The Gratitude Issue

Here in Chesapeake Country, there are a lot of people and organizations for which we are thankful—especially in tough times. We’ve asked some CBM Bay Weekly contributors to share with us who or what they are grateful for this season, from pet sanctuaries to pandemic pop-up pantries. The faces, the locations, the details may be different, but they all show extraordinary compassion and make our corner of the world a better place to be. A bit of homework for you, readers: Tell someone in your community why you are thankful for them. 

–Kathy Knotts

Matthew Liptak and Harvey. Photo: Matthew Liptak.

Grateful for old dogs with new tricks

By Matthew Liptak

I’ve written multiple times for different publications about the Senior Dog Sanctuary in Severn. They do wonderful work in protecting and providing for some of our area’s most loveable, and yet unwanted residents—senior dogs.

These older canines, at the latest count 25 of them, are well-cared for by the staff, volunteers and foster parents at this no-kill shelter founded by the late Air Force Col. Val Lynch, who had a passion for pooches.

I’m thankful for Val and the other folks who have worked at the sanctuary. They understand the true worth of these older dogs—they’re priceless.

I know firsthand because just before I came to Maryland four years ago, I adopted a 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier at my home in upstate New York.

Harvey was a three-time loser. He was given to the Syracuse public shelter because his owner had gone into a nursing home. He was adopted only to be returned to the shelter because the new owners didn’t like his behavior. Over the course of the next two years little Harvey lingered in his cement cell in the shelter, a doggie prison really. He was adopted once more over those two years, but those people also brought him back.

The shelter staff loved him, though. He was a spritely and affectionate gentleman. When I walked in the door of the shelter looking for a new friend, I noticed him among the pit bulls and labs and shepherd mixes. He wagged his tail at me hopefully as I passed his cage.

I wasn’t sure about Harvey. I had heard Jack Russells could be little terrors. But Harvey was 10. When I asked to see him, he melted in my arms. It was love at first hug.

I brought Harvey home to my little one bedroom state-subsidized apartment. When I opened the door and took him off the leash, Harvey immediately ran into the living room and jumped on the futon. The old gentleman had finally found a real home.

It was so good to have a companion! I had someone to give a pat of support to or receive a lick of kindness. He was someone to share a few adventures with on my days off work. And we had a few.

There was the spontaneous summer road trip into the Adirondacks, when Harvey rode shotgun. We stopped at a roadside ice cream stand among the mountains. I got Harvey his own cup of soft vanilla, which he lapped up with a vengeance on that hot afternoon.

There were also the innumerable walks around the neighborhood and local parks. But mostly Harv and I just hung out together, lounging in the living room after work; him snuggled against my leg, dreaming old-dog dreams.

Sadly, Harvey was diagnosed with diabetes over a year after I adopted him. It required daily shots of insulin. Eventually he succumbed to its effects. But our time together was full of precious moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Harvey was one of the joys of my life.

I’m thankful Harvey shared part of his life with me, glad we got to watch over each other for part of this ride we call life. And I’m thankful for the folks at Severn’s Senior Dog Sanctuary, who give that opportunity to many of my neighbors each day. Senior dogs are a treasure without a price.

Monica Alvarado. Photo: Steve Adams.

Thankful for Monica Alvarado

By Steve Adams

Readers, you’ve very likely heard about or even seen the smiling face of Monica Alvarado—owner and self-proclaimed “chief bottle washer” at Bread and Butter Kitchen in Eastport and founder of Feed Anne Arundel, a charitable organization that enlists restaurant employees to make hot meals for families in need.

You may have caught her appearance on Good Morning America back in September, when she squeezed in taping a segment before returning to prepare hundreds of meals for residents and workers cleaning up from the tornado that struck Annapolis and Edgewater.

But as I recently learned after a quick Q&A with Monica about veteran-owned businesses (she claims she joined the Air Force for its uniforms), she’s beyond worthy of our gratitude.

Monica told me that bread and butter are two of her favorite things and that the name randomly “popped in my head while in the shower one morning” when she was coming up with a name for her restaurant. She has created a far-from-typical menu because she is passionate about creative cuisine.

A one-time food blogger, Monica started making meals-to-go from scratch, using ingredients purchased from farmers at the Anne Arundel County farmers market and selling them while still working full-time at a tech firm. She’s maintained this focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients in all of her food—for example chorizo, sausage, and scrapple from En-Tice-Ment Farms in Harwood and produce from the restaurant’s garden—as well as adding menu items inspired by her staff (for example Salsa de Huevos, which was added after her longtime manager Lupe made it for a staff meal) and hosting pop-up opportunities for others in the cottage food industry.    

Monica opened Bread and Butter in 2016, after many years of feeling burned out from multiple C-suite positions, so she runs the restaurant in a way that supports a healthy work-life balance for her employees.

She sticks to consistent hours so she and her staff can take care of their kids (despite the additional revenue that dinner service might bring), closing during holidays and for an entire “vacation week” each winter, and paying employees on days off.

Since Feed Anne Arundel launched in April 2020, Monica and co-founder Ryan Sirmons, pastor at the United Church of Christ of Annapolis, have handed out more than 120,000 meals and supported over 100 restaurants just in 2020 alone.

It’s easy to understand the brilliance of a philanthropic program that not only supports both the restaurant industry and the food insecure, but also relies on participants’ expertise to distribute well-rounded, well-packaged complete meals throughout the county.

What impresses me the most is how eager Monica is to keep Feed Anne Arundel going and growing—including creating a board to support its management and partnering with county agencies, like the Annapolis Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management, to purchase fridges and freezers that will make it possible for more meals to get to more people.

So, why am I thankful for Monica? Because she cares.

A pandemic pop-up pantry. Photo: Downtown Hope.

Thankful for Downtown Hope

By Kimberly Kweder

One of the best things that has happened to me in the middle of a pandemic is finding refuge in a coalition of gospel-centered churches who make Annapolis a better place.

I was new to town in April 2020 and living alone. Then I found Downtown Hope and began connecting with brothers and sisters in Christ. I cherish the unity and leadership of the churches in Annapolis and the county who have been involved in setting up and sustaining food pantries, Bible studies, prayer teams, music, live video streaming, missionary outreach, and so much more.

I was struck by the sheer magnitude of local need stemming from the pandemic. The Latino community just around the bend from Downtown Hope  was hit particularly hard, with a number of  families from the Tyler Heights community quickly losing much income.

The local community and county leaders agreed pop-up pantries would be the fastest and most efficient way to address their needs. In the Bible, Jesus performed miracles of feeding hungry crowds by multiplying loaves of fish and bread. In Annapolis, we saw the Lord do his amazing work through a weekly pop-up pantry started at Tyler Heights Elementary School. The pantry was a collaboration across schools, local restaurants, churches and other organizations.

This pandemic has left no one unscathed. As I try to look beyond it, there’s so much more to address. I’m grateful to hear of the work being done in disadvantaged communities and I’m exploring ways to help.

Downtown Hope is holding a product and clothing drive until Jan. 9 to help families in Robinwood. They’re working on student tutoring as well as helping with small repair projects and listening closely to anything eviction-related to guide people to the right resources.

Overall, one of the main reasons I love Annapolis is the church community. When I go across Rowe Boulevard and see the St. Anne’s Church steeple tucked behind the administrative buildings, I see it as a beacon of light despite all the shocking tragedies, brokenness, and the pandemic. Hearing the bells ring as I walk downtown gives me hope, knowing there is a group of caring individuals behind those bells, ringing in cheer and love, guided by Christ’s teachings.

Here’s a big cheers to just a few* of the churches who participated in these efforts and are here for the broken and weary and want to walk in the Light:  Axis Church, Kingdom Celebration Center, Allelon Community Church, Mt. Olive, Bay Ridge Christian Church, First Baptist of Annapolis, College Creek Church, Broadneck Evangelical Presbyterian, Bay Area Community Church, Bridge Church, Light of the World Ministries, i5 Church, Citizens Church of Annapolis, Centerpoint Church, Fresh Start Church, Christ Reformed Evangelical Church, Elevate Church, St. Anne’s, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Edgewater Bible Church, Friendship Community Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, CrossPointe, Harvest Bible Chapel, Faith Community Church, Light House Church, Mid Atlantic Community Church, Revive Faith, Redeemer Angelican, Revolution Annapolis, Renovate Life Church, South Shore Church, Severn Covenant Church, Severna Park Evangelical Church, St. Margaret’s Church, John Wesley United Methodist, Downtown Hope, Christ Luthern Church, The House Church 2.0, and St. Andrew’s Anglican.

* These are just some of the churches Downtown Hope leaders work most closely with. For more information, contact [email protected].

M.L. Faunce. Photo: New Bay Books.

Thankful for M.L. Faunce:
May 27, 1944–October 31, 2021

By Sandra Olivetti Martin, Bay Weekly editor emerita

         M.L. Faunce won’t sit at any Thanksgiving table this year. But she’ll be the centerpiece of many hearts and thoughts. Many of us will say all the good things we hesitate to say when their recipient is able to hear our compliments.

         M.L. and I were lucky. We talked about all we’d done together and meant to each other, especially over the first half of this year when we were putting together her book of stories from New Bay Times and Bay Weekly, My Date With an Oyster and Other Tales of a D.C. Girl Discovering Chesapeake Country, for publication by New Bay Books. By then we knew she was dying (a terrible cancer called primary peritoneal took her), so we stayed pretty much at the heart of things. The book was timely. I was grateful for the renewed connection, and grateful—plus a little envious—of the pictures she sent me of sights, often avian, along her tropical morning walks.

         Little and tough, with a body frame that fit the E=mc2 equation, she ran the streets of D.C. she knew so well as a fifth-generation woman of the city and Congressional staffer. When her job sent her to live in Alaska, she added skiing, often with dachshunds Kenai and Sitka.

         We were extraordinarily lucky, M.L. and I, for we got to relive the pleasures—without the stresses—we had working together as writer and editor from 1995 to 2006. We had the extra gift of hindsight, knowing what we knew now and didn’t know then. Plus, we were living out what Shakespeare called to love that well which thou must leave ere long.

         Over those months, we told each other our gratitude. There are so many levels of my gratitude to M.L.

         First—and this she knew because of the electricity more than the words—I am grateful to M.L. because she felt the magnetism of this newspaper where almost everybody was trying their absolute best to live off making a living document of those times, this place.

         “Intrigued by the stories in New Bay Times, I thought: Maybe I can write about Bay life, too. I sent a first piece to Editor Sandra Martin—and she accepted it!” M.L. wrote in her introduction to her book.

         I would find, over the years, that she matched our absolute best with her own. How grateful I am for that rare gift! Soon, she was seeing stories under every bush. She dove into Bay Country, where she was living out her childhood dreams, writing about “the nature, culture, history, community, news and activities and all the seasonal changes, where the fish were biting, what’s happened to the once-prolific oyster that filtered the Bay for centuries, the lives of watermen and future of skipjacks that sailed the Bay.”

         There’s another point of gratitude, for she was bringing me stories fired by pure love of what she saw and was doing. M.L. gave me not only quality but also quantity. It takes a lot of stories to fill a paper week by week.

         Add on many more points of gratitude because M.L. wrote by assignment as well as inspiration. “M.L., we need a story on the state of oysters,” I’d say, and she’d give me not only a story—she gave us our one and only Best of Show story, beating out all the big dogs like the Washington Post in a newspaper competition.

         For 12 years, “I had the pleasure of writing by whim and assignment,” M.L. wrote. My gratitude for those 12 years will last as long as I do.

A card made by the author’s son with help from Personalized Therapy. Photo: Molly Crumbley.

Thankful for Personalized Therapy

By Molly Weeks Crumbley

I’m a librarian by day and a writer by night, but the occupation that I am most grateful for is motherhood. I became Mama in 2015, flying to Peru with my husband to adopt the beautiful toddler boy who stole our hearts and has kept us on our toes ever since. When considering whom I most feel gratitude towards in our Bay community this year, my thoughts turn to the community that helps me bring my boy up.

My son is neurodiverse, and it’s really important that he receives services to help him develop and succeed to the best of his abilities. When his doctors recommended occupational and speech therapies, we weren’t sure where to turn in our small county. Did those kinds of providers exist for children? Would we end up having to make the long drive to Baltimore or D.C. to find a good fit?

As special needs parents know, finding the right fit between your child and a provider is worth its weight in gold. Luckily for our family, someone told us about a place called Personalized Therapy. With offices located in Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Charles counties, they specialize in getting services and resources to the people who need them and were able to take on my son as a patient.

Since 2019, he has worked with them for his weekly occupational and speech therapies, and the changes in him have been immeasurable. It’s not easy for him to connect with new people, but he felt comfortable at PT right away and actually looks forward to going every week.

His therapists take a play-based approach to their work, wrapping his sessions up in a fun package. Where Miss Elizabeth sees working on verb tenses and consonant blends, my son sees a rousing game of Yeti in the Spaghetti. Where Miss Katlyn sees self-regulation strategies and fine motor work, he sees an obstacle course. Through sessions with them, my boy is building confidence, strength and articulation without even realizing it.

Parenting a child with special needs is challenging in the best of times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a whole new set of challenges for our family over the past months. I’m so very thankful that my son has been able to keep up with his services at Personalized Therapy throughout, initially via telehealth sessions and then eventually back in person.

Miss Nicole, who helms the front desk at different locations in the tri-county area, has been a scheduling master and manages to keep juggling different clients and their ever-changing needs.

In a time of intense anxiety, I feel supported by my son’s team. I know that he is in good hands when I take him to sessions, and he is slowly but surely becoming the best version of himself that he can be. More than ever, I believe that healthcare providers—both physical and mental—are superheroes.

To all the staff at Personalized Therapy, the Crumbley family is grateful.

Waterman Pat Mahoney with daughter Riley. Photo: Steve Adams.

Thankful for Waterman Pat Mahoney

By Steve Adams

As a 35-year-old who grew up in Annapolis, my first memories of visiting downtown—a mere 2.7 miles from my house—consist of eating breakfast Sunday mornings at Chick and Ruth’s, where Uncle Ted would do magic tricks; getting a little gift from The Nature Company or Bee Beep; or, on truly special occasions, entering the always-packed Annapolis Market House to buy fresh-caught seafood that we’d eat while sitting right on the seawall, likely within sight of whichever workboat caught the fish.

Of course these traditions are now long gone, due to the natural progression of time and family life, the closing of those businesses, and the unfortunate end of Ego Alley’s centuries as a place where watermen unloaded and sold their catch each day.

But as some traditions have faded away, I’m grateful that in the past few years a new one has replaced them: putting in my paddleboard at the floating dock at the end of Compromise Street, paddling to Cap’n Herbie Sadler Watermen’s Park, next to the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and visiting Wild Country Seafood.

I’m thankful for this regular summertime activity because it gives me the opportunity to catch up with Pat Mahoney—the store’s owner and someone who’s become a friend—and see both locals and tourists enjoy the bounty of the Bay.

And on a larger scale, I’m thankful for what Pat represents: as “the last waterman of Annapolis,” he is not only keeping the tradition of living off the Bay alive, but also making it possible for the rest of us to buy super-fresh, super-local seafood directly from the person who caught it.

I learned about Pat while writing a feature for Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Born and raised in Eastport, he inherited his keen appreciation for making a living from the Bay from his father, Pat Sr., a lifelong waterman himself. Growing up on the water, the younger Pat got his commercial license at the ripe old age of 12 and soon began working every day with his father on what are now the last commercial workboats operating out of Eastport. After years of selling their catch on the wholesale market seven days a week, the Mahoneys opened Wild Country in 2009.

To keep the no-frills, old-fashioned carryout seafood store running, Pat gets on the water (usually with Pat Sr.) by 3 a.m. during crab season and by 5 a.m. during rockfish and perch season. During oyster season, he harvests Patty’s Fatty’s, the aquacultured oysters that he farms on the Rhode River and West River bottom that he leases, then “ends” his day by processing and selling or cooking up the day’s catch, often served on sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce grown on his farm, at the store. At least one of his three kids work alongside him most days.

Pat loves being a waterman and works incredibly hard to be a successful one, keeping a tradition alive.

And while I’m certainly not the only one, I’m incredibly thankful for that.