Angel of Hope coming soon to Eldersburg

After over five years of planning and fundraising, Maryland's first Angel of Hope statue will be arriving in Eldersburg this fall.

The statue, which was ordered last week by Cindy Hughes, of the JOSH Foundation, will be placed in a garden near South Carroll Senior Center, off Mineral Hill Road, in Eldersburg.

"It took four years to get a piece of property," said Hughes. "It's a nice piece of land. We did a lot of work. We cleared the site out and did some grading."

Construction has also started, Hughes said, with two pillars and the angel's base completed. Hughes hopes to have the garden and statue in place in time for a dedication in November and to take part in the Dec. 6 national candle lighting.

"I'm excited it is coming to a completion," said Lisa Johnson, public relations representative for Angel of Hope and the Christmas Box Foundation. "Cindy has worked long and hard on this project."

With its upraised eyes and arms, the statue represents hope, according to Johnson, and was created in the pages of Richard Paul Evans' book, "The Christmas Box."

Its initial purpose, in the book, was to help a mother grieve the death of her child. The first real Angel of Hope statue was placed in a cemetery in Salt Lake City. When Evans donated another statue to Oklahoma for the children killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, requests started pouring in around the country for angel statues, Johnson said.

"So many people wanted to know how to get angels," Johnson said. "It was never intended to have any more, but the need for them was quite apparent."

Hughes learned about the angel statues after her son, Josh, died at the age of 21 in a car accident in 2003 in the Eldersburg area. She said she envisions the statue, and the garden where it will sit, as a place for her son's friends to come and grieve.

"My son was cremated," Hughes said. "It (the angel garden) is a real peaceful place, a nice place to have here in our community. I thought it was something that would be good for our community and our state."

The Angel of Hope garden at the senior center will also feature memorial ceramic tiles for families to buy, as well as benches.

Spearheaded by the JOSH (Joining Others Seeking Healing) Foundation, the project is looking for monetary donations or donations of services. The project has had a goal of raising $100,000 for site preparations and other expenses, and offers various levels of contributions and sponsorships.

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"It is a hard subject to talk about," Hughes said, about the death of a child. "Unfortunately, it is something a lot of families live with every day.

"The main thing is to let people know (the garden) is there," she said. "It is really something to be proud of."

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