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'Senior greeters' guide visitors in Berkeley

April 03, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - "Who's on first?" Abbott asked Costello in the classic joke. The same question might be asked about the growing maze of Berkeley County offices downtown.

Six offices, including the tax department, county administrator's office, ambulance authority and fire board have been moved over a two-year period.

A second circuit court has been added, the county sheriff's department has moved to the 800-block of South Queen Street and the probation office has been moved from Maple Avenue to the second floor of magistrate court on John Street.

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"You can appreciate how confusing this gets to people," said County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm.

That's where Allene Sullivan fits into the picture.

Sullivan is one of about six volunteers who are stationed at the Berkeley County Courthouse to help people make their way through the complex of offices.

Sullivan and the other "senior greeters" take turns at an information desk inside the front door of the Berkeley County Court Annex at 110 W. King St. From there they direct confused visitors to any number of offices spread out through four office buildings in the 100 block of West King Street.

Sheetenhelm said she saw how "greeters" welcome people at Wal-Mart stores and figured the idea would work in the courthouse. Wal-Mart typically stations greeters just inside the front doors of its stores to assist customers.

Sheetenhelm placed a newspaper ad to find volunteers, and those who responded were given an orientation tour of the county offices.

Many of the changes have arisen from the need for more space as the county grows, according to Sheetenhelm. Some offices moved from 119 W. King St. across the street to the former One Valley Bank building at 110 W. King St., which was recently acquired by the county.

Other county offices then moved into the vacated offices, she said.

The Berkeley County Ambulance Authority and Berkeley County Fire Board, which had separate offices, are now jointly located at 110 W. King St. to make it more covenient for people to pay their bills at the two agencies, Sheetenhelm said.

"People seemed to be lost. They were just milling around and not knowing what to do," said Sullivan.

Sullivan figures she knows a "good bit" about Martinsburg. Her late husband, Charles E. Sullivan, was the first police chief in the city, and she served as his secretary.

Sullivan said one reason she decided to become a senior greeter was because she missed working with the courthouse crowd.

"I just like to see people and talk to them. Since my husband's gone, it gets a little lonely," said Sullivan.

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