessed to be a community that cares, but adequate and sustainable funding remains the biggest challenge we face.  Sotterley raises all of its funding through memberships, sponsorships, special events, site rental, grants, and other donations.  It is reliant on those who understand Sotterley’s mission and the importance of not only preserving the site for future generations, but continuing to provide such a wonderful cultural resource to our community.  There are ongoing preservation and maintenance challenges that far outstrip our limited budget, but we try to address as many as possible through donations or grant funding whenever possible.  Our hope is to one day have a larger and more sustainable base of operational funding, ensuring that we can always preserve Sotterley’s stories and our shared history for the future.

Q: How can people really help?

A: There are so many ways to help and support Sotterley!  Becoming a member is one of the easiest – our members are the bedrock of our financial support, and we provide our members with special ways to experience the site and its programming.  Businesses can be a part of Sotterley through financial support in the form of sponsorships, memberships, or donations.   Monetary donations are of course critical, but In-kind donations of goods and services  are also invaluable to Sotterley, and range from the time and talents of professionals in our community to the donations of serviceable equipment (from lawn mowers to golf carts to computer printers – the list is endless!).  We also invite everyone to Make History and Volunteer!  Sotterley volunteers are simply the best, and no matter how much time you have to give or your area of interest, there is a place for you in the Sotterley family: from helping the Sotterley Garden Guild, becoming an Interpreter or Guide, working in our Museum Shop, helping with the Hospitality team, or simply coming to support our special events.   No matter how you choose to support Sotterley, know that you WILL make a very real difference!

Q: What advice can you give someone looking to work at a non-profit?

A: Working at a non-profit is one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever have, even though the pay will almost always be limited and often the hours long.  To serve a cause or mission that you believe in, however, is a incalculable joy, and you have the opportunity to work alongside people every day who truly care and who are dedicated to giving back and making a difference in our community.

Q: What events do you have coming up?

A: There is so much to do at Sotterley Plantation in the months ahead!  First of all, our Riverside WineFest at Sotterley is just around the corner on October 4th and 5th from noon until 6pm each day! With over 20 Maryland wineries boasting award-winning wines, an amazing live music line-up, artisan vendors, food and beer vendors, demonstrations, free mini tours of the Plantation House and Colonial Revival Gardens, and fun children’s activities, there is truly something for everyone!  Discounted tickets can be purchased through September 28th, but members old and new can buy at the gate for only $15!

A mere two weeks later we begin our Ghosts of Sotterley tours which will be held on October 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25.  On this walking tour of Sotterley’s grounds, you will encounter inhabitants of the past and those not of this earth during this year’s production: “Reapers in Red Coats: The Ghosts of Sotterley 1814.”   Tickets may be purchased on-line, and advance reservations are required.

But that’s not all!  There will be one more wonderful and FREE Speaker Series event on October 29th, “SPAT: Bringing Oysters Back to the Chesapeake Bay”, and then right around the corner will be our holiday events in December: Family Plantation Christmas, and our expanded Sotterley Christmas Traditions by Candlelight tours.

We hope that all of our guests will remember that by simply coming and having a great time with us, you ultimately also support Sotterley and its mission. Truly a win-win for all!  We hope to see you soon!

Lessons You Can Learn from Recent Data Breaches

Identity theft in word tag cloudIn recent months, several major data breaches have made headlines. Large-scale retailers like Target, The Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and Michael’s have been targeted, leaving hundreds of thousands of pieces of customer information vulnerable.

With a number of recent compromises, you may be wondering if your information will ever be safe. While it’s impossible to know exactly when the next data breach will strike, here are a few lessons you can learn from recent ones to help keep your private information as secure as possible:

A data breach could happen anywhere, anytime and affect anyone.

The fact is, you can be as careful as possible and still fall victim to a data breach if you use your debit or credit card to shop. Identity thieves are growing more sophisticated in their tactics, using complex malware to compromise point of sale terminals, as seen in the Target and the Home Depot incidents. A safe alternative is to use cash when you shop, so no identifying information is used to process the transaction.

It’s important to be proactive.

It is more critical than ever to carefully monitor your monthly statements for your debit and credit cards. Review each transaction and contact your financial institution immediately if you suspect a fraudulent charge. When shopping online, always use a credit card over a debit card, as they are not directly linked to a bank account.

Create unique passwords and logins.

It seems like every website involves a username and password, and while it’s tempting to use the same one over and over, doing so could greatly increase the scope of damage if your identity is stolen. Recent breaches, including the Russian hacking incident, are suspected to have affected billions of username and password combinations. Using the same login information across several websites (e.g. your financial institutions, credit cards, online shopping accounts) could make it easier for thieves to strike multiple places.

Get identity protection services.

In the unpredictable digital world we live in, you can take steps to safeguard your identity by signing up for identity protection services. Community Bank offers ID Restoration Services through Deluxe Provent, a completely customizable suite of monitoring services that will not only help you keep your identity safe, but will also assist you if you find your personal information has been compromised.

At Community Bank, your security is always our priority. Click here for updates on current data breaches and more information on how we are working to keep your information safe and secure.

Friday Focus: The Conservancy for Charles County

The community around us is constantly growing and changing, and in recent years, Charles County has seen stunning levels of growth and development,Charles County Conservancy often at the expense of the natural landscape. The Conservancy for Charles County recognized a need to protect the natural resources, farmland, watersheds and historical sites within the county, and works hard to ensure that these places will remain a part of the community for years to come. We spoke with the Conservancy’s President, Hal Delaplane, for this week’s Friday Focus interview.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We are an all-volunteer qualified local land trust that is designated a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  We were formed in 1996 by local residents who were concerned with the pace of development and its obvious threats to the environment and our quality of life.  Our purpose is to protect the scenic, natural, forest, agricultural and historic places in Charles County for the benefit of all its residents.

We are the only land trust operating exclusively in Charles County. In partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), we have protected over 1,800 acres of privately owned land throughout the county by working with landowners in a voluntary program of donated conservation easements.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A:   I think our coolest single moment came a few years back.  In 2006, we acquired a conservation easement on the 186-acre Mudd Farm tract near Waldorf in a complicated series of transactions.  The farm, which had been in the Mudd family for more than 200 years, surrounds the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House where Dr. Mudd set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. The house and farm are operated today by the Dr. Samuel Mudd Society as a museum and is Charles County’s most visited tourist site.

When the Conservancy became involved, the farm had been sold to a La Plata developer for development as a subdivision.  The developer generously allowed us time to arrange its purchase by the county with Rural Legacy Program funds.  The county in turn sold the farm to the Mudd Society who donated the easement jointly to the Conservancy and the county.  The process took about five years.

The easement enhances and sustains an irreplaceable historic landscape.  Visitors can look down from Dr. Mudd’s bedroom window on a view of rolling farm fields and Zekiah Swamp that is unchanged from Dr. Mudd’s day. (Pictured in photo).

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A:   We are dependent on membership dues, individual donations and grants.  Like other small non-profits, we are looking for ways to make our funding more reliable from year to year, looking for new members and looking for Board members.  These are all expressions of the same underlying challenge: how do we make ourselves better known and more relevant to the community, especially to the young and to minorities?  How can we better convey our message to them?

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:   We are exhibiting at the four-day county fair.  Next on the schedule is our only fundraiser of the year– our annual fall dinner meeting next week at the Waldorf Jaycees Friday, September 26.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Anyone interested in being a volunteer, for example to help staff our exhibits at public events or monitor our easements, can contact us through our website, www.conservecharles.org, or email us at info@conservecharles.org.

Friday Focus: Rappahannock United Way

Fueled by a mission to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of the local community, the Rappahannock United Way staff work day in and day outVolunteer_pic_reduc to provide services and resources for those who need them. As the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary and prepares for its upcoming Days of Caring, President Janel S. Donohue took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us for this week’s Friday Focus.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).

A: Rappahannock United Way (RUW) is a nonprofit organization serving the City of Fredericksburg, Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. RUW is excited to be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. RUW is committed to advancing the common good by investing in programs that support the building blocks to a better life: education, income, and health.  We believe a quality education leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.

At RUW, our goal is to create long-lasting change by helping more households emerge from poverty and achieve greater financial stability.  We encourage individuals, companies and organizations in our community to Live United — a call to action to give, advocate and volunteer locally. Rappahannock United Way is an efficient and effective organization.

RUW recently received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, an objective, nationwide nonprofit evaluator. This is the fourth consecutive year RUW has received a four-star rating.  Charity Navigator measures a charity’s ability to effectively manage and grow its finances. Four stars means that Rappahannock United Way “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.” In fact, only a quarter of all charities rated by Charity Navigator reach the four-star echelon.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Our favorite moments are seeing firsthand the amazing support and partnership throughout the community among the people, nonprofits, companies and Rappahannock United Way.  Whether you are participating in a Day of Caring, a fundraising event, or a Community Event, the impactful changes made by Rappahannock United Way for those in need throughout the Rappahannock area is evident and inspiring.

A particular favorite moment was watching our 2014 Success Videos that demonstrated how Rappahannock United Way is changing the story for individuals right here in our community. It feels good to see real people solve real problems and achieve long lasting positive change in their life.  This is why we do what we do.

(Watch the videos here: Education: Project Discovery Program; Health: Micah Respite Program)

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: I think our biggest challenge is to mobilize the caring power of our community to go beyond inspiring people to act, but doing it in a way that means we are all working in the same direction. We are blessed to live in a community full of people who constantly give of their time, talent and treasures to make a difference.  However, when the work is thinly spread around to too many different good causes the impact is small.  RUW is designed to mobilize individuals around key issues which are very specific and focused – when we can get everyone to focus, we will have impact.  Mobilizing people isn’t hard — it’s already happening; however, mobilizing everyone in the same direction is the challenge.  That’s what RUW has to do to create long lasting impact.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  Rappahannock United Way is excited to promote two very important events in our local community. The first event is the annual Days of Caring.  Days of Caring will occur on September 26 in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg and Stafford; September 30 in Caroline; and October 3 in King George. Days of Caring provide local nonprofit agencies and schools with volunteer teams from local businesses to complete meaningful projects that fulfill agency and community needs.  Last year, over 330 Day of Caring Volunteers completed over 30 projects in one day.

The second event will be held on Sunday, October 19 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fairgrounds.  This community event is FREE and will be a family fun event to celebrate Rappahannock United Way’s 75th year impacting the community.  Come out to enjoy food, fun and much family entertainment.  There will even be a real Monster Truck on site to take individuals for free rides!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A:  Rappahannock United Way has a call to action to be a part of the change you want to see in your community. We encourage everyone to Live United: Give, Advocate, Volunteer.  Giving is easy.  You can give through your workplace campaign, give online at www.rappahannockunitedway.org, or send a check to Rappahannock United Way, 3310 Shannon Airport Circle, Fredericksburg, VA  22408.  Volunteering is easy, too.  Just go to our interactive volunteer website to find the latest volunteer opportunities in our community.   We want everyone to find opportunities to make a positive impact in their community.

Rappahannock United Way also has volunteer opportunities from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for its Community Appreciation Day on October 19, 2014.  Contact Terri Center at tcenter@rappahannockunitedway.org for more details.

Six Tips for Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, affecting over 12.6 million people annually. In light of the many recent data breaches that have compromised personal information, it is more important than ever to take steps to actively protect yourself from having your identity stolen.

This month, Community Bank of the Chesapeake will be focusing on providing tips, tools and solutions to help you keep your identity safe and secure. To start, here are some useful steps you can take to keep your personal information just that — personal.

1.  Protect your Social Security number at all costs!

Your Social Security number is one of the most valuable pieces of personal information you have, so be sure to take every precaution to safeguard it! Never carry your social security card in your wallet, and only give it out when absolutely necessary. Consider keeping it in a safe deposit box with other vital records until it is needed.

  1. Review your credit report annually.

You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) each year. An annual review of your credit report will not only help you to ensure that you’re where you need to be credit-wise, it will allow you to see if there have been any fraudulent uses of credit in your name. Contact the issuing credit bureau immediately if you notice a discrepancy of fraudulent activity on your report.

  1. Avoid over-sharing (on social media, that is).

We live in the age where personal information in all too easy to find, courtesy of social media. Be judicious about the kind of information you share with the public and remember that anything you post on the Internet is there to stay. Keep the kinds of information that would be needed to complete a credit application (i.e. home address, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, etc.) off of your Facebook wall or Twitter feed. And if you’re planning a trip, wait until you come back to post about your out-of-town plans; announcing your home will be left unattended can provide a prospective burglar with a golden opportunity.

  1. Pick strong passwords.

Having a different password for each account you have may seem like a hassle, but it can go a long way to protect you. Secure everything — your phone, personal computer, tablet — with a strong password comprised of a combination of numbers, letters and special characters. Never give your password out, and change them immediately if you suspect they have been compromised.

  1. Check your statements carefully.

Diligently reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements can help you stop ID thieves in their tracks before they can cause catastrophic damage. If you notice a fraudulent charge on your statement, notify your financial institution immediately. Online banking helps make this even easier, as you can often review charges posted to your account instantly, so you can check several times a week.

  1. Be cautious when shopping online

Online shopping is incredibly convenient, but can also be an ideal place for identity thieves to strike. Be sure that the sites you’re using are secured whenever you’re entering billing information. You can authenticate a website’s security certificate for checking that the web address has a green bar around it, or a lock icon next to it. When shopping online, use a credit card instead of a debit card; with a credit card, you are significantly less liable for fraudulent charges, while a debit card compromise could leave your entire bank account at risk.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike—take the steps to protect your personal information today. Check out these suggestions from Deluxe Provent, and talk with your branch manager about how Community Bank’s ID Restoration Service can help you. Visit your local branch or visit our website to enroll today.

Friday Focus: Barstow Acres Counseling and Children’s Center

This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Prince Frederick Maryland abarstow acresnd the Barstow Acres Counseling & Children’s Center. The Center is the vision of Executive Director Sonia Hinds, APRN-BC, RPT, a registered nurse specializing in mental health nursing and a clinical specialist-psychotherapist. Ms. Hinds recognized the need for additional quality mental health service for young children and families in a family setting, with specific modalities for children such as play therapy, art therapy and sand tray therapy. We caught up with Ms. Hinds for this week’s interview, who shared more information about the many ways Barstow Acres helps children and their families.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We serve children and families, including those at-risk, underserved and in need of mental health services. We provide a wide variety of mental health and developmental services, as well as enrichment programs for both children and adults.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Our summer camp program gives us most of our memorable moments. We provide a safe place during the summer for children with socio-emotional challenges who would otherwise be at home alone watching TV or playing video games all day. Children with ADHD, Asperger’s, anger and behavioral challenges benefit from the therapeutic camp experience. The children are taught coping skills and encouraged to take responsibility for their behavior while receiving support and feedback from their peers and staff.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Funding is our biggest challenge. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we are always in need of operating funds. We accept monetary donations of any amount in order to provide services at a reasonable rate to the families we help. Checks can be made payable to Barstow Acres Children’s Center. We also collect used cell phones and empty ink jet cartridges.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Social Skills Groups for children and adolescents starting the week of September 22, 2014! Group members learn pro-social behaviors such as how to behave in a social setting, how to read social cues, making friends, anger management, yoga, Brain Gym® and art therapy.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: The biggest way people can get involved is by donating through the United Way. Another method is to sponsor a child for our therapeutic summer day camp via the “Adopt a Camper Campaign.” Our summer camp is a huge undertaking and we always need donations of volunteer time, supplies, and funds to ensure its success. We also have volunteer opportunities during our fundraisers, namely our Fashion & Talent Show and Annual Parent/Professional Empowerment Conference which educates the community on mental health issues.

Friday Focus: Dahlgren Heritage Museum

dahlgrenAt the foot of the Nice Bridge in King George, Virginia is the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. Overseen by the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, the Museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the rich military history of the Dahlgren base and surrounding community. This week’s Friday Focus caught up with Foundation president Ed Jones, who shared some personal favorite moments and gave us a sneak peek at some upcoming events at the Museum!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation was founded three years ago to tell “the Dahlgren story”: how over the last century, a swampy piece of King George County farmland became a Navy base that is one of the crown jewels of our national defense. It’s a story about research, innovation and community, both on and around the base, both military and civilian. We tell that story through our museum on U.S. 301 at the foot of the Nice Bridge; through community forums about the history, present and future of the base and surrounding community; through our website,  dahlgrenmuseum.org; and through support for area students who are studying science and technology. Though we have strong collaborative ties with the Navy, we are a community-based, private, nonprofit organization. All of our funds come from memberships, contributions and grants.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: One of our favorite moments was when we christened the exhibit on “Women in Science” at the University of Mary Washington’s Dahlgren campus. It tells the story of the base, with special emphasis on the role that women have played at Dahlgren over the years. Thousands have seen this exhibit on the walls of the lobby and hallways.

Another favorite moment was the opening late last year of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum in the former Welcome Center at the foot of the Nice Bridge. Currently on display are artifacts dealing with the little-known aviation history of Dahlgren, including a bombsight developed at Dahlgren that made a crucial contribution to U.S. airborne forces in World War II.

Yet another moment was our sponsoring of the school buses that allowed area students to attend a science fair in Washington that rates as the nation’s largest.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Spreading the word about our many activities, raising funds to lift us to the next stage of development before the 2018 centennial of the base, and encouraging more people to become active members of the museum.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: There are many! Join us for our second annual Fine Art and Memorabilia Auction at UMW/Dahlgren on Saturday, September 6. The preview begins at 5 p.m., with the auction starting at 5:30. Great bargains and great fun. The $25 tickets include refreshments and wine, and are available on our website, dahlgrenmuseum.org.

On Saturday, November 15, at the museum, we will offer a German Christmas Market from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. More details are on the website.

And every first Saturday (from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and third Saturday (from noon to 4 p.m.), the museum is open with free admission. Through October, a flea market will be set up in the parking area at those times. Check the website for special opening times as well.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Become a member by going to dahlgrenmuseum.org, or by leaving us a message at 540-663-3680. When you go to the website, be sure to read the latest edition of the DHF Digest, our outstanding quarterly newsletter.

Friday Focus: St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League

The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League helps cats, dogs and horses by providing SMAWL logoveterinary, fostering and adoption services. This week, we spoke with Katie Werner, President of SMAWL, who shared a favorite story about a particularly special dog and gave us the inside scoop on how you can help an animal find their “furr-ever” home.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 that works to help the homeless, abused and neglected animals in our local community and — in times of extreme need — in our larger national rescue community. Immediate goals include aggressive campaigns to find homes for homeless cats and dogs and to curb pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs. Future goals include the building of a no-kill shelter in St. Mary’s County. Services provided include pet adoptions, discount spay/neuter vouchers, monthly low-cost rabies clinics, humane education and the Pet Food Pantry. SMAWL is an all-volunteer organization and welcomes new members and volunteers. SMAWL offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including fostering animals waiting for adoption. To contact SMAWL, call 301-373-5659, send an e-mail to smawl@yahoo.com, or visit www.smawl.org.

The Snowflake Society was created in 2006 as a division of St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) to help horses and other hoofed animals. The mission statement of the Snowflake Society reads: “To provide shelter, care, rehabilitation and adoption services for abused, neglected, and unwanted horses and other hoofed animals; and to promote humane treatment of hoofed animals through education, investigation, and legal intervention.”

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are many favorite moments and all of our animal adoptions are reason to celebrate, but the most rewarding is when we are able to help those special animals that are considered “unadoptable.” Once such recent rescue is Martha, a blind Beagle we pulled from Tri-County Animal Shelter. We were fortunate enough to find a very special foster home that had a very special cat, Dutchess, who helped Martha adjust to her new home. Within half an hour of her arrival, Dutchess had introduced herself and was taking Martha on a tour of the house. She showed her where all of the water bowls were and the family set one up on the bathroom floor for Martha since she seemed to like that area. Dutchess decided they were sleeping together on the sofa that first night, so that was where they spent the night. Martha had a nightmare and was whimpering and of course her assistant came to get her foster mom and she calmed down when she was held. Martha likes to snuggle against her foster mom with Dutchess against her. The family gated off the bathroom for Martha so that she had a larger area to stay in while they are at work; Dutchess can hop the gate. The two became inseparable!

Like so many of our foster family, Dutchess’ family became “failed” fosters and adopted Martha. Having the ability to rescue animals such as Martha is why we do what we do. We are able to continue our rescue mission because of the support we receive throughout the year from our friends, sponsors and the community at large.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Since we do not have a permanent shelter, our biggest problem is having foster homes for our animals. We are limited in the animals we can take in due to the foster space we have available. Foster homes are vitally important to help in the care and socialization of our animals. SMAWL pays for the veterinary care and asks our foster families, in addition to providing a safe environment for them to live, to transport them to veterinary appointments and to adoption events so that they can find their “fur-ever” homes.

In addition, we do have many other volunteer opportunities such as working at our Rabies Clinics and Adoption Events. We also need assistance in caring for some of our cats who reside at the Petco in California, Md. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway, Md.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have Adoption Events at the Petco in California on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. In addition, we have Rabies Clinics on the second Monday of the month between March and November at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown, MD between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. We also hold adoption events at other locations such as the PetValu in Leonardtown, the Tractor Supply Co in Hollywood and Pepper’s Pet Pantry in Solomon’s. In May we have our Annual Animal Fair, which is a fun-filled day for families and pets with many activities for everyone – one of the most popular of which is the “Woof-It Down” Contest (a “pie” eating contest where dogs and their humans compete).

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: There are several things people can do to get involved:

• Become a member – membership fees help us continue our mission. Membership fees are:

$35.00 – Individual

$50.00 – Family

$50.00 – Business

$250.00 – Lifetime

$500.00 – Business Lifetime

• Volunteer – there are many volunteer opportunities, from helping at an adoption event to helping to organize our Animal Fair.

• Foster – the more foster families we have, the more animals we can save!

• Have a pet food drive to help keep our Pet Food Pantry stocked.

Summer Savings Tip: Turn off the lights!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household dedicates about 5% of its energy budget to lighting.Summer Savings Tip: Turn the lights off

It’s an easy budget to start trimming, and here are tips to get you started:

Make the switch
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills, and you have lots of choices, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy-efficient bulbs may cost more than ones you’re used to, but you’ll save over their lifetime.

Visit Energy Star to find the right light bulbs for your fixtures.

Off vs On
Think twice about that old electricity myth that says it uses more electricity to turn a light back on than it does to keep it on. Today’s basic wisdom suggests that, depending on the type of light, you’re apt to save by turning it off, no matter how short the duration before you’ll be turning it on again.

Time out
Use timers and motion sensors to automatically control the amount of electricity you use. Dimmers also provide savings.

Natural light
Take advantage of daylight by keeping your curtains, blinds or shades open, or using curtains that allow daylight in. When you’re decorating, remember that lighter colors reflect daylight and enhance available natural light in a room.

Crunch the numbers
Curious how much you might save — in terms of dollars or energy — by turning off the lights when you leave the house? It could add up. Check out this breakdown at The Simple Dollar.

Find more tips!
Looking to save even more? Visit websites for your local utilities, including the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), for more energy saving tips on everything from appliances to heating and cooling.

Is your family good about turning off the lights?