Curious about martial arts, and about ending hunger in this region

By Tammy Showalter Staff Writer
With working long, late hours into the night and covering assignments after the sun has set, one important thing comes to mind, and that’s my own safety. Although, I’ve never had any run-ins that required me to defend myself, an invitation to take a self-defense class sounded great.
The great staff at Calvert MMA Academy Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Lineage BJJ in Sunderland extended the invitation and I’ve always been curious about martial arts and the world of self-defense.
It was great information to have in my tool belt and if you know me, you know that I built my own home with tools from my very own tool belt, so I was all-in to gain more hands-on experience.
Calvert MMA owner Jim Thrift, who is a self defense and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach who has his Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Grand Master Relson Gracie taught the class with Ray Ostenso and Aimee Reynolds, who is a Muay Tai kickboxing instructor. Thrift is certified by the state of Maryland as a law enforcement defensive tactics instructor and has 21 years in federal law enforcement. He’s also a United States veteran, so I felt like I was in good hands, totally.
By the end of the class, I had learned how to take down an aggressor, while breaking their arm in the process, as well as how to get out of a choke hold. I felt empowered for sure. I think enough muscle memory was stored so that I could use the techniques should I ever need. I think I may even look into taking a Muay Tai kickboxing class with Reynolds.
The one thing that was really amazing was just how giving Calvert MMA and its staff was, of their time, talents and out of their prosperity.
All proceeds went to End Hunger of Calvert County, a non-profit organization that serves Calvert County residents. I was inspired to know that 80 families were fed because of the $1,600.00 that was raised by Calvert MMA and the self-defense class.
End Hunger representative Jacqueline Miller spoke to the class. She said that the organization helps not only with food distribution, but with job training and free tax preparation to those who qualify.
“Behind all that is a person that we’re working with and changing their lives.” Miller said. “Aimee [Reynolds] is a captain for our annual dragon boat festival and she said that Calvert MMA was hosting this class. We are like a distribution warehouse. We have a facility on Route 231 in Prince Frederick. We work with the Maryland Food Bank, Capital Area Food Bank and Farming for Hunger.
“How it started was we became the middle person between those food banks and the local food bank, When a big bulk order comes in, we sort it out and the local food banks come to pick it up when they’re ready for it and they distribute it out to families.”
End Hunger also has a culinary arts training school. They offer training to unemployed or under-employed, teaching them the necessary skills to work in a commercial kitchen.
“Seventy percent of our graduates are now employed full-time, some with benefits for the first time,” Miller said. “It’s not only about the food, it’s about getting people back to work. I wake up every day and I love what I do. The most important part is how much this community embraced it.”
Northern High School graduate Ahna Turley participated in the class. She’s also on staff at End Hunger.
“It was great to see so many people come out to support End Hunger and not knowing much about it,” Turley said. “I’ve learned so much about how the community really wants to give.
“I don’t think I’m going to remember everything today, but I think the wrist holds were great, simple. It’s not a multi-step move. I would love to come back for a refresher of the class, because you don’t want to forget but I thought it was awesome.”
Thrift can be reached via Calvert MMA and Reynolds can be reached via AR Studios in Huntingtown.
To contact End Hunger, send emails to
It always makes you feel good when you do something for the betterment of someone else, especially during this time of the year. Hope you find time to learn a new skill, maybe even a self-defense skill or a way to give back to your community this Christmas.

Calvert County’s Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry Wins Nationwide Vote

Communities Unite in the Spirit of Giving to Help Local Food Pantries Win Part of $1.5 Million in Grants from Walmart
On Monday, December 15, 2014, Walmart announced the 75 food pantry winners of the Food Pantry Holiday Makeover campaign that will each receive a $20,000 grant for facility makeovers. Over the past two weeks, communities nationwide came together to vote at for their local food pantry to win a grant. The grants are being made to help the winning food pantries, such as the Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry in Huntingtown, MD, renovate their facilities and purchase essential equipment such as new refrigerators, ovens, stoves, storage units, and even refrigerated trucks to help them better serve families in need.
“We are humbled by the turnout of support Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry has received throughout the campaign, and we’re so excited to be able to use the funds to expand our facility. It will help us improve the food distribution area to make it much easier for people in need to access food. We’ll also be able to expand our food storage area, allowing us to provide healthier foods so more families can eat nutritious meals,” said Rev. Robert P. Hahn, Senior Pastor Chesapeake Church, Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry. “We thank Walmart for their generosity and their commitment to reach out to local food pantries, the people who are on the front lines of this fight. Every food pantry in the running was worthy and we all stand shoulder to shoulder in combating the truly solvable problem in our country: hunger.”
The Food Pantry Holiday Makeover campaign launched at a time when food pantries across the country are preparing for their busiest time of year and facing high rates of need, with more than 49 million Americans experiencing food insecurity in 2013. Meeting this need requires food pantries to not only have food on hand, but be well-equipped to safely store, prepare, and transport the food that will ultimately end up on a family’s table.
“We are so thankful for everyone who voted and for the communities that came together to support their local hunger relief agencies,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and senior vice president of Walmart Sustainability. “Today, the dedicated food pantry staff and volunteers who work so hard to fight hunger can start making plans for the purchase of new equipment and renovations. We hope that these grants will help make the holidays a little brighter not just for the food pantry staff and volunteers, but also, most importantly, for the families served by these organizations.”
The campaign is part of Walmart’s recently announced commitment to create a more sustainable food system, with a focus on improving the affordability of food by lowering the “true cost” of food for both customers and the environment, increasing access to food, making healthier eating easier, and improving the safety and transparency of the food chain. This commitment includes a goal of providing four billion meals to those in need in the U.S. over the next five years. To learn more about Walmart’s work to fight hunger, visit

Area food pantry leads nationwide campaign

Huntingtown, MD – An ongoing campaign to aid the nation’s food pantries is garnering votes all across the country. Currently leading the pack—by a relatively big margin—is a Calvert County facility, Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry.
The coast-to-coast competition is being conducted by Walmart as part of its Food Pantry Holiday Makeover campaign. The 75 food pantries garnering the most votes will receive a $20,000 grant from the national retailer’s charitable foundation. The grant cash may be used to expand and/or renovate facilities and purchase new equipment.
“Food pantries play a vital role in providing healthy meals to their communities,” stated Walmart Foundation Kathleen McLaughlin in a press release. “As they face great demand this winter, we’re working to make a positive impact by ensuring that they have the infrastructure to safely prepare and store food so more families can have access to healthier meals.”
The Walmart Foundation launched its Food Pantry Holiday Makeover campaign Tuesday, Dec. 2. The day was universally proclaimed “Giving Tuesday” as an altruistic alternative to the more familiar, commercially focused Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
As soon as Giving Tuesday arrived, the tallies for Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry and other similar facilities began streaming in via social media.
“It’s really affirming to see the number of votes,” said Chesapeake Cares spokeswoman Jackie Miller. “It shows the community is excited. The grant will help us expand.”
The 10-day campaign will conclude Friday, Dec. 12 at 11:59 p.m. Between now and then the public can visit and cast one vote per day.
Miller said Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry has been promised a matching grant from the State of Maryland.
While Christmas season is perhaps the time when most people consider charitable giving and demonstrate concern for members of the community who are struggling, Miller said Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry stays busy on daily basis. “Our numbers don’t fluctuate at all during the year,” Miller stated. “I think there’s more attention this time of year.”
Miller said the goal is to obtain the foundation’s $20,000 grant. Being number one in the nation doesn’t have any fiduciary perk attached to it. However, to be the most popular food pantry in the U.S.A. would bring quite a measure of fame and pride to Calvert County. Chesapeake Cares is the only Maryland-based food pantry involved in the campaign.
For more information on the Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry, visit
Contact Marty Madden at

Huntingtown High School Boy’s Soccer Donates Over $4,000 to End Hunger

Huntingtown High School Boy’s Soccer Donates Over $4,000 to End Hunger in Calvert County From Kicks for Cans Project
Team continues tradition of embracing #givewhereyoulive spirit
“Part of being a soccer player on this team means participating in our Kicks for Cans service project for End Hunger In Calvert County. Its just part of who we are,” explained Community Service Coordinator Jonathan Reid.
Now in it’s second year, the Huntingtown High School’s Boys Varsity Soccer Team rolled out its “Kicks for Cans” service project during their 2014 Fall Soccer Season. “Kicks for Cans” is a project in which players collect pledges from friends, family, and people in the community for every goal that is scored throughout the season. This year they raised $4,039.
“Participating in this program raises our players awareness of the needs of others and gives them an outlet to help,” says Varsity Head Coach Charles Russell. “ As a result the community has been very supportive as you can tell by the amount of money the team has raised.”
In addition to raising money, “Kicks for Cans” was developed to provide players with leadership, teamwork, and community awareness experience.
“As a high school coach, we are an extension of the player’s learning experience,” says Russell. “Opportunities like this give us a chance to show how the skills they learn on the field – teamwork, leadership, etc., can be used in real life situations. “
Senior Phil Brown comments, “Kicks for Cans taught me leadership and organizational skills that will benefit my future. Also, helping with underprivileged families and raising money for others bound our team together.”
A cornerstone of the project is that “Kicks for Cans” is led and executed by the players. Each year, a group of players are chosen take on the task of motivating players and collecting pledges for that year’s project. In addition, they arrange a day for the entire team to volunteer together harvesting produce with Farming 4 Hunger. These responsibilities are handed down to new student project leaders every year.
“It was a great opportunity to see all of the boys on the team come together and help the community out, whether that was scoring goals and raising money, or donating their time to pick crops at a local farm,” says Senior Jake Stevens.
Senior Reis Richardson was this year’s Project Lead, Senior Phil Brown was the Varsity team’s Pledge Lead, Senior Jake Stevens oversaw incoming donations as well as the Farming 4 Hunger harvest day, and Freshman John Osborne was the Junior Varsity team’s Pledge Lead.
“It is admirable what the Huntingtown High School Soccer program is doing for its players,” says Jacqueline Miller, President of End Hunger In Calvert County. “Soon their players will never know soccer at Huntingtown High without End Hunger In Calvert County. It will just be part of their DNA … that’s great leadership!”
To ensure the project’s continued success, the team is already planning for next year’s “Kicks for Cans”. Tom and Dawna Johnson are taking the lead as the new Community Service Coordinators as previous Assistant Coach and Community Service Coordinator Jonathan Reid will be relocating. In the future, the team is hoping to expand their vision to other sports teams within Huntingtown High and potentially to other sports teams throughout the county.
To learn how you, your team, or group can get involved with End Hunger In Calvert County, visit their website at or email