Back to the Site and the Blog

Has it been four years? Impossible? Four years since I gave birth to Silver Pen Ken and decided to stop all that import/export consulting stuff. So, what happened? I haven’t been able to turn down requests from a few old clients. In the meantime, however, I’ve learned a great deal about writing (not as easy as you would think) and done a lot of it. Now, in August, 2020, I’m ready to take writing more seriously and possibly get some pieces published. I will have help from the Gaithersburg Creative Writer’s Group, the Maryland Writers Association, and The Writer’s Center. They are excellent organizations. Am I now an excellent writer? We will soon see.


He Had To Vote

He Had To Vote

SilverPenKen, 11/11/16

My phone rang early on Election Day. Jan said her husband was in the hospital. He had a stroke, but he wanted to vote. “Was there any way he could do it,” she asked. I didn’t think so but said she could run to our polling place and talk with the Chief Judge.

Late that afternoon Jan and her husband walked in, very slowly. Al was limping badly, his face motionless. Fortunately, the polling place was not crowded.

Jan watched him check in and receive his voter card. She let him talk for himself.  It took several minutes. When they came toward me to get his ballot privacy sleeve, Al offered his left hand to shake and asked how I was doing. He gave no sign of self-pity.

Another judge guided him to a voting booth where he could sit down, and Jan and I waited for what seemed a very long time. Finally, he stood up, bracing himself on a table, and we all walked very slowly toward the scanner. He inserted a page of his ballot, and the machine rejected it. It showed a message – something like “extraneous marks.” Jan was about to ask him to complete another ballot when the Chief Judge suggested he try putting it in another way.  The scanners in our county accept ballots either side up and in either direction.

Cries of “First Time Voter” rang out for a young man as Al turned his ballot around and tried again. The machine was merciful. It accepted the page and also accepted Page 2.

As a student helper gave Al an “I voted” sticker, his wife told us he had just been dismissed from the hospital and she was driving him to another location for intensive rehabilitation. He had asked her to stop on the way so he could vote.

In most U.S. presidential elections, just over half of the people of voting age actually cast ballots, and this man struggled to cast his as he was transferring between medical facilities. What a great example of doing one’s civic duty!

Veterans’ Health Matters

Veterans’ Health Matters

Kenneth D. Weiss, 9/20/16

Bang! Bang! The hammers rained on the wall behind the podium.

Health services for veterans were much in the news in recent years. The Veterans Administration was criticized for long delays and inadequate treatment, especially for mental health issues. Sparks flew. Officials were replaced.

At the same time, there was political activity to get approval for a new Veterans Affairs health clinic in Montgomery County, Maryland. Such a clinic would lessen the load on existing centers and reduce travel time for veterans, of whom there are about 44,000 in the county. After eight years of effort led by Congressman Chris Van Hollen and others, an 11,600 square foot facility is moving forward and should be open by December, 2017. The clinic will be housed in an existing building at 15810 Gaither Drive near Gaithersburg, Maryland.

A patient entering the building will step into an examination room, and the nurses and doctors will go to him or her. Other rooms will be dedicated to hearing, vision, and mental health. There will be a laboratory, a pharmacy, and a telemedicine facility for consultation with specialists.

A ceremony was held on September 19th to mark the beginning of construction.  Michael Subin of the Montgomery County Council served as Master of Ceremonies and speakers included Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, and veterans’ affairs staff members of the federal, state and county governments.

Brian Hawkins, Director of the VA Medical Center in Washington D.C., told of a female veteran whose suicide might have been prevented by a better prepared VA clinic. Senator Ben Cardin explained that the new facility would make it much easier for the people who protect us, in these dangerous times, to obtain health care. Congressman Van Hollen praised Montgomery County for housing the National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement and being a leader in eliminating homelessness among veterans.

U.S. Senator John Sarbanes stated that only a quarter of the 44,000 veterans in Montgomery County used VA medical services and thought the new center would increase this number. It will never reach one hundred percent because some veterans have other health care options and some don’t want to crowd out those who might need the help more.

Joseph A. Williams, Acting Director of the Veterans Integrated Service network in the area, said there was an obligation to make health care convenient for former members of the armed services. George W. Owings III, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, introduced people in charge of veterans’ cemeteries, a veterans home, the Departments of Services and Benefits and of Outreach and the Veterans Trust Fund. He asked how many people in the audience had served in the military. About half raised their hands.

Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett spoke next. He said the new health center would be a proper way to thank veterans for their valuable service. Then he provided some levity by complaining that, while one speaker’s Navy connection was printed on the official program, his Army connection was not. This led to a lively round of Army/Navy comments.

Dan Bullis, Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs and Deputy Director of Walter Reed Army Hospital, applauded plans for the new center to deal effectively with mental health issues. Then an award was presented to Mr. Leggett, who accepted it on behalf of all veterans.

As a grand finale, the assembled dignitaries donned hard hats and goggles, raised hammers, and pounded holes in a wall to start converting the building from its prior use to its future use. When the work is completed, in fifteen months or less, veterans in the surrounding area will find it much easier to obtain the kinds and quality of health care they need and deserve.vets-clinic-sept-19-013

Gaithersburg Creative Writers

American Flags and More

Kenneth D. Weiss, July 2016

 American flags! Have you seen the display of hundreds on the lawn at Bohrer Park for Memorial Day Weekend? The Rotary clubs of Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village place them there every year. The flags are sponsored by individuals and organizations to honor their heroes, and the money raised funds Rotary service activities.

A few months ago, Reyna Avila was a senior in Gaithersburg High School. She applied for a Rotary scholarship, was interviewed, and was awarded $2,000 toward tuition at a university of her choice. Most Rotary clubs have scholarship programs, and so do the Rotary districts and Rotary International. There are also Rotary Peace Fellowships at universities in the USA and in five other countries.

Many people in our area need help including food and transportation to medical appointments. Gaithersburg Help and Nourish Now are two of the local organizations that receive assistance from Rotary clubs, and Rotarians hold key positions in both of them.

In December, a Rotary “Santa” will visit the Wilson Health Care Center of Asbury Methodist Village and offer gifts of large Navel oranges. Every year for too many years to count, Rotarians have visited that building and have led in singing holiday songs in the Kindley Assisted Living Building.

A few months ago, flood waters covered a significant part of West Virginia. A Rotary program named Disaster Aid USA provided emergency shelters and other equipment for families that were left homeless. Clubs in our area contributed money to Disaster Aid to help ease the suffering from losing homes and possessions.

Also, Rotary clubs and their foundations participate in service projects overseas.  The Gaithersburg Rotary Foundation recently gave funds to the Mpambara-Cox Foundation to help finance school gardens in Uganda. These are vital for teaching children about agriculture and providing vegetables for their school lunches. Where no lunches are provided, some children have to go without and others go home to eat. Those who go home often do not return because the distance is too large and they lack transportation. The Mpambara-Cox Foundation is headquartered in northern Uganda and in Derwood, Maryland.

The Rotary Club of Gaithersburg was founded in Olde Towne in 1966 and meets for lunch in the Holiday Inn on Montgomery Village Avenue.  It participated in forming a similar club in Montgomery Village, which meets for breakfast on Wednesdays.

Linda Hanson, Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club of Gaithersburg, said “Rotary is a wonderful organization. It provides networking, enjoyment, self development, and opportunities to be of service both AT HOME and overseas.” Archie Avedesian, who has been a Rotarian for the past 50 years, said “There is simply no other organization that does so much good in so many parts of the world.”

Rotary clubs worldwide belong to districts, districts to zones and zones to Rotary International, whose headquarters is in Evanston, Illinois. It oversees more than 3.2 million Rotarians in some 23,000 clubs in 133 countries. There are few parts of the world that have not been touched by this organization.

Rotary, now more than 100 years old, has a seat in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Its main focus for the past 30 years has been on eliminating polio from the earth. With cooperation by Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Government and the United Nations, this goal is near and could be met this year. In addition, the Rotary Foundation funds projects in six areas of activity: (1) Peace and conflict prevention/resolution, (2) Disease prevention and treatment, (3) Water and sanitation, (4) Maternal and child health, (5) Basic education and literacy and (6) Economic and community development.

There is A GREAT DEAL OF information about Rotary on the Internet at (a local club), (the district to which that club belongs) and, the international headquarters in Illinois. Rotary clubs welcome visitors to their meetings and other events.