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HoCo candidates to speak at PFLAG forum

Allan Kittleman, gay news, Washington Blade

Allan Kittleman, a pro-gay Republican running for Howard County executive, will join his opponent Courtney Watson at a forum next week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Courtney Watson and Allan Kittleman, who are vying to be the next Howard County executive in November’s election, will participate in a forum sponsored by the Howard County Chapter of PFLAG on July 8. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia.

Watson, a Democrat, and Kittleman, a Republican, have been supportive on LGBT issues and will explain why they would be best for the county’s LGBT citizens. A Q&A session will follow their presentations.

All PFLAG meetings are free, confidential and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, visit


From the Farmer to you

From the Farmer, gay news, Washington Blade

From the Farmer’s weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When From the Farmer co-founders Nick Phelps and Jason Lundberg rolled out their unique Washington area enterprise three years ago, business began on a modest scale. It was a fitting launch for a farm-to-consumer purveyor linking small regional food producers with urban and suburban dwellers by providing affordable home delivery of fresh produce.

Their veritable weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of diverse top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting, as well as handcrafted bakery breads and specialties such as organic honey.

Service is offered without time-length contract commitments and is easy to turn on-and-off digitally with as little as one-day notice when necessitated by personal plans or travel. From the Farmer has become the premier service of its kind for a broad delivery area spanning D.C., Baltimore, Howard County and most of Montgomery County in Maryland, and a wide expanse of Northern Virginia locales.

Custom-made, high-quality insulated picnic-basket-style frame-and-fabric collapsible containers branded with the company logo are delivered to apartments, homes and workplaces on a designated weekday, recycling the previous container. These farm-to-kitchen packages arrive between midnight and 7 a.m., preceded by an email reminder listing six-to-10 stocked food items for menu planning.

“Transport traffic is easier” in the pre-dawn hours, explains company vice-president Phelps, allowing “more deliveries per hour. Temperatures are coolest at that time in the warm weather months and no one is waiting around for a delivery – it’s there to pick up when you wake up.”

A customization option allows specifying “none, normal or more” of each weekly item in “half, single or double bushels.” Company website “” illustrates sample volume bounties of beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, zucchini, arugula, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cantaloupe and cucumbers.

The entrepreneurial duo, in their late-20s and friends since Colorado college days, share backgrounds in business and a passion for food – both contributing to the company’s growing stature and success. Lundberg, company president, handles financial accounting and back-end operations. Phelps concentrates on sales coordination, and customer experience and service management.

Following a two-year “beta phase” start-up, the company grew rapidly in the past year while simultaneously generating extraordinary customer satisfaction. In-house delivery fulfillment and direct interaction have been essential to maintaining patron loyalty.

“Handling all aspects of service with care and attention has been very important,” notes Phelps. Staffing has grown four-fold to meet market demand in recent months, with 21 employees and plans for adding 10 or more by the end of the year.

Five staff members currently work in downtown D.C. while others receive and sort foodstuffs, prepare packages and dispatch deliveries from a suburban warehouse. The entire staff will soon be joined at a larger Beltsville, Md., combined warehouse and office facility. In addition to allowing more efficient operations and growth potential, the new space will provide an on-site test kitchen to develop recipe suggestions in advance of each week’s harvest.

“It’s really important to be able to see and touch the food every day as it comes in from partner farms,” stresses Phelps. “The only thing I enjoy more is visiting and talking with local farmers.”

Nowadays “a few thousand customers” enjoy the fruits of their labors and that of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania farmers. “The hardest thing for local farms of 200 acres or less is how to get their products out and sold,” says Phelps. “Our goal is making good, local food more accessible and supporting the regional farm economy.”

More than that, Phelps emphasizes, the entire From the Farmer team strives to create “real long-term sustainable change” in the quality of food on home plates.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


PFLAG celebrates Valentine’s Day

PFLAG, Baltimore, Baltimore Pride Parade, Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, gay news, Washington Blade, celebrate

PFLAG marches in the Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Howard County and Westminster chapters of PFLAG will celebrate Valentine’s Day by hosting dances as part of their monthly meetings. The Howard County chapter will hold its dance on Feb. 11, billed, “A Night for All Ages,” from 7:30-10 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia.

The Westminster chapter will host its dance—also for all ages—on Sunday, Feb. 16 from 5-9 pm. at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 17 Bond St., in Westminster. At both events, snacks, music and games will be offered and will be adult-supervised. The chapter suggests a $5 donation for adults and $2 for students.

For more information visit and for Howard County and Westminster, respectively.


Lawmakers endorse trans equality

lawmakers, SB 212, transgender rights bill, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland, Annapolis

Several Maryland lawmakers testified before the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee for SB 212 on Feb. 4. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Included among those testifying before the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis on behalf of SB212, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, were Councilwoman Courtney Watson of Howard County and Councilman Tom Quirk of Baltimore County. Both represented jurisdictions where gender identity protections were enacted. Other jurisdictions that have such anti-discrimination laws in place in Maryland are Baltimore City, Montgomery County and the city of Hyattsville.

Howard County passed the law in December 2011, and Watson reported that since the law went into effect, there have been “no complaints, no problems.”  Baltimore County enacted a similar law in February 2012. Quirk, who also testified that there have been no problems arising from the law, said that the current bill before the committee represents “a respect for human dignity.”

Alvin Gilliard, representing Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, testified he was proud that Baltimore City was the first jurisdiction in the state to pass a non-discrimination law in 2002.


Aesthetic of the good life

Leslie Apgar, Pura Vida, business, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Lesile Apgar takes a holistic approach to patient care. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Schoolteachers and diplomats, men and women, young and older alike have discovered a unique aesthetic skin care and anti-aging oasis north of Washington. The holistic approach of founder Dr. Leslie Apgar and her five-person staff has engendered a loyal and devoted patronage throughout the metropolitan area and beyond.

It takes only a moment talking to the effervescent Dr. Apgar to discover her zeal for patient care and commitment to encouraging the health and happiness of her clients.

Apgar launched Pure Vida Medspa & Cosmetic Laser Center a little more than five years ago, in addition to a hospital medical group practice in obstetrics and gynecology. A board-certified physician for 10 years, the 45-year-old Apgar sought an opportunity to evolve her professional focus and was inspired by the encouragement of patients.

Although providing non-surgical treatment at Pura Vida, employing a minimally invasive cosmetic approach, it was Apgar’s skill as a surgeon that impressed her patients. “Skin is the largest organ of the body,” she points out, “and my incisions were always good.” It was that attention to the physical results of surgery that prompted Apgar to open the award-winning cosmetic laser center she leads.

Specializing in advanced aesthetic and anti-aging procedures, the business takes its name from a Costa Rican salutation translating as “the good life.” The Seattle-born Penn State medical school graduate infuses her practice with a distinctive desire to assist those seeking to enhance their appearance and maintain healthy skin. “We promote a natural approach,” Apgar notes, “to soften the blow of aging.” “None of us on staff wears makeup,” she says, “healthy skin is what is really beautiful.” Referrals for plastic surgery are available for those requiring or desiring surgical treatments.

Located at the upscale Maple Lawn Town Center off Columbia Pike north of D.C. in Howard County, Md., nestled midway between Washington and Baltimore in Fulton, clients are drawn to the personalized approach and modern technologies employed at the center. An inviting light-filled ground-level office provides a fitting introduction to Apgar’s patient-centric practice. A relaxation room, consultation office, and private treatment spaces adjoin the spacious concierge area’s soothing earth tones and wood plank flooring.

A complementary consultation initiates identifying and evaluating patient areas of concern – whether laser hair removal, brown spot elimination, skin peels or microdermabrasion, cosmetic facial fillers and toxins for wrinkle reduction and fine line elimination, laser skin resurfacing, vein therapy, acne or rosacea treatment, diet and weight management or a range of other specialties. A distinctive feature is utilization of a Visia complexion analysis unit, described by Dr. Apgar as “the Bentley of skin appraisal.” This technology allows for a detailed age-comparative survey of skin condition.

Laser treatments are key to advancements in effective skin care, a therapy for which Dr. Apgar and her colleagues are specially trained. “What is scary are the spas without trained physicians, especially those using lasers,” Apgar cautions, highlighting the importance of professional staff skilled in equipment and procedures.

Pura Vida Medspa has continued to invest in cutting-edge technologies and laser treatments providing significant benefit and impressive results. A recent advancement in permanently eliminating chronic sweating using the non-surgical miraDry procedure is available and popular. An additional specialty is expertise in treating all skin colorations, a surprisingly unique capability that distinguishes Apgar’s facility and services.

Apgar continues to split her time with the hospital group, but dreams of expanding Pura Vida Medspa into a comprehensive holistic health center, allowing for the integration of a full complement of care.

The beauty of Dr. Apgar, a self-described “down-to-earth sweats-and-tee-shirt kind of gal,” is she’s likely to reach her goal.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


Groups support trans woman in lawsuit

gavel, law, court, gay news, Washington Blade

Several groups have asked the U.S. District Court for permission to file a “friend of the court” brief to support Finkle.

Last fall a lawsuit was filed against Howard County in federal court by Tomi B. Finkle, 59, a retired police sergeant, claiming discrimination based on her gender identity after she was rejected for a volunteer police mounted patrol position. According to the Baltimore Sun, six advocacy organizations have filed arguments in federal court on behalf of Finkle.

The American Civil Liberties Union, its Maryland chapter, the Free State Legal Project, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center have asked the U.S. District Court for permission to file a “friend of the court” brief to support Finkle.

The groups argue against the county’s motion to dismiss the suit stating case law supports Finkle’s claim of discrimination and she does not have to prove the county knew her transgender status, as county lawyers have argued. The county stated in court filings that Finkle cannot sue for job discrimination because a voluntary position is not employment.

Finkle expressed appreciation for the support of the groups but neither she nor her lawyer had requested it. No hearing date has been set in the case.


Anti-gay slurs used during Md. stabbing

Howard County, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Seal of Howard County, Md. (Image public domain)

The FreeState Legal Project expressed concern that an attack on a man in Ellicott City that allegedly included anti-gay slurs was not investigated as a hate crime. According to a report posted on, on April 21, a man was attacked and stabbed in the forearm in Ellicott City. The perpetrator allegedly “[used] slurs against homosexuals” during the attack. The assailant was charged with first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, but not with committing a hate crime.

In response to the incident, FreeState Legal Project sent a letter to the State’s Attorney’s Office requesting more information about the circumstances and the decision not to investigate it as a hate crime in spite of the alleged use of anti-gay slurs.

“Not every crime in which hate speech is used can properly be considered a hate crime, though use of such language constitutes strong evidence in such cases,” said Aaron Merki, FreeState Legal Project’s executive director. “We thought the incident in Ellicott City warranted further discussion to ensure that anti-LGBT bias isn’t going unnoticed.”

Sherry Llewellyn, spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department, told the Blade, “This was a case where intoxicated individuals were engaging in ‘trash talk,’ for lack of a better term, as the area bars were closing. In all of the back and forth name-calling, one of the slurs used was one that has connotations to homosexuality. However, there is absolutely no reference in the report to any of the parties involved being gay, or that anyone was actually specifically targeted for any reason. I’ve confirmed that information [on May 15] with the officers’ commander. The stabbing occurred when the exchange escalated to pushing and shoving and one of the parties had a knife and cut another subject on the arm.”

She added, “We take hate bias incidents and hate crimes very seriously in Howard County and, in fact, have a “multicultural liaison officer” assigned solely to address matters related to race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity, and to work with groups that care about those issues.”


PW’s to host drag benefit

Miss Anastacia Amor, drag, gay news, Washington Blade

Miss Anastacia Amor is heading to Miss Gay America. PW’s Sports Bar and Grill in Howard County is hosting a crab feast on Sept. 21 from 12-6 p.m. to help raise money so that Amor can travel and compete in the Miss Gay America contest to be held in St. Louis, from Oct. 9-13. (Photo by Steve Weiner Photography)

PW’s Sports Bar and Grill, Howard County’s only gay bar, will host a crab feast on Sept. 21 to benefit one of its favorite drag performers, Miss Anastacia Amor. The purpose is to raise money so that Amor can travel and compete in the Miss Gay America contest to be held in St. Louis, from Oct. 9-13.

“Miss Gay America is important to me because this is the system that has helped me grow as a person and entertainer, constantly striving to be a symbol of excellence,” Amor told the Blade.

The crab feast will take place from 12-6 p.m. Tables and tents will be set up outside to enjoy the festivities and there will be a DJ. PW’s is located at 9855 Washington Blvd. N., Laurel, Md.

For $35 in advance ($40 at the door), it will be an all-the-crabs-you-can-eat event plus all the draft beer you can drink. Tickets may be purchased at


Ulman to appear at Macfarlane fundraiser

Byron Macfarelane, Maryland, Howard County, gay news, Washington Blade

Byron Macfarlane taking the oath of office as Howard County’s Register of Wills on December 1, 2010. (Photo by Steve Charing)

Howard County Executive and 2014 candidate for Maryland Lieutenant Governor Ken Ulman will be the special guest at a fundraiser for the county’s Register of Wills, Byron Macfarlane, on Oct. 9. The event runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 7355 Hidden Cove in Columbia and will kick off Macfarlane’s 2014 reelection campaign.

In 2010 Macfarlane, 30, became the first openly gay candidate in Howard County to win a contested election. The Democrat edged out 24-year incumbent Republican Kay Hartleb in a close race. Macfarlane had outraised Hartleb by more than a 2 to 1 margin.

Ulman co-hosted a fundraiser with Macfarlane in 2012 at the Ellicott City home of Ulman’s parents in an effort to successfully win the ballot question on same-sex marriage.

Macfarlane’s first term was characterized by his determination to modernize the office of Register of Wills. “I’ve been committed to providing compassionate and professional service to the public, to enhancing this office’s use of technology and to being a visible and accessible advocate,” Macfarlane told the Blade. “We’ve accomplished a great deal these past three years but there’s more I plan to do in a second term.”

Requested donations for this fundraiser are as follows: Sponsor $100, Family $50 and Individual $30. RSVP on Facebook or at


PFLAG celebrates Black History Month

The former partner of Bayard Rustin said the gay civil rights leader would be happy with the arrival of marriage equality, but would have pushed for it in all 50 states. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The former partner of Bayard Rustin said the gay civil rights leader would be happy with the arrival of marriage equalitys. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

As part of its meeting on Feb. 12, PFLAG Columbia-Howard County will honor Black History Month by presenting the award-winning film Brother Outsider, which describes the life and work of Bayard Rustin.

Rustin was an activist and strategist who has been called “the unknown hero” of the civil rights movement. A tireless crusader for justice, a disciple of Gandhi, a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Rustin dared to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 19

40s, 1950s and 1960s.  The film reveals the price that he paid for this openness, chronicling both the triumphs and setbacks of his remarkable 60-year career.

The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD.  For more information, visit