A local infrastructure technology company is power driven to build more – and better – charging stations, but can it help flip the switch from gas guzzlers to all-electric vehicles?
By Adrienne Lawrence
Photos by Mary Kate McKenna
“All you have to do to turn it on is step on the brake,” explains Malia Kaiser, president of meritCharge and Merit Builders, Inc., in Frederick County. Kaiser drove her Tesla Model S and Tesla Roadster recently to show me what it is like to operate electric vehicles, or “EVs.”
It’s strange not to hear an engine humming when a car is turned on. Often, electric cars don’t make much noise when driven, except for the sound of the tires on the road. Really, the only way to know for certain if the Model S is running is to check the dashboard and look for a simple phrase, “Car On” or “Car Off.”
“You have to be super aware of pedestrians, dogs and bicyclists because they cannot hear you,” advises Kaiser, who also lives in Frederick County. “I’ve scared the bejeezus out of some people because everyone is conditioned to listen for a motor.”
The trick is to pump up the volume. “I will roll down the window and turn up the music so they’ll hear me coming,” she says.
That’s not the only thing that makes electric car owners hyper aware of their vehicles. They also tend to know the ins and outs of how to best track down a charging station. It’s actually easier to charge an all electric or hybrid vehicle in Frederick than one might imagine. Several public charging locations are located in the county, including two at a Mount Airy winery.
In addition, some area residents have installed charging stations at their homes, and with that ready power most are able to get around without charging their EVs at other locations. The average driver usually travel less than 50 miles a day and several of the all-electric vehicle models will go farther than that after just one charge. The Nissan Leaf, for example, offers about 100 miles and the Ford Focus Electric can go 110 miles after one full charge. On the luxury end, Tesla’s Model S runs about 265 miles once charged.
However, one fact remains: You can easily find more places around here to gas up than plug in, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. meritCharge is positioning itself to build commercial chargers, according to Kaiser and David Gochenaur, chief operating officer of the infrastructure technology company that is at the forefront of the EV industry.
meritCharge’s prototypes are designed for commercial fleets, public charging stations and, eventually, residential use. But charging stations weren’t initially on the minds of Kaiser and Gochenaur. It all began with their other business, Merit Builders, Inc., a steel construction company which both own and operate. Gochenaur saw a “tremendous need for infrastructure” to support future EV charging stations. At first, the company didn’t engineer the chargers, just the metal canopies erected to house all of the equipment. These units are similar to what you would find at most gas stations — they’re the large structures that shelter the fuel pumps.
When Merit’s staff began working with other companies that developed chargers, they found the equipment didn’t live up to their standards of quality. So Frederick resident Jared Starin engineered meritCharge’s design from scratch. “Engineered by Google,” he says with a chuckle. With an electrical and computer engineering degree from Virginia Military Institute, Starin had the technical knowledge, but he says he didn’t have much experience with charging stations since the electric car industry is in its infancy.
Currently, meritCharge offers three types of stations. The largest version keeps the power cords on retractable reels that hang from the steel canopy, a setup best suited for a fleet of EVs. Then there are stainless steel docking stations, consisting of free-standing kiosks or ones suspended from a pole in the canopy. The kiosks accept all major credit cards and Wright Express cards (used primarily by commercial and government fleets).
Familiarity was one of the most important aspects meritCharge sought in its design for the charging stations. Starin, Kaiser and Gochenaur wanted the chargers to feel familiar to the average customer who drives up to charge his or her vehicle. With that in mind, the kiosks have processing screens similar to one found on gas pumps.
A single kiosk costs $9,200 while a canopy with eight chargers and solar panels installed on the roof runs about $250,000. The solar panels can help offset the amount of electricity needed to power the chargers, but they are unlikely to provide enough electricity for all eight chargers simultaneously.
Almost all of their prototypes are ready for production — the trio is currently developing an athome charger — and meritCharge is seeking financial partners during this crucial time in the industry. It’s make or break for many charging developers.
“Now we’re going to find out who are the real players,” says Gochenaur. “We are looking to position ourselves so we’re one of the few who are ahead of the game.”
In his 2011 State of the Union speech, U.S. President Barack Obama called for 1 million all-electric cars on the nation’s roads by 2015, but the numbers aren’t adding up. Although sales continue to rise annually, so far, Americans have bought just 71,000 hybrids and all-electric plug-in vehicles in the past two years, The New York Times reported in January. And according to a CBS News projection last June, given those current sales levels, it looks like there will be only about 310,000 electric vehicles silently cruising our streets by the president’s 2015 goal.
Convenience and speed of recharging contribute to consumer reluctance to swap petrol power for battery packs, but the real roadblock is the sticker shock EVs giv shoppers. The price tag ranges between $30,000 and $40,000. Even with a $7,500 tax credit, they can be more costly than their traditional gas-powered competitors that now have more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines. At a base price of $28,800, the Nissan Leaf costs as much as a fully loaded midsize sedan before the tax credit. The Tesla Model S is the only luxury electric vehicle now on the market starting at $57,400; with additional options, however, it can quickly go north of $85,000. Yet the Tesla delivers in performance as the fastest EV with the longest mileage range.
Maryland’s EV Power Couple
Price concerns didn’t put the brakes on Novia Campbell and Jonathan Slade when the married couple suddenly bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf last year. Campbell, a registered nurse, and Slade, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who teaches at McDaniel College in Westminster, live in Lineboro, a rural Carroll County town just south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When Slade saw the popular model was available for a test drive, the couple went window-shopping. Just as they were heading home, Slade got a call: A dealer had one in stock, and if they wanted it, they needed to jump on the opportunity.
“We did all the paperwork and in a day and a half, we had an electric car,” Slade says, with a laugh. “I’m driving it home thinking, ‘Oh my God, what have I just done?’”
“No, I remember thinking, ‘What have you done?’ We have no way to charge [other] than the 20-hour option,” Campbell chimes in. “There’s a charging station that’s within easy walking distance from the college where he works, but there wasn’t one here at home.”
They soon worked out the kinks and Slade then started to dream. He cooked up a plan for them to drive across Maryland, from west to east, that summer. But was it possible? There aren’t any public charging stations in the state west of Hagerstown and there are very few once you drive closer to the shore. Thankfully, they made it, but just by the skin of their teeth. It took Campbell and Slade five days to drive across the state, and they were worried that they might not make it when they were nearing the end.
“It was part vacation, part experiment and part documentary shoot,” Slade recalls. “There was so much going on. We had four cameras on the car and we had to make sure we could get from one charging station to the next.”
So far, the Leaf has been the right choice for them. It’s not great for every trip (they travel at least once a year and love road trips): There simply aren’t enough charging stations available to travel long distances, but it’s been perfect for the work commute. “There’s a whole electric car subculture that we did not know existed and had no idea what we were going to step into in April 2012,” Slade says. “It’s been a constant learning experience for the last year. We now have almost 15,000 miles on this car and it’s totally doable.”
Changing the Current Outlook
Anthony Aellen, president and winemaker for Linganore Winecellars at Berrywine Plantation, sees couples like Campbell and Slade as a key part of bringing electric cars to the mainstream. “We need early adopters,” he says but points out that electric cars won’t be what people consider an everyday kind of car until it becomes part of a generation’s life, the way recycling is for his children who are 20 and 21 years old. “They’ve never known anything but to recycle; it’s part of their everyday life. So, they recycle,” he adds.
After an inspiring trip to Italy, where he saw electric car drivers hook up their vehicles to charging stations on the street, he spent about five years looking for a way to bring electric charging stations to his business near Mount Airy. He discovered a program in Baltimore that was making 100 chargers available to the market, and he got the last two. The chargers are completely powered by a large solar panel that also generates electricity for the winery.
Linganore Winecellars received some federal funding, about $8,750 from the Rural Energy Assistance Program, to help offset the purchase and installation costs of the 5 kilowatt chargers and solar array. Another government grant in the amount of $11,625 helped pay for a study to determine what type of alternative energy or combination could best reduce the vineyard’s electricity usage. Those funds cover almost half of the renewable energy project’s total estimated $50,000 cost, Aellen says.
Obtaining the chargers isn’t all that out of the ordinary for Linganore Winecellars, he notes. The company has sought various ways to reduce, reuse and recycle for decades. He’s also looked for methods to use wind energy and possibly run the entire winery on solar energy.
In 1999, when BP Amoco bought Solarex, Aellen investigated that energy source but found that buying enough panels to power the entire winery wasn’t feasible. For the panels to supplement just 30 percent of the energ needed for a year, it would have cost $800,000. If Aellen knew where to buy the same number of panels now he’d spend only about $250,000. It’s still a lot of money, but that’s a huge price drop from 14 years ago.
In time, the technology is expected to become more efficient and less costly, and that fits with Gochenaur’s perception that the market will take off in about three years. “The industry is in its infancy,” he says.
And we’re unlikely to see an electric taxi in Frederick anytime soon. EV Taxicabs wanted to start an all electric vehicle taxi fleet in Arlington, Virginia. However, in December 2012, authorities there denied permission for the 40 new licenses the startup needed. They cited worries about too few charging stations — which the company stated it would install around the area for public use also — and concerns about whether the available technology would still be the right choice in the near future.
The key, Gochenaur says, is having affordable cars with more driving range than what can currently be found on the market. “Frederick would be a challenge, but with a 200-mile range, it’s more likely” that we could see electric taxis, he says. Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young, who owns Yellow Cab of Frederick, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed, and the Maryland General Assembly approved, the creation of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council under the Department of Transportation to plan the successful integration of electric vehicles into the state’s communities and transportation system. Last December, the council issued a 204-page report establishing an action plan and making recommendations to achieve the overall goal of bringing 60,000 EVs to Maryland roadways by 2020.
One of the council’s acts has been to propose legislation extending the income tax credit and state excise credit for one more year. The excise credit provides car buyers with an immediate credit on the purchase price of a qualifying EV. “They see the cost of a new vehicle being the main barrier to adoption,” says
Kristen Weiss, state legislative analyst for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
In addition to incentive programs, the council has made recommendations for funding and development of infrastructure to support EVs, educational and outreach efforts, policies to help coordinate consistent state and local guidelines on EVs, and target levels for increasing the number of zero-emissions vehicles in the state’s fleet. The council is hoping to continue its work beyond the June 2013 expiration date.
It remains to be seen whether local residents witness more of these green machines quietly cruising around the town and county next year or a decade from now, but meritCharge is ready to bring the juice to the EV industry today.
Where to Make Powerful Connections
Frederick County is home to at least five different places where electric car owners can charge up their vehicles. Locations include Frederick Community College (those can be tough to find, but they are there), Fort Detrick, the Frederick Nissan dealership, Marriott TownePlace Suites and Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy.
Most of the charging stations are free, but Fort Detrick requires a credit card to cover a fee of 50 cents per hour. There are also dozens of charging stations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., enabling anyone to get home easily if the individual has enough power for the 50-mile drive back to Frederick.
Searching for a charging station near you? Several cell phone apps are available. Novia Campbell and Jonathan Slade, a married couple who drove from west to east across Maryland in their allelectric vehicle, recommend PlugShare. Android and iPhone users can search for public and some privately-owned electric chargers. Campbell and Slade have their home charger listed on PlugShare’s app in case someone in their remote part of the state needs to charge a vehicle.
Here are some more facts and figures about charging levels and charging speeds for EVs. Plus, get the shocking facts on electric vehicles.
Graduation ’13 by the Numbers
Compiled by Kim Weaver
Graduations are soon to commence in Frederick County, but there’s still some time to get educated on the subject of the Class of 2013. To bring you the sheepskin statistics without a lot of pomp and circumstance, we’ve already done the ’riting and ’rithmetic, so all you have to do is the reading. —The Editor
Download the full infographic poster as a PDF!
- 94.69% graduation rate for females in Frederick County Public Schools (2012)
- 90.99% graduation rate for males in Frederick County Public Schools (2012)
- 10 high schools in Frederick County
Average cost of a basic, “no frills” class ring
- $270 for a female high school ring
- $278 for a male high school ring
- $243 for a female college ring
- $266 for a male college ring
- $40-60 price range of mortarboard cap, gown and tassel for local high school seniors (cost depends on vendor and high school)
- $19.99 cost of mortarboard cap, gown and tassel at www.gradshop.com
- 10.26% high school dropout rate (2012);
- 83.57% high school graduation rate (2012); >0.75% from 2011
General studies is the most popular major for Frederick Community College graduates.
- 2 hours average length of college graduation ceremony
- 15 minutes average length of college graduation speakers’ keynote address
$24,000 the average college student loan debt in 2012
1,009 number of graduation candidates from Frederick Community College (2013)
Half of student loan accounts are in deferred status because more than half of college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed
- $7,993 average public, four-year undergraduate, in-state published tuition and fees for fiscal year 2011-2012; 3.3% increase over fiscal year 201-2011
- $34,269 average public, nonprofit, four-year graduate, in-state published tuition and fees for fiscal year 2011-2012; 4.3% increase over fiscal year 2010-2011
- Balfour CNN Money
- Economic Policy Institute
- Frederick Community College
- Frederick County Public Schools
- Herff Jones
- Hood College
- Institute for College Access and Success
- Maryland State Department of Education
- Mount St. Mary’s University
- National Association of Colleges & Employers
- The College Board
- The Washington Post
- U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics
- U.S. Census Bureau
- USA Today
Admit it, with or without representation, taxation sucks either way. But like his partner in certainty, The Grim Reaper, the Taxman cometh. We made our own assessment of how taxing life is here in Frederick County and offer these fiscal cliff notes as a little relief from your preparation to render unto Caesar what is his on April 15. Many happy returns!
Compiled by Kim Weaver
233,385 Frederick County
72,111 City of Frederick
$471.2 million adopted operating budget, FY2013, Frederick County
Estimated percent of county budget supported by taxes/estimated revenue from taxes
48% property taxes ($227,042,627)
36% local income taxes ($171,226,300)
4% other local taxes ($17,407,869)
93,332 tax bills issued to date for FY2013, Frederick County
$2,398 average real estate tax bill for residential properties, FY2013, Frederick County
$0.936 property tax rate (per $100 of assessed value), FY 2013, Frederick County
$0.813 property tax rate (per $100 of assessed value), FY 2013, City of Frederick
9 businesses in Frederick County that have received a tax credit or incentive for FY 2013; 9,000+ businesses in Frederick County
$554 million State of Maryland spends per year on tax credits and incentives; $96 per capita, $0.04 per dollar of state budget
8.25% corporate income tax, 2012, State of Maryland
$81,436 median household income, Frederick County
$66,161 median household income, City of Frederick
2.96% personal income tax rate, 2012, Frederick County
2.0% – 5.75% personal income tax rate, 2012, State of Maryland
48% marginal tax rate on each dollar the average Marylander earns in 2013; combination of payroll, state and federal taxes
23 days in April 2012 when Maryland taxpayers finally had earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year
31 CPA firms in Frederick County
Board of Public Accountancy, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
Comptroller of Maryland
Frederick County Business Development and Retention Division
Frederick County Department of Treasury
Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute
Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation
The Heritage Foundation
United States Census Bureau
By Christina L. Lyons
Photographs by Jim Hamann
Late night television talk show host David Letterman recently spoke about his love of fly-fishing during an interview on comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s show: “I’ve been doing it for 30 years and I’m no good at it and I don’t care. I just like standing in the river.”
It’s a refrain I’ve heard from fly fishermen, but one that seems to contradict the image of anglers proudly showing off their largest catch of the day or tabulating their catch totals for the year. I’ve always been curious about this quiet sport. I love hiking and often emerge into a trail clearing along a river or stream and have to quickly hush my cohorts when I spot the lone figure of a fly fisherman, standing nearly hip deep in the cold rushing water, unaware of our presence as he elegantly casts and recasts his line. The sight conjures in my mind the 1992 movie A River Runs Through It where Robert Redford and Brad Pitt co-star as the sons of a Presbyterian minister who share a passion for fly-fishing growing up in Montana in a “land still untouched.”
I have limited hopes of finding someone willing to teach a woman in what many view as traditionally a man’s sport that casts back hundreds of years into the past. (Many writers and anglers date the first reference back to the end of the second century by Roman Claudius Aelianus, and describe later practices in England, Australia and North America.)
So I cautiously approach the Potomac Valley Fly Fishers Club (PVFF), a local organization founded in 1967 that introduces local fishers — a term meant to include both men and women — or aspiring fishers to the sport along the waterways of Frederick County and western Maryland, and even remote sites around the country.
Lured in by the passion
During an afternoon chat over coffee, 69-year-old Don Fine of Middletown, a member of the club’s board of directors, describes the sport and the club. He can’t specify why, but offers a friendly warning that once you get addicted to fly-fishing, you don’t do regular spin rod fishing anymore. Further intrigued, I agree to later attend several meetings and activities, where I meet:
- 30-year-old Heather Montgomery of Frederick, who had grown up fishing but first learned fly-fishing from the club in 2011;
- Fine’s longtime friend John Brognard Sr., also 69 and from Middletown, who grew up fishing and has been a longtime member of the club;
- Myra Derbyshire, 54, a Scottish resident of Thurmont who grew up fishing and took the club’s annual fishing course last September when she was looking for a way “to fill that space left behind” after her children had left the nest;
- Devin Angleberger, a 16-year-old from Frederick who joined the club last year and has become one of its most active members; and
- Karen Baker, 64, of Frederick, who became enthralled watching fly fishers in Wyoming about 15 years ago, taking up the sport and joining the club soon after.
Their fishing experiences are all varied, just like their ages and backgrounds — a retired microbiologist, a conservationist, a retired AT&T technician and manager, a biologist, a high school student and a retired nurse among them. But they are united in one aspect: their love of fly-fishing, something they share with about 95 other members of the club.
Another member, 38-year-old Michelle Eugeni of Frederick, joined after her father passed away in 2010. They had been fishing buddies her whole life, and he had taken up fly-fishing in his retirement, joining the club and eventually giving her a few lessons before he was too feeble with illness. “I fish because I love the peace of it. It reminds me of my dad, and I continue to work to learn to fly-fish and tie so that I can pass it along to my nieces and nephews, if they are interested,” she says.
Teenager Angleberger can relate to the peace of being outdoors. “When you’re stuck in school or work six or eight hours a day, you don’t care about how many fish you caught the day before or how well your drift was … all you care about is that feeling of being in a stream,” he says. As the youth representative on PVFF’s board, he recently gave some tips to 13-year-old Scott Cover of Middletown, who says he likes the sport because “it is so elegant and the way you do it is so neat.”
The PVFF club also promotes the calming and healing powers of the sport, encouraging members twice a year to provide fly-fishing lessons to injured military veterans as part of its Project Healing Waters program.
The tie that binds
Many of the newest members learned during one of the club’s annual fly-fishing workshops, but everyone continues to help one another. “I think it’s cool that I can learn from people who are twice my age and people who are half my age,” says Montgomery at one of the club’s monthly meetings — a roomful of, yes, mostly retirement-age men, but a crowd that increasingly is dotted with women and youth. Evidence that I — a 45-year-old mother — just might fit in.
I first attend one of the club’s monthly “fly tying” roundtables at Hobbytown in Frederick, where a guest instructor teaches the steps to tie one of the thousands of various types of flies. Fine provides me a box of supplies and I take a seat along with about a dozen others. With a “pincher” set up in front of me, he shows me how to set a fish hook in the clamp. I follow a series of demonstrations by that month’s instructor, Chris King of Damascus, on cutting, threading and tying hairs from squirrel tail, turkey quill and deer hide, as well as gold tinsel. Really? I wonder aloud, who first had the idea that wrapping tiny hairs to mimic the shape of insects would actually catch a fish? At the end, I proudly hold up a little brown “Muddler Minnow” used to simulate a large stonefly. I post it that night on Facebook and am cheered by my friends.
Two days later, I dress in hiking attire and my waterproof backpacking boots, drop my fly in my backpack and head out with Baker and Montgomery to a private pond in Thurmont, where they have graciously agreed to give me my first lesson. As we drive to our destination, Baker explains that they typically don’t keep the fish they catch, but prefer to “catch and release.”
“I do it just for being out in beautiful places and trying to outwit the fish,” says Baker with a matter-of-fact smile. With my plans for a fish dinner dashed, I am now slightly perplexed as to the goal of this adventure.
We head off the main road onto a long drive meandering into dense woods toward the pond, fall leaves lingering on the trees and covering the grounds. Climbing through brush and weeds to the edge of the pond, we peer into the water where we have been told a variety of fish are thriving and impossible not to catch.
Now it gets reel
Baker — a trim woman in the early years of her retirement and full of stories about fishing trips to Wyoming, Montana and other places — unzips a case and begins to assemble a two-piece rod (something I repeatedly call a “pole,” each time Baker reminding me, “it’s a ROD!”). The rod assembly appears simple, except for the running explanation of the different lengths and weights of rods, the threading of the fishing line — the backing, fly line, leader and finally tippet to which the fly is tied with a special knot. Then there are extra accoutrements, such as a greasy substance called “floater” to help the fly float. (The club offers an annual five-session rod building course, taking advantage of the colder winter months when most fishermen stay indoors.)
She opens her box of flies, and the women contemplate the best type to employ that day — olive wooly bugger, popper, grasshopper, prince nymph, copper john or bead head nymph. It’s called “match the hatch,” the women explain — matching the type of fly that’s found in that location and at that time of year. I ask for a reference book, but they say you just learn as you go. My head spins.
Baker takes me to the edge of the pond and demonstrates the “round cast” — bend your arm back, using just your forearm, and not rotating too far back so as to avoid hooking the fly in brush directly behind you, then cast it forward with a little snap at the end to help the fly lightly land on the water.
I eagerly take the pole (“it’s a rod!” I’m reminded again), grip the handle as shown, toss my reel back, and hurl it forward. The fly plops down in the water just a couple feet before me, the length of fishing line bunched in swirls. Evidently what looks to be the most graceful part of fly-fishing is much more difficult to do than simply thinking how elegant one must look. Baker quickly assures me that I’m doing fine and encourages me to keep trying, frequently holding my arm to help me cast. That fly gets ever so slightly further into the pond each time but keeps slapping the surface, rather than making delicate landings like a real fly. Occasionally, she attaches a different fly. And with several more casts, my technique feels ever so slightly less awkward.
That’s great bass!
About 40 minutes later, as we chatter away and repeatedly recast, my fly is pulled down hard under the surface. “Yank your tip up, quick!” Baker commands. I try, and she quickly grabs hold of some of the extra line near the handle of the pole (rod, I mean rod!) and helps me reel it in until up out of the water comes about an 8-inch bass wiggling on the line. Woo hoo!
They instruct me in the art of posing for the picture — holding the fish so it’s facing the camera — before I slip the fish off the hook and back into the pond. I have no qualms about releasing the fish, and know that, while I need more practice to perfect the casting — and get the hang of the round cast, back cast and side cast — the practicing is going to be fun.
“I have to think of every cast as a practice cast,” Montgomery explains. “And I’m getting better.” I watch as she stands on a small dock, waving her line back and forth in a side cast, nearly picture perfect with the fall foliage in the backdrop.
After another hour of casting, we head home, discussing more about the thrill of fly-fishing. “It’s about being outside,” Montgomery explains.
“And all the beautiful trips,” Baker adds, noting that the club makes several weekend outings together each year.
At the end, before I get out of her car, Baker turns and says: “I hope this is the beginning of a new friendship.” I smile and nod my head. I’m hooked!
Potomac Valley Fly Fishers (PVFF) Club
The club meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at Tuscarora High School, 5312 Ballenger Creek Pike, Frederick, and the Fly Tying Roundtable takes place the third Wednesday of each month from 6:30-8 p.m. at Hobbytown, 919 N. East St., Frederick.
For more information about fly fishing, the club and its various activities, such as the Youth Fly-Fishing Course offered in the summer at Catoctin Creek Park and the Teach Me to Fly-Fish Day in September, visit the club’s website at www.pvflyfish.org.
Where the fish are biting:
Frederick County: Big Hunting Creek, Carroll Creek, Catoctin Creek, Friends Creek, (near Thurmont), Little Hunting Creek, Owens Creek
Washington County: Antietam Creek, Beaver Creek, Conococheague Creek, Israel Creek, Licking Creek
Carroll Creek: Morgan Run
Montgomery County: Great Seneca Creek
Regional: Monocacy River, Potomac River
Best times to fish:
Year-round, of course, according to almost any avid fly fisherman! “Fish are like humans in that we are less active in both hot and cold weather, but we still eat,” says Don Fine of PVFF.
Otherwise, check the solunar tables for the best times of the day and best days of the month to fish, recommends John Brognard Sr. of PVFF. These tables can be found in many fishing magazines like Field and Stream and In-Fisherman.
How to Look Reely Fly
Here are some suggestions where you can shop for your angling gear:
B & F Custom Fishing Rods
For Fly Rods:
8712 Baltimore National Pike, Middletown
For All other Rods:
8087 Geaslin Dr., Middletown
Beaver Creek Fly Shop
9720 Country Store Lane, Hagerstown
Hunting Creek Outfitters
29 North Market St., Frederick
Kelly’s White Fly Shoppe
133 W. German St.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Download Full Infographic Poster PDF!
It is almost impossible to drive through any neighborhood in Frederick County over the Christmas holiday without wondering what it takes to pull the feel-good season together.
From the illumination at City Hall to the elaborate dancing lights spectacular at the Yaglenski family home in Urbana, there are fantastic compilations of twinkling light displays, all worth going out of your way to see. Did you ever wonder how many lights are used in both of these annual spectacles? Can the Yaglenskis even keep track?
There are also many holiday fundraisers and community outreach programs, unique celebrations and fun family activities packing the calendar at this time of year. Have you ever tried to outguess your friends on the number of toys collected each year by the U.S Marine Corps Reserve? What about The Maryland Christmas Show? Has it really been around for 29 years? We wonder if founder Frances Lynch will ever retire.
No matter what Frederick County neighborhood you find yourself in, there will always be plenty of holiday merriment to ponder.
Here, we’ve attempted to break down some of the facts and figures associated with the holidays in Frederick County.
12 Residential homes in Frederick decorated in football team colors last year by The King of Christmas
11 Years Charles and Rayann Jones have been providing free Christmas dinners at Lohr’s Family Restaurant (500 people were served dinners last year)
80-120 Christmas dinners served annually to residents in need at the Soup Kitchen Program operated by the Frederick Community Action Agency
45,000 Toys collected by Toys for Tots in Frederick in 2011
25,000 People who attend the Maryland Christmas Show annually; children have sat on the same Santa lap every year since 1983
Too many to count Lights used in the Yaglenski Family Dancing Holiday Light Spectacular in Urbana, a tradition that’s been going strong since 2002
40 Extension cords used to help power the Yaglenski Family Dancing Holiday Light Spectacular in Urbana; each heavy duty cord measures 40 feet.
4,000 Kids who got their picture taken with Santa at Francis Scott Key Mall in 2011
9 Vacation days Frederick County public school students will receive for the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays
120 Shoppers that visited Dancing Bear Toys & Gifts on Christmas Eve last year; they were not procrastinators — just folks topping off stockings
$3.64 Projected average retail price per gallon of regular grade gasoline for the Mid-Atlantic region for December 2012; last year Christmas shoppers in the same region paid an average of $3.33 per gallon. (Projection formulated September 11, 2012)
268 mph Speed Santa would have to fly to visit all 91,258 housing units in Frederick County on Christmas Eve (assuming he is dropping off his presents during an eight-hour night)
$35,000 Net decrease in City of Frederick parking fee revenue during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; free parking during certain times of the holiday season is responsible for the drop
25,000 Visitors celebrating the holiday season at all four First Saturdays in December 2011
2,727 Visitors that stopped into the Frederick Visitor Center from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, 2011-2012
26,206 Visitors in 2011 to Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship, a one-day event
80.8 Estimated tonnage of Christmas trees collected by the Frederick County Department of Solid Waste Management last season; mulch generated nearly equals this 80.8 tonnage
80 Christmas parties/holiday functions restaurant and lounge VOLT expects to host
$46 Average price of a real Christmas tree
$78 Average price of an artificial Christmas tree; made of PVC, they can last 20 or more years
$85 Top price for a Christmas tree at Gaver Farm in Mount Airy; cost depends on species, height and growing time
12 Years for a Blue Spruce to reach a salable height
5 Cut-your-own Christmas tree farms in Frederick County
1,500 Strings of lights in the Frederick Festival of Lights display; residents and businesses donated more than $53,000 to replace the old lights which were damaged in 2010 snowstorms
1,088 Man-hours used to install and take down the Festival of Lights display each year
$0.00 Cost of electricity to the City of Frederick to power the holiday lights display; businesses and residents near lit trees volunteer to pay for it by using their own extension cords
81 Carriage and wagon rides last year in downtown Frederick; the program is offered through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department
1,200 Minimum gallons of farm fresh eggnog Middletown’s South Mountain Creamery will sell in December
26 Number of backers at kickstarter.com that funded Frederick singer/songwriter Jonah Knight’s holiday CD Another Creepy Christmas; the compilation of creepy Christmas songs brought in $1,072 (Knight’s goal was $500)
12 Fredericktonians with the name Christmas are listed in the city telephone directory; Kitsi Christmas owns Christmas Insurance and writes a business newsletter titled “Christmas Present”
- American Christmas Tree Association
- City of Frederick, Mayor’s Office
- City of Frederick, Parking Department
- City of Frederick, Parks and Recreation Department
- Dancing Bear Toys & Gifts
- Downtown Frederick Partnership
- Dr. Luca Petrelli, Mt. Saint Mary’s University
- Francis Scott Key Mall
- Frederick Community Action Agency
- Frederick County Department of Solid Waste Management
- Frederick County Office of Recycling
- Frederick County Public Schools
- Frederick News-Post
- Frederick Police Department
- Gaver Tree Farm
- Kitsi Christmas
- Maryland Christmas Show
- Maryland Christmas Tree Association
- Maryland Department of Agriculture
- South Mountain Creamery
- The King of Christmas
- Tourism Council of Frederick County
- Toys for Tots, Frederick County
- U.S. Census Bureau
- U.S. Energy Information Administration
- Yaglenski Family of Urbana
By Kevin Coyle
Photographs by Jim Hamann
An oasis of peer support offers those suffering from mental illness a chance to escape the stigma and experience self-worth on their own
During a stroll along North Market Street, you probably wouldn’t take note of a nondescript brick building that sits in quiet contrast to the bustle of Frederick’s popular Volt Restaurant across the street. It looks much like its neighbors, except perhaps for a sign over the door depicting a bright rising sun, a hint at what’s at work behind its walls.
Inside is an oasis of compassion and support for individuals facing the daily struggles of living with a mental illness. It has the homey, welcoming feel of a friendly coffee house, which is exactly the type of atmosphere On Our Own of Frederick Director Alan Feinberg desires; he even brings his two small dogs for visits to the center.
For Feinberg, On Our Own is not just a place where he works — he calls it a “sanctuary,” a refuge. “It’s so easy to push people away,” he says about society’s sometimes insular response to mental illnesses. By contrast, On Our Own strives to be a place of hope, help and care where, apart from church, family and a small circle of friends, people with mental illness can experience a true sense of self-worth and acceptance by others.
Besides a lack of funding, the stigma surrounding mental illness is a major obstacle to providing treatment and services to the more than 9,000 adults and 6,000 children in Frederick County who have either a mental illness or mental disability, according to Pat Hanberry, chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County. Not only do they face rejection by society, “Often people with emotional and mental illnesses stigmatize themselves and are reluctant to seek treatment,” she notes.
And that’s where On Our Own’s alternative model of peer support and enriching activities for and by the mental health services “consumer” enters the picture.
Out of Anger and Frustration Came Hope
What began in a Catonsville church basement in 1981 quickly grew into a nationwide program attracting more than 400 attendees — some traveling from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico — to its first national conference at the College of Notre Dame in 1985. Each year, On Our Own Maryland hosts a conference at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort where more than 100 people from 20 affiliates gather for two days of workshops, lectures and an awards banquet.
The success of On Our Own is a testament to the power of the vision and inspiration drawn from the writings of a brown-haired, pale-faced woman named Judi Chamberlin who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although her appearance was almost phantom-like, her bold words made her a strong presence in the area of mental health care.
In 1978, Chamberlain wrote a book entitled On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System, from which the organization derives its name. The nonfiction story offers a powerful personal narrative of her experiences in mental hospitals along with ideas for a new approach to treatment. Behind those walls that separated her from society, Chamberlain grew angry and frustrated at the way she was treated but was afraid to express it. “It was years before I allowed myself to feel anger at a system that had locked me up, denied me warm and meaningful contact with other human beings, drugged me, and so thoroughly confused me that I thought of this treatment as helpful,” she says.
Chamberlin criticized traditional institutions or programs for their top-down distinction and power imbalance between staff and the members they served. She proposed an alternative model that was a consumer-run organization where “those who seek help, can also offer it,” because “when the emphasis is on helping one another, the gulf between the ‘patient’ and the ‘staff’ disappears.” At the same time, she recognized that such an organization faced specific challenges, such as deciding whether or not to allow people who do not require mental health care to serve on the board of directors or other positions of influence since they are not “consumers.” As an organization for and by people with mental illnesses, On Our Own, Inc. and its many affiliates are modeled after this idea.
Her advocacy work earned Chamberlain a Distinguished Service award presented by President George H.W. Bush. She died Jan. 16, 2010 from pulmonary disease. Her tough words and strong stance were controversial, but she inspired hundreds.
An Accidental Discovery
Feinberg discovered Chamberlin’s book during a rough time in his life; he spent three months in a mental institution. Before being released, he was heavily drugged, which caused him to be “out cold” for two days. That’s when he felt the pain Chamberlin described: the pain of being locked up and out of control of his life, dreams and future. For six years, he says he had a broken spirit until the book inspired him and gave him hope.
Eventually, he went to a support group Chamberlin founded at All Saints Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Chamberlin helped him realize that he was “not alone and there were other ways to look at what they called mental illnesses.” Feinberg proudly describes himself as “certified sane” and sees himself not as a label or a diagnosis prescribed by a psychologist, but as a human being.
In 1994, the Texas native decided to move to Frederick because “it was one of the best small cities in the country.” Feinberg stumbled across On Our Own by accident while attending Frederick’s “In the Streets” festival, but he was initially unimpressed with the organization. The facility looked “pretty drab and dismal,” he recalls, and the furniture “didn’t encourage any engagement.” With two worn, filthy couches, a pool table and mirrors lining the walls, the place looked more like a dumpy bar than a recovery center. Feinberg, who studied architecture, wanted to change all that, insisting that both the place and its culture undergo a makeover. He envisioned creating a “coffeehouse atmosphere.”
“Coffee shops are where revolutions begin,” he says. While its members had always welcomed visitors with respect and kindness, he wanted the place to feel welcoming and supportive as well. With the help of both members and contractors, the center was transformed with a new look. The interior now bears walls painted blue and comfortable furniture. Outside, a new sign bearing an image of a yellow sun hangs above the door.
Feinberg considers his remodeling of On Our Own to be “the best planning job” because it is about the community. He reached out for local support by inviting non-consumers to serve on its board. This decision proved controversial, as the organization’s bylaws required that more than half the board be comprised of members. “It’s very important to have people who can help us in the larger community,” he notes. In doing this, he hoped to grow the organization by increasing membership and sustaining it for the future.
The Best Medicine
In addition to bringing people in from the outside, Feinberg is working on establishing a toastmasters club so people can “hone their speaking skills to tell their stories and dreams and, most importantly, speak for themselves.” He’s also securing and providing opportunities in the areas of health needs, housing, paid or unpaid employment and community involvement. These elements, especially employment and engagement in the community, can “give one a sense of purpose and pride” and help people be “a part of a web of relationships that nurture and reinforce a sense of self,” he says.
And the members of On Our Own have already started various activities that empower the self through work and opportunities. Having experienced the boredom of existence in mental hospitals and the joy of being productive in life though a job, Feinberg sees work as one solution to depression brought on by loneliness and rejection. “Work is the best therapy,” he quips.
Robert Pitcher, director of the Community Organized Recovery Efforts (CORE) of Frederick, agrees. “Consumers consistently state that being employed improves their self-worth,” he reports. “Frederick Way Station’s Supportive Employment Program provided services to 184 individuals last year and 60 percent who were involved in the program maintained their employment for at least six months.”
On Our Own puts the theory of work therapy into practice every day. One of their most recent projects involved tending a garden. Members sold their produce at the farmers’ market just a block away from the group’s center. Thirty percent of the profit made by the garden goes directly to fund activities, but as Kristin Curtis, a member of On Our Own says, they still need more people to help. She admits that while pulling weeds is hard work and she still can’t get the pollen off her work clothes, the project “was my way of giving back; that is what God and Jesus wants us to do.” Beyond the farm, however, she has found other ways to give back. She enjoys group activities and hopes her input during group discussions will aid others in their struggles.
Opening Doors of Opportunity
Feinberg claims that the job of On Our Own is to “open doors.” Indeed, over the years, the center has opened many doors of opportunity for both members and employees. Mike Groves is just one example. While living in the Frederick Community Action Agency shelter following his rehabilitation from alcoholism, he heard about this mental health group and decided to check it out.
Although Groves always liked to write, the journaling group he now teaches was actually an unexpected opportunity. His past struggle with alcohol, mental illness and two surgeries for a back injury had ended his 18-year construction project management career. Desperate to get his life back on track, he went to a former director of On Our Own, for help. “She said, ‘I want you to go to the Bipolar and Depression Support Alliance group [hosted by On Our Own] on Thursday and I want it to be about a journaling group,’” Groves recalls. And when he asked, “Who is going to do that?” she replied, “You are!”
Groves started with just five people. The group still meets today, although it is now independent of the Bipolar and Depression Support Alliance group. Groves explains that the group is a learning experience: He not only teaches others, but he also teaches himself and says it gives him confidence and self-esteem. The writing group, he explains, allows people to “get away from how difficult their lives have been and fly.” At this year’s annual On Our Own conference, his recovery story was selected and recognized with an award. He’s also been featured in local media, has published a short story and is working on a novel.
Sharing and learning can be an uplifting experience to help people realize they are not alone, says Gerry Blessing, director of Frederick NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses), an all-volunteer organization that provides resources, education and advocacy to individuals, families and friends coping with the disease. “The community needs to recognize that mental illness is a pervasive issue that surrounds us, affecting as many as one in five families on average,” he says. “We need to let those suffering know that society cares, fighting the stigma by being open about the issue.”
Blessing admits that even after being associated with the mental health community for years, he still finds individual accounts of their experience insightful and instructive. “When I hear a person’s story, I find that to be huge… It helps them and it helps me.”
Feinberg agrees with his colleague. “The more people who understand how good we are, how we are more alike than different than other human beings, and how much can be learned from and with us, [it] beats the stigma to death. Plus, [it] does a great deal to reduce what is even worse — self-stigma, doubt, and self-loathing,” he states. Whether it is through journaling, weeding the garden or just listening to another’s story in silence, On Our Own allows people in Frederick to discover the joy of friendship and the healing power of peer support.
In Our Own of Frederick County
217 N. Market St., Frederick
On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System
(New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1978)
Where to Find Help and Hope
The Frederick community offers both public agencies and private organizations in the mental health field that provide services to help individuals, families and friends affected by mental illness.
211: Crisis Hotline
Mental Health Association of Frederick County
226 S. Jefferson St., Frederick
Offers programs, resources, and training on mental health
Community Organized Recovery Efforts (CORE)
Organizes workshops for individuals recovering from alcohol, drug addiction and mental illnesses
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday sessions meet at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 106 W. Church St., Frederick
Tuesday sessions meet at Hillcrest Community Center, 1150 Orchard Terrace, Frederick
email@example.com or 301-600-3686
Frederick NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses)
4 E. Church St., Frederick
Provides resources, education and support for individuals with mental illness and their families
Frederick Way Station
230 W. Patrick St., Frederick
Oversees behavioral health care, housing and employment for children, adolescents, adults and veterans with a wide range of needs
On Our Own
217 N. Market St., Frederick
Created for and by people with mental illnesses. Offers peer support and various enriching activities.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-620-0555
For a complete listing of services, see The Mental Health and Community Support Services booklet distributed by the Mental Health Association of Frederick County at www.fcmha.org under the heading “public education and advocacy.”