Our Town - Citicorp project analyst helps wrap up Christmas

December 06, 2004|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Joanne "Jo" Berdine

Age - 35.

Occupation - Project analyst at Citicorp.

Hometown - High Wycombe, England (between London and Oxford); moved to Hagerstown 15 years ago and now lives in Falling Waters, W.Va.

Where would you see Berdine? - Since 1996, Citicorp employees have been helping with the Caring Hands Gift Wrap at Valley Mall. Berdine has been coordinating those volunteers since 2000.


This is the 13th year area volunteers have wrapped gifts to benefit the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Last year, participants included 27 businesses, 19 service organizations, 10 schools, eight churches and some individuals.

Gifts are wrapped for donations and the proceeds benefit the Red Cross' Disaster Relief Fund, which amounted to more than $17,000 in 2003.

Gift wrappers began wrapping at the mall on Nov. 20 and will continue through Dec. 24. There will be two stations set up this year - in front of The Bon-Ton and in front of Old Navy.

Berdine said 150 to 170 Citicorp employees sign up to help with the gift wrapping and sometimes she has to turn volunteers away. The Citicorp wrappers cover two weekends from Friday evening through Sunday - more than 400 man-hours.

"It sells itself," Berdine said. "It's a really warm atmosphere and you get to meet a lot of new people."

She added that some Citicorp work teams use the activity for team-building and Berdine said she uses it as a way to kick off the holidays.

"If you can send someone away with a smile who was stressed from Christmas shopping - and it's for a good cause," Berdine said.

As one of 20 members of Citicorp's Community Involvement Team, Berdine helps with many of the 25 community service events that Citicorp participates in throughout the course of the year.

"I was raised to give back," Berdine said.

She adds that the event is very organized and that the American Red Cross supplies everything, from wrapping paper to tape measures. Last year, they used 18,000 bows, more than 1 million square feet of wrapping paper, 15,000 sheets of tissue paper, 20,000 gift tags and 400 gift bags.

"We have fun and do so much good for the community. It's a win-win situation," Berdine said.

Berdine and her husband, Kevin, have two daughters, Emily, 5, and Kassidy, 3. It was his job in the military that brought them to the United States. Kevin Berdine now works for Citicorp.

Hobbies - Jo Berdine likes to read, do crafts and sew. One of her holiday traditions is to make her daughters' Christmas dresses. She also makes their Halloween costumes. This year, Kassidy was Dora the Explorer and Emily was outfitted in '50s attire, including a poodle skirt.

What does Berdine like best about Washington County? - She enjoys the beautiful countryside and the variety of things to see. "Just to drive around is fun," Berdine said.

"It's somewhat rural, but there's still a certain amount of cultural aspects of city life," she said.

Berdine said the area reminds her of where she lived in England - close enough to the city to enjoy it without living in the city. "I'm not a big city person," she said.

If you're interested in volunteering for Caring Hands Gift Wrap, call Donna Scotti at 301-739-0717. Shift times are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 to 6 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Wrappers for the daytime shifts are especially needed.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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