Olney is buzzing for teen-friendly community
July 3, 2001
Terri Hogan
Staff Writer

What's the buzz in Olney?

The buzz is to help area teens create safe programs and places, making the community more teen friendly.

For the past three years, Project Change has aimed to do just that, with a major goal being to create a "safe haven" for local teens, a physical structure where they can gather and have fun.

Although the group has hosted several very successful activities, it has yet to secure a place for teen-agers to gather. Some of the group's founding members remain very active, even though they have since graduated from high school and will not benefit directly from the group's future accomplishments.

Ellen Lent, a licensed psychologist living in Olney, decided it was time to take Project Change to the next level, and created Olney Buzz.

"I created the Olney Buzz not as an organization, but as a way to remember Claude (Buzz) Ferebee III, a Montgomery County police officer and Assistant Scoutmaster of Olney Boy Scout Troop 433, who died in a motorcycle accident last year," Lent said. "The Olney Buzz inspires us to live the values that Buzz portrayed so generously with young people: caring, respect and safety."

Lent said she does not want to impose on Project Change and the work it has done, but instead wants to create a bigger umbrella for adults and teens to work together to share ideas and solve problems.

"For instance, the Ross Boddy Homework Club is a very successful program already in place," she said, referring to Sherwood High School students who mentor elementary students after school. "These teens keep working month after month to make our community stronger through focusing on the future. These kids have opinions and goals also, and they should be heard."

Lent said she hopes to bring those and other teen groups together under one organization to accomplish the goal of finding a dedicated, central place to be together.

She wants to help the teens move forward to help their friends avoid destructive choices through positive activity in the community.

Why the Buzz?

In March, Lent read a Gazette article about an "epidemic" of teen drug and alcohol abuse in the Olney area and reacted to an appeal from Sherwood High School Principal James Fish for adults in the community to come forward to help combat the escalating problem.

She then learned of several incidents this spring in which teens were loitering in commercial areas -- where they often are seen as a nuisance by store owners -- and were asked to leave.

Lent also said that incidents involving threatening e-mails to Fish and bomb threats at both Farquhar Middle School and Blake High School inspired her to offer a clearinghouse for students and adults to think and act together for the safety and enjoyment of all members of the greater Olney community.

Many area organizations and individuals have offered their support by participating in Olney Buzz planning meetings. Principals and teachers, students and recent graduates from area schools joined representatives of the Olney Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery General Hospital, Greater Olney Civic Association and others who have offered their support.

Lent added that Paula Kahla, owner of Paula's Boutique and president of the Olney Chamber of Commerce, offered financial support to assist in the planning of the retreat. She also permitted information on the retreat to be disseminated to all chamber members via the chamber's "flash fax" program. A one-page "newsletter" is faxed to members each week, keeping them abreast of activities in the community.

Lent said there have been many other major supporters, including Montgomery General, which offered meeting space. Mike Kelley, the GOCA liaison to Project Change, and Bruce and Debbie McIndoe, organizers of the upcoming MusicFest 2001, also have been instrumental in getting the program off the ground, she said.

"We really appreciate the strength that everyone brings to the planning efforts," Lent said. "It creates a very powerful synergy."

The retreat

All high school-aged teens and supportive adults are invited to gather July 15 to move forward in their commitment to a teen-friendly, safe, vibrant Olney.

The retreat will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Smith Environmental Education Center, 5110 Meadowside Lane, located just off of Muncaster Mill Road in Derwood.

The day's activities will include brainstorming sessions, live music, videos, and a light breakfast and lunch.

The videos were produced by teens who set up video cameras outside B.J. Pumpernickel's over the weekend to interview other teens about their experiences in Olney and what changes they would like to see.

Lent said she is expecting 100 people to attend.

"I hope that this will be the first of a series of Olney Buzz retreats to transform Olney into a place where teens can make positive choices," Lent said.

To RSVP to the retreat, contact Ellen Lent at 301-774-6575 or e-mail her at ellenl@wam.umd.edu. To make a monetary donation, send a check payable to Project Change to P.O. Box 146, Olney, Md. 20830.