K-9 work nabs honor for owner

April 24, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

Editor's note: The West Virginia Women's Commission recently named 12 Women of the Year in the state. Two were from the Eastern Panhandle. Kim Sencindiver of Berkeley County is the focus of today's story. Leetown, W.Va., potter Pam Parziale was featured on Monday.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - From offering free first-aid and CPR courses in the community to helping police track down evidence in homicide cases, Kim Sencindiver is always there to help.

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Thanks to that willingness to give her time, she was recently named West Virginia's Woman of the Year for volunteer work by the West Virginia Women's Commission.

The Berkeley County resident said she has always been drawn to volunteer work because she considers it a tradition in this country.


It seems too may people these days want to be paid for everything they do, she said.

"I think there are so many opportunities for people to help their neighbors," Sencindiver said. "I think we are really losing that American spirit."

A registered nurse, Sencindiver's full-time job is safety, health and environmental manager at DuPont's Potomac River Works plant in Falling Waters, W.Va.

When she puts on her volunteer hat, Sencindiver helps run the EVAK K-9 Search and Rescue Team, a volunteer dog team that helps police departments and other agencies conduct searches for individuals and evidence.

When the bodies of three women were found in the Eastern Panhandle within four months last summer, EVAK was called to search for evidence at the crime scenes, Sencindiver said.

In July, one of the police dogs from EVAK was used to search for evidence relating to the death of Kimberly Dawn Alexander, whose body was found in a field along U.S. 340 near Cave Road.

Alexander was an employee at a Wendy's restaurant in Winchester, Va., and the EVAK team was able to find one of her work shirts about 1,000 from where the body was found, Sencindiver said.

"I don't know if any animal dragged it off or not. It was back in the trees. They would have never found it without the dogs," she said.

Three years ago, Sencindiver and her German Shepherd, Ikar, were asked to help find a man who had drowned in the Shenandoah River in Jefferson County.

Sencindiver and Ikar set out in a boat near Bloomery after rescuers were unsuccessful in finding John Shirley, Sencindiver said. Within 15 minutes, Ikar "hit" on Shirley's scent in the middle of the river.

"He had such a hard hit that he came out of the boat and went into the water. I said, 'That body has to be right here,''' Sencindiver said.

Although the West Virginia State Police detachment in Martinsburg has a police dog, there is not one in Jefferson County. The dogs are helpful in locating pieces of evidence to help investigators piece together a crime, said Sgt. S.E. Paugh, who works in the Jefferson County detachment.

"We call on them frequently," Paugh said. "They are always ready to assist."

Sencindiver's K-9 work is just part of her volunteering. Her nomination contains a long list of good deeds: She has offered search-and-rescue classes to local fire and rescue personnel, volunteers at local Humane Society offices and other animal welfare groups, helped the Berkeley County detachment of the state police establish a police dog unit and developed a nine-step program for children to help them learn what to do if they become lost in the woods.

The 35-year-old, who is also a decorated officer in the Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, said he likes heaping all the work on herself because it is challenging and exciting.

"That's how I got involved with John Unger. That was a heck of challenge," said Sencindiver.

Sencindiver works as a field director for the state senator, handling phone calls while Unger, D-Berkeley, is working in the Legislature and following up on concerns of constituents.

Sencindiver, a longtime freind of the senator, said Unger approached her about helping to manage his campaign when he ran for office in 1998. Sencindiver said she was nervous about taking over such a job, mainly because she had never been involved in politics.

"The more I got into it, the more fun it got," she said.

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