Maryland professionals weather rough winter

An homage to the men and women who work outside.

Cpl. Max Schulte, of the Department of Natural Resources Police force, spent part of this winter on a boat checking commercial fishery nets in water with partially frozen shorelines.

He wears an outer coat, thermal underwear, wool socks, wool pants, and a wool shirt under his uniform. Add two more outerwear layers, vortex pants, a life jacket, fingerless wool mittens, wind goggles and a wool-lined cap pulled down over his ears, and he’s ready for patrol.

But “it doesn’t matter how warm you dress you’re only good for so many hours,” Schulte said. He said he can patrol for about five hours on a good day.

Schulte is one of the brave Marylanders whose jobs keep them outside in the worst winter the state has seen in the last four years.  On Monday, the temperature of the Chesapeake Bay dropped to 36 degrees, ahead of a forecasted -2 wind-chill.

In January, frozen fire hydrants hampered Baltimore firefighters who attempted to quell a three-alarm mansion fire in Roland Park.

Schulte too knows about how freezing can make a rescue all the more harrowing.

“When it gets this cold you have to watch what you’re doing,” Schulte said.  If you go overboard here you have about 15 minutes to get out. …  [Otherwise] you better be on good terms with the man upstairs.” 

It was Dec. 27, 2011, Schulte recalls. There was 2-3 inches of ice on the ground and two duck hunters and their dog stuck on small Jon Boat off of Rocky Point beach in Baltimore County.

“They tried to turn around and come in and started taking on water,” Schulte said.  “We were battling 3 and 4 foot seas and gusts in the 40s.”

He was with Ofc. Ben Lillard who first noticed the engine intake valves to their rescue craft began clogging with ice and overheating.

“He said 'what’s plan B?' I said I haven’t figured out yet,” Schulte said.

The officers reached the stranded hunters and their pup and were able to  bring them safety without injury.

“That was one of the most tense moments that I’ve had out here in the wintertime,” Schulte said. “My patrol boat looked like 30 foot ice cube when I got back.”

Schulte spent 26 years with the Maryland State Police before joining the Natural Resource Police where he has spent the last 17 years.

After 43 years in law enforcement, he calls his current position his “retirement fun job.” He looks forward to the warm months summer when he can see people enjoying the water and the outdoor activities he patrols to protect.

“I’ve been a hunter and fisherman and been around boats my whole life. I’m dealing with people who enjoy doing what I like to do,” Schulte said. “When I see the young people out here enjoying the shooting sports I get excited about that.”

Back on dry land, it’s Linda Kennard who keeps the young people safe as a crossing guard of 29 years. The 64-year-old Kennard ushers children across the intersections of York Road and Stevenson Lane and Stevenson at Lanark Road, near Dumbarton Elementary School.

“I’m the matriarch of the neighborhood,” Kennard said proudly.

 In her near 30 years at the corners, she’s been hit by cars three times.

“Back then we didn’t have stop signs,” she said. “You just had your white gloves and fluorescent hands.”

Her knee is still a little “messed up,” she said, and she suffered more than her fair share of bumps to the head and yet every day that school is in session, she’s there at the intersection.

“It makes me very warm and it makes me feel super special,” she said. “I’m crossing some of the children’s children. It goes way beyond. I love in Rodgers Forge.”

This winter has brought Kennard more snow days than the last three years combined. But when the temperature drops and still the little ones are walking home from school, “it’s a lot worse,” she said. “It’s unbearable to say the list.”

On gray winter days, drivers can see Kennard clad in her highlighter fluorescent yellow overcoat and her red stop sign, which she was just issued 15 years ago.  

But at least she isn’t lonely. Just two blocks down York Road her husband Gordan helps the students cross the street at St. Pius X School.

“We keep it in the family,” Kennard said.  

Both Schulte and Kennard have to rely on layers to keep warm and do their jobs, while the job of the Java Divas is to keep people warm—while wearing considerably fewer layers.

They are the “baristas in bikinis” of Anne Arundel County, and if you thought weathering yet another round of snow was difficult on your day-to-day, imagine doing it in a two-piece swimsuit… in February.

“We have the sweetest girls working for us,” Brandy McMillion, the owner of Java Divas , said. “They are fun and slightly sexy but never offensive.”

The idea of scantily clad baristas is not a new concept out west, although McMillion does own the only two locations in Maryland.

“We get people hooked in the winter and they come all year-round,” she said.  “We hit it big in the summer.”

Java Divas’ two locations are a drive-thru and walk-up mobile coffee house, both on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park and Pasadena.

And while they’re not

rescuing stranded boaters or helping children cross the road, they do provide the invaluable service of a morning coffee with a smile.

“They want to know how your day is going and they want to brighten it up,” McMillion said.

Although, new employees are (were) required to stand outside holding a road sign along Ritchie Highway, again, wearing the costume of the day.

“We were told there were three accidents within a mile of us. … the cops showed up,” McMillion said of the businesses’ early days.  

The costume-coffee shop will be 4 years old in November. McMillion, who is also a part-time nurse, launched the business after her husband was laid off.

The employees change outfits depending on the day, ranging from “women in uniform” to the ubiquitous “beach day,” which in freezing weather makes standing on a metal mobile coffee truck floor unpleasant to say the least.

The most layers the women wear are thick boats and Under Armour brand wool socks. Although a regular customer did donate a strip of padding and a carpet to help the baristas weather this winter.

“This guy was kind enough to lend us that,” McMillion said.  

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