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Rural Maryland Council Announces 2019 Rural Impact Awards

At the Rural Maryland Council Winter Executive Board and Annual Meeting held on December 11, 2019, at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Annapolis, the Council recognized the following:

  • Outstanding Rural Community Development – Evergreen Heritage Center and Sudlersville
  • Outstanding Rural Volunteer – Mr. Bob Arnold
  • Outstanding Rural Economic Development – Cecil County Office of Economic Development
  • Rural Champion – Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes
  • Rural Legacy – Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Rural Community Development Award

The Rural Community Development Award was established to recognize a program, project organization that substantially improves the quality of life in at least one rural community. Award criteria includes dedication and creativity in providing community-oriented service; evidence of collaboration with relevant stakeholders to resolve social problems; and the use of partnerships or leveraged resources to realize community-achievement goals.

About Evergreen Heritage Center:

The Evergreen Heritage Center (EHC), a historic 130 acre Maryland farm, is located in rural Allegany County. The EHC Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) public charity, was founded in 2008 to leverage the EHC to empower the region’s children (in Allegany, Washington, and Garrett counties) through experiential education programs that are aligned with the Maryland State Curriculum. To pursue this mission, the EHC Foundation partnered with members of the academic, business, and public service sectors to develop both impactful education programs and Center infrastructure that would support those programs as well as other needs of the community. The results over the past 10 years have been significant:

  •  Community Involvement. The Foundation’s award-winning education programs have grown from
    serving 26 students in the spring of 2008 to over 9800 children, youth, and adults in the academic year
  • Community Capability. EHC science enrichment programs have consistently increased student science
    literacy by 25% to 50% (per pre/post-tests) and have also increased student interest in STEM majors and
    careers (per student surveys), which can open doors to lucrative job opportunities while also furthering
    economic development by enticing more STEM businesses to Western Maryland.
  •  Community Wellness. To address the region’s issue of childhood obesity, which often accompanies
    poverty and has doubled over the past 30 years, the Foundation and its partners have developed
    multiple in-school and field trip ag science programs that use student gardening to teach children where
    our food comes from, how it grows, and how to eat healthy and gain the energy to learn. The result (per
    parent surveys) is an increase in student consumption of fruits and vegetables by up to 44%.
  • Community Sustainability. The Foundation and its partners (including rural students) have worked
    together to develop several new “green” EHC facilities for program and community use that showcase
    best practices in sustainable agriculture, forestry, and environmental conservation including a 600 sq. ft.
    Learning Center, twelve outdoor learning stations, a 2100 sq. ft. high tunnel greenhouse, a passive solar
    greenhouse, a traditional greenhouse, a sawmill and woodshop, two timber-frame pavilions, and three
    sets of off-the-grid restroom facilities. The Foundation has also restored its historic farmhouse and barn
    to preserve and share the community’s rich history while also providing a venue for events that can
    generate income to help sustain the facility for generations to come.

The EHC Foundation, in collaboration with its many rural partners in education, business, and public service, have leveraged their resources to address the needs of the community and improve the quality of life of its rural constituents. Janice Keene, Founder, and Director of the Evergreen Heritage Center Foundation accepted the award.

Sudlersville Laundromat

Sudlersville, Queen Anne’s County (QAC) and QAC Public School officials and civic leaders have recently recognized a serious issue – the lack of adequate public laundromat facilities. School officials found more children coming to school with dirty clothes or worse, children are staying home to avoid being bullied and embarrassed. While teachers are assisting by taking laundry home for these children, the need was greater than their ability to meet it.

In response, the Town of Sudlersville rehabilitated a portion of a mostly vacant, former middle school building as a public laundromat. The laundromat is located in the former Shop room of the school. The concrete floor was adequate to support laundry equipment and a separate entrance with a ramp was constructed to make the facility accessible to disabled people. The laundromat is operated by the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company (SVFC), which took ownership of the building from the Town in 2016. The new laundromat was developed with community input and support from local government
and community organizations, as well as the Sudlersville Middle School.

The Sudlersville Laundromat was dedicated to an opening and ribbon-cutting celebration that took place on Saturday, June 1, 2019 (see attached photos, newspaper article, and video link). Located in the Shop of the former Sudlersville Middle School, the project converted a partly vacant structure to a community asset, delivering a needed service. The Laundromat received an FY2017 RMPIF award.

Francis Kinnamon, Pam Wise, Bill Faust and Ira Russell who served on the community’s committee accepted the award.

Rural Volunteer Award

The Rural Volunteer Award was established to recognize leadership, dedication, and noteworthy volunteer achievement beyond the call of one’s professional duties to help improve their community. Award criteria include distinctive volunteer efforts; understanding of community needs; positive contributions impacting the economic, health, or well being of their community; dedication to community; and overall leadership in the community.

About Mr. Robert “Bob” Arnold of Arnold Farms:

As president of Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau, Bob was in charge of the last Delmarva Chicken Festival hosted on the Eastern Shore. He has also been recognized by the Maryland Food Bank as “Farmer of the Year” for his contributions to the hungry in Maryland. The accomplishment that Bob is most proud of, is the award his family received last year as one of two families chosen to receive the “Queen Anne’s Farm Family of the Year.” As a Choptank Electric Cooperative Board Director, Bob
recognizes the vital role that Choptank plays in the communities it serves and strives to represent all its members fairly and equitably. Mr. Arnold, his wife Sarah, and sons Bobby, Peter, and Brian reside on Double Creek Road.

Mr. Arnold is a perfect nominee for the Rural Community Volunteer, his giving back attitude through the farm to food bank program and being an actively engaged advocate for rural citizens through his local electric cooperative. Mr. Arnold is a forward-thinking farmer and his belief in treating everyone in the community fairly.

Rural Economic Development Award

The Rural Economic Development Award was established to recognize a program, project or organization that successfully attracts, retains or creates jobs in at least one rural county. Award criteria include: the significance of jobs attracted, retained or created in relation to a community’s economic development objectives; noteworthy, creative, or innovative techniques brought to bear on challenging economic development situations; and the use of partnerships for leveraged resources in achieving
business development goals.

About Cecil County Economic Development:

Cecil County’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has had an exceptionally impactful year. There
were 1,352 new jobs created in Cecil County in 2019 alone. Of that, 772 were created with the attraction of new companies such as Medline, Smithfield, Lidl, and KeHE. 580 of those jobs were expansions of companies like W.L. Gore and Northrop Grumman already here in Cecil County. Cecil County ranks #2 in Maryland for job growth, which is 2x higher than the State of Maryland, 4.7x higher than the Baltimore region, and 1.6x higher than the Philadelphia region. Plus, Cecil County has the 3rd highest 1- year wage growth rate of all Maryland counties. Cecil County OED has played a crucial role in this
economic transformation.

Cecil County is unusual in that it has eight incorporated municipalities, all with their own governments. OED works very closely with the towns to help with projects; both large and small. The OED holds monthly Towns-County Meetings where the towns and the OED come together to discuss projects, issues and initiatives happening across the county. This relationship has helped not only the municipalities connect with each other and support efforts occurring in other parts of the county, but it
has also allowed the OED to help with growth in towns and assist them in reaching their objectives. During the Towns-County Meetings, the issue of low housing inventory was prevalent. As a result, the OED organized and hosted its inaugural Growth and Development Symposium to draw developers and builders to the county. The event was a great success and received outstanding feedback from the attendees.

Great Wolf Lodge is a shining example of how OED worked with the Town of Perryville to finalize a deal. Once the town had arranged its first meeting with the resort’s leadership, OED was able to offer help and step in with the complex incentive negotiations and connections to the major utilities and other capacities. As mentioned above, Great Wolf will bring some 500 new jobs to the county; from engineers to managers to lifeguards.

Cecil County was recently selected to host an annual Five Star Equestrian event, one of seven in the world. The event will draw international attention and between 30k-80k tourists into the county annually. The OED is working in collaboration with the state and directing boards to involve county businesses to create all-inclusive activities highlighting all Cecil County has to offer.

The OED was instrumental in the effort to receive a $20 million federal grant for the construction of a new interchange at I-95 and Belvidere Road. OED’s support creates an opportunity for the project to be constructed in the next five years. This interchange will create on and off-ramps to I-95 directly addressing traffic for the rapidly expanding Principio Business Park. The interchange will keep trucks and traffic off side roads and Route 40, easing congestion concerns and helping to preserve the quality of life in our rural county. As an added bonus, the interchange will also provide businesses with quick
and easy access to the I-95 corridor making Principio Business Park even more desirable for businesses and workforce attraction.

The OED also has an Agri-business Coordinator on staff, one of only 13 Maryland counties that have this important position. The OED encourages agricultural businesses to capitalize on value-added products and ag-tourism ventures. By capitalizing on value-added products, diversifying their farms, incorporating changing trends in agriculture and using Cecil’s centralized location to their advantage, the average value of crops per acre in Cecil County is higher than much of the Eastern Shore. (USDA-NASS).

The OED ensures success by working closely with partner organizations across the community. The Cecil County Economic Development Commission (EDC) focuses on how the schools, government, small businesses, and development can all work to complement each other and present a positive brand and image for Cecil County. Referring back to the OED’s Goal A: preparing the workforce for the demands of emerging employment opportunities with a technology focus is clear at each EDC meeting.

Accepting the award on the Office’s behalf was Sandra Edwards, Richard Starr, and Terri Springel.

Rural Champion Award

The Rural Champion award was established to recognize outstanding leadership and public service in promoting legislation and/or policy solutions to benefit rural communities. Award criteria include: demonstrated wisdom and foresight in dealing with rural issues; exemplary leadership; ability to work with community members and organizations to understand Rural Maryland priorities; commitment to working with public servants to address rural community needs; and overall dedication to serving

About Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes:

Sheree Sample-Hughes (Democrat) is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, where she was recently appointed Speaker Pro Tem. She was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2014 representing District 37A. She earned a BA in Public Relations from Delaware State University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Wilmington University. In 2006, Sample-Hughes served on the Wicomico County Council, representing the 1st council district and served as Vice President in 2009 and 2010.

She has been instrumental in improving rural health care delivery. Last year, she successfully sponsored House Bill 570 (Chapter 274) – Outpatient Mental Health Centers – Medical Directors – Telehealth. This law will allow our rural health care providers flexibility in hiring medical directors. Our rural clinics often have issues recruiting physicians. This bill requires regulations governing behavioral health programs to include a provision authorizing an outpatient mental health center to satisfy any regulatory requirement that the medical director is on-site through the use of telehealth by the director.

In 2016, she sponsored HB 1494 – Income Tax – Credit for Preceptors in Areas With Health Care Workforce Shortages (Chapters 386) established nonrefundable tax credits against the State income tax for a licensed physician or nurse practitioner who serves without compensation as a preceptor in an approved preceptorship program. Each year, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) may issue up to $100,000 for each of the physician preceptorship credits and nurse practitioner
preceptorship credits. Tax credit applications are approved on a first-come, first-served basis until the cap of $100,000 for the year is reached for each credit. In 2017, she successfully sponsored House Bill 683 (Chapter 235) Income Tax – Credit for Nurse Practitioner or Licensed Physician in Preceptorship Program – Alterations which made changes to the Preceptor Program.

Also in 2016, she also successfully sponsored HB 1217 – Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Specialty Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services – Parity (Chapter 505). This bill ensures that services offered by telehealth are covered under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program.

Rural Legacy Award

Last year, the RMC created this award to recognize a legislator who has particularly served our rural areas with distinction.

About Senate President Mike Miller:

Senator Miller is a living legend in Maryland. He was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and is the longest-serving Maryland Senate President and the longest-serving President of the Senate in the United States.

Senator Miller has been a strong supporter of rural Maryland and the Rural Maryland Council. When the RMC visited a few years ago in support of funds for the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund we could count on his support. The Council would not have received those funds without his support and blessings.