FRIDAY FOCUS: Operation Warrior Refuge, Inc.

“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” This simple but powerful Operation-Warrior-Refuge1-460x180quote by Helen Keller sums up perfectly what Operation Warrior Refuge, Inc. strives to promote. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to helping local veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families overcome the emotional wounds brought on by serving our country. While speaking with Julie Devine, LCPC, licensed mental health professional of Operations Warrior Refuge, Inc., we learned how therapy with horses and natural settings can help influence our warriors to overcome the many challenges they may face and their PTSD after service.

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

A: Operation Warrior Refuge, Inc.’s mission is to provide licensed mental health therapy to local veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families free of charge. We are not connected with the VA or The Wounded Warrior Project. We are Southern Maryland local people who saw a need to create a program for local veterans and first responders to get the therapy they need and have trouble finding.

We provide licensed mental health therapy in the form of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. This means we conduct our therapy sessions outside in a paddock or arena with one or more horses. Clients interact with and do activities with the horses, facilitated by two licensed mental health professionals, both of whom have years of horse experience. All activities take place with clients’ feet on the ground – there is no riding involved. Activities are designed to bring about powerful and thought provoking experiences that relate directly to events, patterns and issues in the clients’ lives. We treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, family issues, trauma, challenges with reintegrating into civilian life and more.

We are lucky and thankful to work out of The Greenwell Foundation in Hollywood, Maryland.

We hope that our form of outdoor therapy, taking place in a beautiful farm setting, which requires less talking and direct interaction than regular “office therapy,” will be appealing to our local community of veterans and first responders. Our Mental Health Professionals, Dr. Jamie Spohn, PsyD, and Julie Devine LCPC, are trained in this therapy through the international organization EAGALA – The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

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

A: It is truly incredible to see the changes brought about in a person, in family dynamics in just a few therapy sessions. We can’t give any details as all sessions are confidential. We can say that we have seen this therapy make a positive difference in some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge right now is funding. We do our own fundraising to be able to pay our licensed mental health professionals for the work that they provide. Each therapy session costs $200, all of which is currently paid for by fundraising. We are in need of donations and fundraising opportunities.

Our second biggest challenge is spreading the word about the work that we do, so that folks in need of services can find us.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have a number of events in the planning stages coming up this spring and summer.  Last year we had a great time with our Poker Run in July and Blue Crabs fundraiser in September.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Visit our website – Donate and spread the word! We have partner and sponsor opportunities available. You can also find us on Facebook/OperationWarrior.

FRIDAY FOCUS: American Heart Association

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and yet it is 80% American Heart Associationpreventable?The American Heart Association strives to build healthier lives to prevent cardiovascular diseases and strokes. To increase awareness of their organization they have created a campaign called Go Red For Women and Today is National Wear Red Day! To support the American Heart Association we put on our red shirts and caught up with Annette Fisher, Senior Communications Director, to learn how they help strengthen our hearts.

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

A: The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world, cardiovascular diseases #1 and stroke #5. We team up with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. Our company is based in Dallas and is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.

We serve the Maryland region in Baltimore and I’m the Senior Communications Director promoting 37 AHA initiatives.

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

A: My favorite moment is when someone called last week about CPR training. I was able to assist and they are now certified CPR trained. I love to provide customer service to the citizens of Maryland.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: My biggest challenge is working with limited resources. I wish we could help everyone who calls with a request.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We are the midst of February’s American Heart Month! Kudos to our ambassador’s, we have a series of events happening around the Baltimore region. We are excited about Nutrition in March and National Start Walking month in April. To learn more about these events check out

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always recruiting volunteers to support the mission! Call 410-246-6726 or go to our website at

Friday Focus: American Red Cross, Southern Maryland Chapter

american red crossThe American Red Cross provides a variety of services that help prevent and ease human suffering in times of an emergency through the generosity of donors and volunteers. Wouldn’t you love to help save a life? With American Red Cross you could take a CPR or first aid class, donate blood or funds, or even volunteer your time. This week’s Friday Focus we caught up with Jason Marshall, Executive Director of American Red Cross Southern Maryland Chapter, and discovered just how many services the American Red Cross provides and what upcoming events we could get involved with this year!


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

A: The American Red Cross of Southern Maryland serves Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles Counties. Our lines of service include emergency disaster assistance, service to the armed forces, health and safety classes, blood donations, volunteer opportunities and so much more.


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

A: We recently conducted a Home Fire Campaign canvassing event in Annapolis and Edgewater. The campaign is designed to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25% through the installation of free smoke alarms for homes needing them and through educational efforts highlighting home fire safety and evacuation plans. We had roughly 60 volunteers join us, along with the fire department and go door-to-door in these neighborhoods meeting with the residents and installing free smoke detectors and handing out educational materials.


Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The biggest challenge we face is explaining the wide array of services the Red Cross provides. Most people know us for collecting blood and responding to large-scale disasters like flood and hurricanes, but many people don’t know that we work closely with the military to verify emergency communications, provide volunteers at VA Centers and Military Treatment Facilities or that we provide trainings on things like CPR and First Aid.


Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We are planning on conducting two more Home Fire Campaign canvassing events in February and March (Charles and St. Mary’s counties). Additional information about these two events will be posted on as it becomes available. We also host a number of preparedness, health and safety trainings in the area. People can search for classes near them by visiting and clicking “Training and Certification.”


Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Those interested can contact our Volunteer Specialist, Gloria Coliton, via email at [email protected] or via phone at 410-627-5369. We have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the Southern Maryland Chapter territory. Additional information is posted on the Southern Maryland Chapter website ( and the Southern Maryland Chapter Facebook page (search American Red Cross of Southern Maryland).



Winter is a great time to sit by the fire and read a captivating book. And wouldn’t it be great to help someone else do this too? This week’s Friday Focus features Forever Free Books, an organization dedicated to providing literacy programs and books to underprivileged children in the community. We spoke to Tanya Barnett, founder of Forever Free Books and learned how inspiring it truly is bringing joy to a child through a simple book.


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

A: Forever Free Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2014 with the sole purpose of providing books to all children but especially to those in low-income areas in the Tri-County area, Prince George’s County and Washington, DC.forever free books logo

Our mission is to increase the reading and comprehension skills of disadvantaged children by conducting literacy events and distributing free books in their communities. Our vision is to provide a bookmobile in addition to promoting reading programs that highlight the benefits of reading and literacy in partnership with libraries and other community organizations. Through partnerships with these groups, as well as with parents, churches and schools, we hope to decrease the achievement gap between high-income and low-income families.


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

A: Our favorite moment was when we were able to send 150 books to an all-girls orphanage in India. The picture we received of them holding their books, brought tears to our eyes. It was the first time any of those girls ever owned a book.


Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge is finding committed volunteers and board members who get our mission. We are a hands-on organization that is extremely small. We need board members who are actively engaged in fulfilling the mission. This takes fundraising to cover the cost of books, storage of the books, insurance for the books as well as the cost to host literacy events. We are hopeful that in 2016, we will onboard highly energetic people who love literacy and love children. Retirees are WELCOMED!


Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We are partnered with The Better Family for the Tots to Teens Expo in April at the Washington Convention Center. We will be hosting a reading lounge, where we will be conducting story time and giving away free books to over 12,000 families. We also partnered with TLL Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in our Books, Boys, N’Cuts barbershop literacy program. In the spring, we will be visiting local barbershops in the Tri-County area to read stories, provide snacks and of course, FREE books to all the boys there.


Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We desperately need help with fundraising and securing venues for our FREE reading events. People can visit our website to see us in action or they can email me at [email protected].

Are you prepared for the Snow?


Baby, its cold outside. The winter season is in full swing as we start seeing our first flurries of snow. We all love a good snow day (maybe) but the question remains, are you prepared for when it happens? Getting yourself, your home and even your car ready for the snow can help give you a smooth winter experience.

Cold hard tips for warm winter dressing: Hibernating inside by a toasty fireplace or hot stove sounds like the perfect way to avoid the cold, but winter weatherthe reality is we all have to venture out at some point. Dressing properly will help you brave the snow!

  • Dress in layers. In general, you should have three layers of protection, to help contain your body’s heat. A base layer, log johns or thermals. A middle layer, your actual outfit for the day, insulation and an outer layer, clothing that is in direct contact with the elements.
  • Dress by activity. Depending what your plans are for the day, you will have to prepare your outfit accordingly. For example if you are doing a sedentary activity such as hunting you will need to bundle up with several layers. However, while you still need to be warm, doing an active sport such as ice skating will require fewer clothes, to not overheat.
  • Protect your hands and feet. Wear gloves and insulated boots when leaving the house. The snow and cold can be brutal, by covering your hands and feet you increase your chances of staying warm. Tip: Mittens actually keep your hands warmer over a longer period of time then gloves because your fingers are warmer when they are together.

Winterizing your car: Just as you prepare your body to withstand the harshness of winter with heavy coats and gloves, you can also prepare your car for winter.

  • Check your oil, battery and tires. The colder weather can impact several aspects of your car: the tire pressure, the oil in your car and the battery capacity. Checking these regularly throughout the snowy cold months can help save you from a frozen disaster.
  • Maintain your windshield wipers. Heavy snow or ice can make visibility low. Be sure to frequently check and refill windshield wiper fluid and replace worn blades.
  • Stock your car. Accidents happen more frequently in the snow. Prepare by stocking your car with an emergency safety kit that includes a blanket, flashlight, extra gloves, scraper, washer fluid, water and a charged phone. You never know when you could get stuck on the side of the road.

Home hibernation: The snow day is here and you’re stuck at home! Make sure you think about preparing beforehand.

  • Stocked Supplies. Snow is unpredictable. You want to make sure you have enough food and drinks stocked in case you are stuck at home for a few days. Imagine the power went out! Preparing water and food items that do not need to be cooked is smart planning.
  • Keeping Warm. You will also want to make sure you have the proper snow gear for inside and outside. This includes hats, scarves, gloves, jackets, ski pants and plenty of blankets!
  • Fire building. Who doesn’t love a nice warm fire on a snow day? Stock up on wood and matches to ensure you are prepared. Keeping your wood dry is also important. Store it outside in a woodshed or cover it with a tarp outside.


The snow is coming, and now that you’re all prepared, just grab your s’mores and hot chocolate and enjoy!

Give your Brain a Winter Workout

5 smart ways to get your brain in tip-top shape

With freezing temperatures and shorter days, winter may not seem like the ideal time for exercise. However, it is one of the best times to get one of your most important body parts in shape — your brain. Keeping your brain active is a great way to maintain good mental health, enhance your memory and improve your problem solving ability.

Here are five easy ways to get your brain in tip-top shape this winter:

  1. Read. There are many benefits of reading. One of the biggest is that it can help you relax and reduce stress, which can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Reading can also expand your knowledge, increase your vocabulary and even boost your memory. Invite your friends and family members to read along with you by starting a book club. Be sure to select a challenging and interesting book, since the harder the book, the harder your brain will work.
  2. Learn a new skill or language. One sure way to beat the doldrums of winter and sharpen your mental fitness is to take up a new skill or hobby. Consider learning to play an instrument or taking dance lessons. Another way to stimulate your brain is to learn a new language, which can expose you to new ways of thinking and expressing yourself.
  3. Exercise your body. Exercise doesn’t just help strengthen your body; it also can help strengthen your mind. Many people find yoga a great activity not only for getting in physical shape, but also for much-needed relaxation, concentration and stress relief.
  4. Start writing. Everyone has a story. Take some time this winter and write yours. If you’re not sure where to begin, try keeping a daily journal of your thoughts. A popular medium for writing today is blogging, where people share their thoughts and ideas about a topic they are passionate or knowledgeable about. Whether your passion is gardening or successful parenting, start sharing your insights with a daily or weekly blog.
  5. Play brain games. You’re never too old to play games; at least the kind that help stimulate brain activity. Take some time each day to take on a challenging crossword or Sudoku puzzle, or even to play online brain games. You can learn more about brain games at

Ready … set … go — start training today.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a book and start your brain workout today; you won’t mind it at all.


At 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!


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 dahlgrenGeorge 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,; 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 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: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Become a member by going to, 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.


Using Technology to Remain Financially Fit

Are you interested in trying a new bank technology but not sure what’s available? Look no further! Technology is almost limitless and staying up to date can help make your life a bit easier. FDIC Consumer News offers an overview of some current services and most of them are free!


Personal Financial Management and Budgeting: Financial planning tools are one way to stay financially fit. One great tool is an electronic check register on your home computer (many consumers find this much easier to use and balance than an old-fashion paper check register.) There are also “companion applications” for your smartphone that allows access to your electronic check register wherever you are.

Mobile banking services go one step further. They allow you to access your bank account from anywhere using your smartphone, iPad, computer or other device. According to FDIC Consumer News “an estimated 30 million Americans currently manage their finances using mobile devices.”

Think about this? Let’s say you are in a store and trying to decide upon a major purchase, you would need to know if you have enough money in your account to cover the cost. If you’re balance is low, you can use mobile banking to transfer funds from one account to another, in order to cover the charge.

Depositing checks using your smartphone or other mobile device: Many banks have rolled out a “remote deposit capture” (RDC) feature. We, at Community Bank of the Chesapeake, like to call it “mobile deposit capture.” This is a feature that allows customers to take a picture of a check with their mobile device and deposit that check electronically, without the interruption of visiting a branch or using an ATM. This is convenient for customers who do not live or work close to a bank branch, yet would like their money ASAP.

If you use mobile RDC, carefully keep track of the checks you deposit. For instance, you can write the date you deposited the item on the front of the paper check and hold onto it until the check has cleared and the money is in your account. We recommend holding it for 5 business days! Then you can destroy the check, preferably using a high-quality paper shredder. Contact us with any questions.

Account Alerts: Community Bank of the Chesapeake and most mobile banking systems, will allow you to sign up to get text messages on your mobile phone or e-mails if your account balance drops below a set dollar amount, which can help ensure that you don’t overdraw your account. We also call if we observe “suspicious” — potentially fraudulent — transactions involving your account. Setting up mobile alerts is a convenient and safe way to monitor what is going on with your checking account in real time!

Bill Paying: Paying bills through your mobile device or computer is just another way technology makes your life easier. Imagine you forgot to send your check in the mail and your bill is due! With Bill Pay your e-bills can be scheduled and set for auto pay, making sure you’re never late on a payment. Tip: We even let you create an “approved list” on our bank’s online banking web site.

As with any mobile banking service, always check with us before signing up to make sure you know about fees or other key factors.

Finally, when using any mobile financial service, keep privacy and security issues in mind. Protecting your devices with passwords is always a smart idea.

Friday Focus: Charles County Children’s Aid Society

The “Season of giving” is over but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to think of those in need all year long. The Charles County Children’s Aid Society, founded in 1934, provides for the basic needs of local families. This week we caught up with Children’s Aid Executive Director, Danielle Ryan, who shared her scoop of what they do and how we as a community can support this inspiring organization!CAS


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

A: Children’s Aid has been serving residents of Charles County for over 80 years. Our goal is to help ease the burdens many families in the county may have when it comes to providing basic life necessities to their families. We are a food pantry and clothing closet; and also offer a variety of items depending on what is donated. These things include baby items, personal hygiene items and household items. Children’s Aid also offers support to families during different holidays. We have a School Supplies Distribution, during which we distribute 1,500 filled book bags to children going to Charles County Public Schools. We have a Christmas program called Christmas Toy Connection in which we partner with Charles County Department of Social Services and help 1,122 families provide Christmas gifts to their children. We also distribute Easter Baskets and Thanksgiving Baskets.

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

A: Personally for me working our two major events, School Supplies Distribution and Christmas Toy Connection, have been my favorite moments with the organization. I have been a part of these events for the last four years, this past year being my first as Director. Every year I am amazed at the incredible people I have met. Whether they were clients who were just over come with gratitude for receiving the service or they were volunteers who have donated their time to help us work the events, I have met a lot of very special people that I will not forget.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The biggest challenge our organization, like other non-profits in the area face is funding.

Whether that funding comes from actual monetary assistance or by the donations of goods.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: The next event we have scheduled at this time is our Annual Coach and Michael Kors Bingo on March 6 at the American Legion in LaPlata. You can refer to our website, to find out more information.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: People can get involved with Children’s Aid in a couple of ways. We take volunteers in our warehouse and office on a daily basis, we also need volunteers for all of our projects throughout the year. Our organization survives off of donations, whether they are physical items or monetary donations. We accept gently used and new items so that we can distribute them back out into the community.

To find out more information on volunteering, donating or any other questions, people can visit our website, give us a call at 301-645-1561 or send us an email at [email protected]

Little Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

You don’t have to be a great detective to figure out that the holiday season is the time for giving. Retailers, from jewelry stores to auto manufacturers,season to give have made that painfully clear as they flood the airwaves and cyberspace with images of beautiful diamond bracelets and luxury cars with giant red bows. And while many of us would love to indulge and shower those we love with beautiful and expensive gifts, it’s simply not financially possible.


But to experience the true meaning of the holiday season, and the joy of giving, you don’t have to spend large amounts of money. There are plenty of little ways you can give back to make a big difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions on how to give:

  • Collect canned goods and other foods and bring them to a food pantry. We have our annual Food and Toy Drive through December 7. Stop by any branch and drop off any donations and we would be happy to see that they make it to the food bank.
  • Donate old coats and boots to a shelter. The winter can be cold and harsh for many struggling families.
  • Visit elderly patients in nursing homes. The holidays can be a very lonely time for many people.
  • Buy someone’s cup of coffee in the drive-thru line.
  • Shovel a driveway or walkway for an elderly neighbor.
  • Write a letter or make a card to thank someone you care about.
  • Collect and donate toys to give to less fortunate children, or to children in hospitals.
  • Bake a cake or cookies for a neighbor.
  • Do an act of kindness for someone and invite them to do the same for someone else. You’ll start a chain of kindness.
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter and invite family members to join you. You’ll form a great bond of kindness.
  • Read to a child.
  • Smile and say hello to everyone you meet or encounter.
  • Send a card or letter to a soldier away from home.
  • Pick up trash to keep your community clean.
  • Share your skills. If you have expertise in a certain area, such as resume writing, tutoring, cooking, etc., volunteer your time to help others who could benefit from your knowledge.
  • Call or write a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.

Start giving today!

Again, it doesn’t take much to give back; all you need is an open heart. And that’s a gift that’s priceless.