Deputies trade cruisers for carts in Berkeley County

December 16, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Sgt. Gary Harmison leaned over to Deputy Scott Myers, showed him a piece of paper and asked what in the world Yu-Gi-Oh cards are.

Myers shrugged his shoulders, as bewildered as his fellow officer.

A visitor finally told the deputies that Yu-Gi-Oh is a video game character and the collectible cards are similar to baseball cards. Armed with that knowledge, both men nodded, grabbed their shopping carts and fanned out into the Martinsburg Kmart store.

Harmison and Myers were officers with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department who shopped Wednesday evening for children in the community who need toys and clothes for Christmas.


Deputies have been shopping for needy local families since the 1970s, Cpl. Ted Snyder said. After the county chapter of the West Virginia Deputy Sheriff's Association was formed in 1982, members of the Association have shopped annually.

Although years ago deputies would "adopt" a family they met while on patrol, many families now are referrals from other community agencies, such as the local children's shelter and the West Virginia Youth Advocate program, said Snyder, president of the deputy sheriff's association.

This year, $2,500 to $3,000 will be spent on approximately 30 children, ranging in age from 5 months old to an 18-year-old who is mentally handicapped.

All of the money is raised by the Deputy Sheriff's Association. Once all of the gifts are purchased, they will be wrapped and delivered to the families.

Myers, who became a deputy after working for years as a salesman for a local oil company, shopped for three children - an 11-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy and the 18-year-old.

"I see people every single day that need this kind of stuff," said Myers, who has been shopping for families for three years. "It just makes you feel good."

Myers headed first to the bicycle section and was pleased to find 20-inch bicycles priced at less than $45. He bought a purple one for the girl and a red one for the boy.

Although he doesn't shop often - he solicited help from his wife and two store employees while trying to find children's coats - he can stretch a dollar.

He bought each child a small handheld CD player. Priced at $17.99, they later rang up on sale for $9.99.

Kmart helps by eliminating all sales tax.

Myers picked up a two-pack of Barbie dolls, then made his way to the store's clothing department, stopping en route to buy each child a pair of shoes.

The boy will get a black and gray pair; the girl's are white and pink. Myers was especially pleased to see the store was having a sale - he bought one pair of shoes at regular price and got the second pair for half price.

Then it was on to the coats.

"You try to find them a coat that's not geeky-looking," Myers said.

He quickly found a pastel purple girls coat (40 percent off) and complemented it with a matching hat and glove set.

Buying a coat for the boy was another matter.

There was only one coat in the entire store and stockroom - a store employee checked - that was size 10/12. It was a plain navy blue jacket with gray fleece lining.

Myers wasn't sure it was "cool" enough to pass muster, but finally, with no other choice, added it to the growing pile of items in his cart. He also bought two shirts for the boy, including a hooded sweatshirt.

The girl asked for makeup and jewelry, but Myers bypassed those departments.

"We don't get them everything. We try to," he said.

Although Myers was supposed to shop for the 18-year-old mentally handicapped man, he found himself pressed for time. It was nearly 6 p.m. and he needed to be in the northern end of the county soon for a drug bust.

He made sure someone else would buy the items the young man requested.

For Myers, part of the appeal of shopping for local families is knowing the children will have presents to unwrap on Christmas morning.

"That's what it's all about," he said.

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