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& WYNONNA’S WINTER WONDERLAND Country star to bring The Big Noise to Bethesda Blues and Jazz. B-5 The Gazette NORTHERN MONTGOMERY COUNT Y DAILY UPDATES ONLINE Wednesday, December 18, 2013 25 cents Founder could lose group home — and her own Sandy Spring homes to be sold n BY SYLVIA CARIGNAN STAFF WRITER DAN GROSS/THE GAZETTE Anura Arachchilage (center) and his wife, Yamuna (left), get help from lead navigator Sue Mathews in the Rockville office set up to help people work their way through the process of signing up on the state’s insurance exchange to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. A single candle burns in each window of Hattie Washington’s empty Sandy Spring house. “It says I still have faith ... that somebody will save us,” she said. Washington is the founder of Aunt Hattie’s Place, a group home program that once housed disadvantaged boys in Sandy Spring. A group home is a residence with staff who provide care and services to people in specific age groups, with specific needs. The Sandy Spring Residents turn to county navigators to help sign up for health insurance to comply with Affordable Care Act BY MARGIE HYSLOP F SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE riday the 13th was a good day for Paula Kahla of Sandy Spring. Since Maryland’s online health exchange opened Oct. 1, the self-employed real estate agent already had made three trips to Rockville for help finding affordable health insurance, and had made daily attempts to sign on. Until Friday, “all the other See GLITCHES, Page A-17 Advocates for ‘ex-gays’ allege discrimination for being excluded BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH STAFF WRITER WAYS TO SIGN UP times the system was frozen” or couldn’t verify her username and password, Kahla said. Friday Kahla arrived at the county health center in Rockville at 9:50 a.m. and by 1 p.m. she had found and selected a plan. It will cost her $430 per month — far less than the $985 per month that she has been paying for a plan that covers her pre-existing degenerative disk disease, high blood pressure and See HOME, Page A-12 Nonprofit seeks federal probe of school system n n location served up to eight boys at a time, up to age 18. The boys who came to her were often victims of abuse or neglect, and many had been moved from group homes to foster homes and back within the span of months. The specific locations where the boys were moved are not released, Washington said. The child care program at the Sandy Spring location was suspended this summer after the state’s Department of Human Resources denied the group home a renewal of its contract. Washington and the organization’s pro bono lawyer, Emily Vaias of Linowes and Blocher, made multiple appeals to the state, but they There are three ways to sign up: 1. Go to and complete the online enrollment process. 2. Call the Maryland Health Connection at 1-855-642-8572 (toll free) or 1-855-642-8573 (TTY) and sign up over the phone. 3. Meet in-person with a navigator to complete enrollment. Visit for a list of sign-up locations and times available. Upcoming sign-up events: n 10 a.m. Saturday: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Event, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, 8818 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring. n 10 a.m. Saturday: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Event, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, 12900 Middlebrook Road, second floor, Germantown. A Virginia nonprofit advocating for “ex-gays” has filed a discrimination complaint with the federal departments of Justice and Education against Montgomery County. The group — called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, or PFOX — contends that Starr made denigrating comments at a public meeting that hurt students. The group also said county public schools stopped a flier distribution program in middle and high schools, denying them access to students in a move reminiscent of the “1950’s Jim Crow South.” Montgomery County officials have declined to discuss the details of the case, saying they don’t comment on pending litigation. However, school district spokesman Dana Tofig said in an email that the county still lets fliers be distributed under the newest policy, even if the superintendent objects to the message. PFOX bills itself as a group that advocates for “ex-gays,” or people who change their sexual orientation, something gay and lesbian advocates say is essentially impossible. According to PFOX’s complaint, the group distributed fliers about its mission to Montgomery County public high school students for the last five years, complying with See NONPROFIT, Page A-12 Kentlands man goes high-tech with seasonal show Hourlong show features more than10,000 lights n BY JENN DAVIS STAFF WRITER After being mesmerized by Christmas light shows at Disney World, Mikel Draghici wanted to re-create the magic at his own home. The Kentlands resident is currently hosting his second annual “Draghici’s Christmas,” which includes an hour-long holiday light show that is synchronized to a festive mix of music. From Dec. 1-24, more than 10,000 lights dance across the front of Draghici’s home as holiday and occasional rock music play on a speaker that sits outside. The music is also broadcast on the FM radio station 89.9 so that viewers can enjoy the show from inside their vehicles. The show runs from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night at 202 Little Quarry Road. Draghici hosted his first light show December 2011, when he created his first controller board that holds the electric circuitry for the lights. A computer inside of the home sends commands to the controller board that, in turn, triggers the lights. While he’s now more easily able to build the controller boards, Draghici admitted the project involved a steep learning curve. “Thank God for Google,” Draghici said, adding that he learned a lot from a group called “Do It Yourself Christmas.” “I had to make the boards, learn what to buy, how to buy it, from who to buy it.” Draghici said his new challenge is figuring out how to make the materials and new additions to the project blend in with his home. “I want to make this unobtrusive as possible,” he said. “I don’t want people to think this house will light up the sky.” The project required a lot of Draghici’s time, and he said SPORTS POISED FOR SUCCESS After several winless seasons, Blake’s ice hockey team is on the rise. B-1 ALL-GAZETTE FOOTBALL HONORS See SHOW, Page A-12 Automotive Business Calendar Celebrations Classified Entertainment Opinion School News Sports Please B-2 TOM FEDOR/THE GAZETTE Mikel Draghici’s Little Quarry Road home in the Kentlands in Gaithersburg offers a Christmas light show synchronized to music. B-15 A-13 A-2 A-15 B-11 B-5 A-16 A-14 B-1 RECYCLE Check out our Services Directory ADVERTISING INSIDE B SECTION 1906212

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