Dock of the Bay

Volume VII Number 46
November 18-24, 1999

Habitat for Humanity Builds This New House in LothianMary McGhee

photos by M.L. Faunce Mary McGhee takes a break from working on her new home, built by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, including Home Time's Bob Vila.

For five days during the first week in November, before the sun rose in Lothian, an army of volunteers and corporate sponsors showed up for a building blitz that turned an empty lot into a fully constructed new home. Like a turkey with all the trimmings, the house built for Mary McGhee and dedicated Friday, Nov. 5, was a showpiece in move-in condition - complete with landscaping, curving cobblestone walkway and an American flag waving in the breeze.

The Blitz Build, an annual Habitat for Humanity awareness project, shined a bright and starry spotlight on the local Anne Arundel Habitat affiliate. Bob Vila of This Old House fame and Home Time, hosted daily coverage of progress on the CBS morning news program. Admitting to NBT that "he'd never even heard of Lothian before," Vila said he was "amazed by the open country, rolling hills and 10 loose horses galloping down the road" he drove to get a cup of coffee.

But the man who has shown millions of homeowners how to repair and restore old houses kept most of his comments to the nuts and bolts of building this new house during his five days in Lothian. Wearing a red Polartec vest and plaid shirt, Vila was just about the only one not packing a tool belt in the partnership that included Habitat International, CBS Television and numerous corporate and government sponsors.

Bryan Gumbel checked in from New York, and Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo strolled through the nearly completed house under bright television camera light, but those in the shadow - not just wearing tool belts but using them - were the true stars of the first five-day Blitz Build in Chesapeake County.

They were volunteers all.Bob Vila

Can of paint and brush in hand, Leesa Wicker of Annapolis, a Habitat volunteer for three years, was ready to apply finishing touches inside Mary McGhee's new house on the day NBT joined the Blitz.

Katey and Charlie Stuart of Mayo said this was the fourth house they worked on, but their first blitz. "Watching something go from practically nothing one day to this, and watching Mary's eyes was overwhelming. No one got underfoot, it went really smoothly," said the couple who "did a little bit of everything, from raising walls to the roof and facia."

Francis Boston, who lives just up the street, "helped paint" and then became a sidewalk superintendent as the driveway was smoothed and a pile of stone grew into a walkway under the quick work of at least 12 skilled hands.

Rusty Porter of Annapolis, president of the Arundel Habitat Affiliate and retired from the Pentagon, has "worked on 36 houses, so far, and 15 additions." Still, he says, "it brings tears to my eyes every time."

"We get a lot of support and volunteers, but our biggest problem is finding affordable land," said Porter of the program that buys property and builds houses for people in need through the work of volunteers and the owners' own sweat equity.

Melanie Smith of Crofton, a federal bank examiner in her "real life," handles all the finances and no-interest loans for the Habitat Affiliate. She won't have to write a single check for this project. Almost all the materials for the house were sponsored and provided by corporations all over the country (including American Plywood Association, The Engineered Wood Association and Centex Homes, which in 10 years has built 170 Habitat homes). Smith spent her energy hanging sheet rock and closet shelves.

Standing in the main room with its cathedral ceiling that covers a combined large kitchen and living room, Linda Grey, Arundel Habitat executive director, said, "the space reminds me of a church. The house has such an uplifting feeling about it." Which is precisely how many of the volunteers and sponsors described their feelings after working on the project.

By the day Mary Virginia McGhee's new house was finished, nearly all the leaves had fallen from surrounding trees. Outside, the palettes of sod had been laid, making it look more like spring than fall. The EPA-rated Energy Star house will save her some 30 percent in energy costs. It is snug and tight against winter winds.

What's the first thing she was going to do in her new home? "Cook a turkey," McGhee said.

Arundel Habitat recently completed its 35th house project in Anne Arundel County. It plans 10 more in the year 2000. To learn more, contribute or volunteer, call 410/384-9212 or visit on the web.

-M.L. Faunce

From Heart to Table: Sharing Thanksgiving Dinner

Give what you have to someone.

It may be better than you dare think!

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As we begin to count our blessings this Thanksgiving, let's add the blessing of being able to give. Whether it's a meal, your helping hand or a smile, the act of giving is a blessing.

This season, many in Chesapeake Country will open their hearts as well as their doors to serve dinners and food baskets to people in need.

The Salvation Army of Annapolis will fill just over 100 baskets with turkeys, potatoes, rolls and dry goods. They have been taking applications since Sept. 20 and will continue until Nov. 24. So far, over 600 applications have come in. Drop off food for the baskets to 351 Hilltop in Annapolis (410/263-4091). Even with abundant last-minute donations, the need is likely to overwhelm the offering.

Baskets are also being filled at the Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mayo. Together with Food Link of Anne Arundel County, Grace Presbyterian will provide at least 20 baskets to Southern Anne Arundel families needing Thanksgiving dinner. Food Link gathers most of the food donations, and local supermarkets supply the turkeys. Volunteers will fill the baskets on Sunday, Nov. 21. Information? 410/956-2083.

Carrying on the tradition of giving, the Basket Brigade will be in full force delivering good food and good will to over 50 families in Anne Arundel County. A nationwide organization, the Brigade locally hopes to receive over $500 in food donations from St. John's College. The baskets will be delivered with a note attached that reads: "This comes to you from someone who cares. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else someday."

Following that advice, the founder of Helping Out with People, Larry Griffin of Annapolis, now gathers well over 150 volunteers each Monday before Thanksgiving to serve up a traditional dinner beginning at 4pm at the American Legion Post 141 on Forest Drive.

"Last year, over four thousand people shared this meal," Griffin says. "It is a shame that the numbers increase each year, because it means that more and more people are still in need."

If the large number of volunteers leads you to believe they have everything covered, think again. Griffin tells us, "There may be many hands serving the food and washing the dishes, but what we really need are people to listen, to just sit and lend their ears and shoulders. Communication is just as important as the pumpkin pie."

Adam's The Place for Ribs donates hams and roasts. Backfins Cafe will donate and cook up the holiday birds, and various other restaurants will round dinner out with veggies and desserts. Entertainment adds to the festivities. To lend either hand or ear, call Jody Dalton at 410/267-0465.

Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake holds its 10th annual Thanksgiving dinner in Annapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 24 from noon to 3pm. Almost 300 adults and children with disabilities or special needs will gather at Asbury United Methodist Church at 87 West Street. Find out more: 410/247-3500 x 135.

At the U.S. Naval Academy, many Midshipmen don't make it home for the long weekend, instead lending their time to making the occasion special for many local families. The Chief Petty Officer Association has been collecting food that will be made into boxes and delivered to local charities and families in the Navy. Learn more from Family Service Center 410/293-2641.

Further down the Bay on Solomons Island, Lighthouse Inn Restaurant and SMILE Inc. serve their ninth annual Thanksgiving Day dinner. Hundreds of people will gather to share both food and fellowship from noon to 3:30pm. "If you are alone, unable to afford a nice meal or just don't want to cook a big meal for yourself, we hope you will come," says organizer Jennifer Jordan.

Schools in Calvert County have been gathering canned and dry goods to donate to SMILE, the local food pantry that shares the responsibility for this meal. Some students have made place mats in the past, decorating them with holiday artwork. "Everyone comes together in our community for this," adds Jordan. To arrange transportation or to find out more: 410/326-2444.

Community Centers at both the Twin Beaches and Northeast community centers in Calvert County are also collecting food donations for this time of year. "What we collect after Thanksgiving is always welcome for the upcoming Christmas baskets," a spokesperson tells NBT. "In fact, we will never turn a donation down. There is always someone in need at other times of the year."

-Lori L. Sikorski

Tofurky for Turkey Day?

On Thanksgiving Day, tables throughout Bay Country will be filled with the traditional fixings: yams, stuffing, gravy, ham, green beans, pumpkin pie, rolls and Tofurky.


For those who'd rather not eat turkey, Tofurky, is a kinder and gentler substitute.

No creature, its makers note, has been "sacrificed" to feed you. What's more, one percent of the price goes to Voice for a Viable Future, a non-profit that educates on the health, environmental and ethical benefits of a plant-based diet, and the Farm Sanctuary, a rescued farm animal haven in Watkins Glen, New York.

The tofu-wheat protein blend was synthesized by Turtle Island Foods in 1995. Last year, 50,000 Tofurkys were sold, making it - claims marketing director Seth Tibbotts - America's number one turkey alternative. "We're expecting to sell more than 75,000 Tofurkys this year," the Chesapeake Country native said.

He even suggests Tofurky might have originated locally.

"I saw a Tofurky waddling around the water in Deale," chuckles Tibbotts, who visits once a year.

Tibbotts also claims Tofurky tastes like turkey.

New Bay Times paid $18 at Fresh Fields for a "whole vegetarian feast" and roasted it to try for ourselves. "This is a noble attempt at a turkey-like texture," says Tofurky taster Christy Grimes. Adds Sandra Martin,"It's pretty good and very chewy. Very filling," Betsy Kehne chews a bite of Tofurky jerky - the wishbone - while contemplating a struffed Tokurky breast that resembles nothing more than a big round bagged provolone cheese. "This would probably taste better with gravy. Real giblet gravy."

We know what Tofurky looks like once its been cooked, but Turtle Island Foods wants to know what you think it looks like in the wild. To answer this question, they're holding a Draw the Tofurky Contest. Draw your Tofurky on white, unlined paper and mail it by January 15, 2000 to Tofurky Contest, P.O. Box 176, Hood River, Oregon, 97031. The winner gets a trip for two to the Farm Sanctuary Bed and Breakfast.

-Darcey Dodd

In Annapolis, First Greenbury Towers Fall

It was over fast.

Two minutes before detonation, a 10-second siren wailed. With a minute to go, the siren shrieked again. A countdown started at 15 but only made it to seven. After that, there was nothing between us and the explosion

The most impressive thing about the demolition of three 300-foot towers at Greenbury Point Saturday morning was that it wasn't impressive at all. There was no loud explosion and little destruction. The falling towers failed to shake the earth.

They went with a quick popping that sounded like a string of firecrackers cracking in the backyard on a warm July Fourth night. A few clouds of smoke drifted from the explosives, and the three 300-foot towers fell gently to the ground.

The towers were standing. The towers were laying on their sides.

"Whereever I go, things fall down," Mark Loizeaux said slyly. Loizeaux, the president of Controlled Demolition Inc., was the man responsible for November 13's demolition. The three towers were the first of 16 of the old landmarks to fall to disassembly or demolition.

Less than five pounds of explosives placed at 67 different locations did this job. RDX, an explosive that applies three million pounds per square inch of pressure, brought the obsolete naval communication towers down with hardly a whimper.

"The best analogy I can make as to what RDX does," Loizeaux explained, "is when you set butter out before dinner. The butter softens and you use a knife to force the butter aside. RDX moves the steel aside with an irresistible force. RDX is dynamite's stronger, bigger brother. It's the same explosive used to separate the boosters of the space shuttle."

The first communication towers on Greenbury Point were built in 1918. Other towers were added in the 1930s and used during World War II and throughout the Cold War. They rose from 80 to 1,300 feet. In the 1990s, newer technology made the towers obsolete, and the Naval Radio Transmitting Facility closed in 1996. In 1999 Congress agreed to pay to remove 16 of the 19 the towers. Public outcry saved three towers as historic reminders and land lights for boaters.

Saturday's demolition was relatively simple. One leg of each three-legged tower was blasted, and each tower fell to the ground. The difficult part was making sure the towers landed in the right places. Buildings and wetlands put obstacles in the path of the falling towers.

"Tower 65 was the simplest," Loizeaux explained. "It fell straight like a tree. Tower 66 started falling straight and then a bearing leg was weakened to swing the tower away from the wetlands. The third tower had to swing away from existing buildings. It was simple, but there were certain nuances to it."

In the next few weeks, 13 more towers will fall. Potts and Callahan, a site remediation contractor, will clean up the fallen towers. The steel towers will be cut and recycled.

"We will pick up the pieces to make it look like we were never here," said Tim Collison of Potts and Callahan. "There are wet-lands, historical burial grounds and the golf course that all need to be protected. We won't damage the surrounding environment." The land first settled by Annapolis' Puritan founders in the 17th century and from which signals raced round the world for three-quarters of the 20th century will enter the 21st century as a wildlife refuge.

The future got off to a good start on Saturday morning.

"This was a perfect blast," Collison said. "There was no damage, and the tower landed where it was supposed to."

-Christopher Heagy

Way Downstream ...

In New York, an even dozen finalists will compete this week for the coveted title of "Dirtiest Kid in America." Contestants will travel a mom's nightmare obstacle course of ketchup, chocolate pudding, mud and more. The winner will be crowned on the basis of stain coverage, stain composition and, our favorite, "artistic merit"...

At Lake Tahoe, a group in the buff is in a huff. An organization of nudists are up in arms that the U.S. Forest Service refuses to provide sufficient parking for beach-goers. The naked truth, they say, is that people with or without clothing can't get to the water if they have no place to park...

In Britain, the magazine mogul known as the "hippie publisher" has been criticized for knocking down 10,000 trees every year to put out his products. Now, Felix Dennis says he wants to make amends by creating Britain's biggest forest - 30,000 acres of trees in Warwickshire...

In Alaska, home of really big forests, conservationists were smarting after the U.S. Forest Service granted a permit to a company to operate helicopter skiing in the 111,000-acre Chugach National Forest. But the company must maintain limited contact with mountain goats when transporting skiers and snowboarders for remote adventures...

Our Creature Feature comes to us from the University of Georgia, where bovine researchers seem udderly persuaded that contented cows give more milk.

To that end, scientists keep a herd relaxing on waterbeds in between milking. "Cow comfort is a big issue. That encompasses a lot of things, but bedding is one of the big factors," one of the researchers told the Associated Press. In interviews, none of the lounging cows registered complaints.

| Issue 46 |

Volume VII Number 46
November 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times

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