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Women draft donors to raise flag at Hospice of Washington Co.

November 12, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- As the American flag was hoisted and unfurled against a clear blue sky, it seemed fitting that the new flagpole in front of the Hospice of Washington County building was being dedicated on Veterans Day.

The flagpole represents an almost yearlong project that began as a brainchild of Janelle Witmer. Witmer and her mother, Jean Witmer, sought the help of Hospice of Washington County following the death of Josephine Gerber, Jean's mother.

Gerber died in July 2007, just one month after being diagnosed with cancer. Hospice counseled the two women through the grieving process.

"Hospice helped us so much to get over the death of my mom last year," Jean Witmer said. "Janelle said she wanted to give something back."

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Janelle remembered that Woodmen of the World donated flagpoles and American flags to deserving organizations. The Witmers, who live in Hagerstown, got in touch with Anthony Jurik, Woodmen state manager, who helped coordinate the effort.

A month later, the flagpole arrived at the Hospice office on Northern Avenue, courtesy of Woodmen of the World Lodge 1 in Hagerstown, where it sat for several months before permits could be secured.

The next roadblock was the installation cost. Jesse Witmer, Jean's husband, called several colleagues, and in no time, the project was back on track.

Leroy Myers donated the time, manpower and equipment to install the flagpole; Schuster Concrete provided the concrete; and Kenny Churchey at Volvo Powertrain North America, formerly Mack Trucks, manufactured the metal bracket supporting the plaque.

"It was wonderful the way it all came together," Jean Witmer said.

Jean Witmer initially hoped to be able to dedicate the flagpole on Sept. 11, but delays prevented that from happening. Instead, she was pleased to save the dedication for Tuesday to honor both victims of Sept. 11 and veterans.

"We were very pleased when the Witmer family chose to advocate for us to receive the gift of a flagpole," said Kathy Boyd-Mansfield, director of bereavement, spiritual and social services at Hospice of Washington County. "We are absolutely thrilled to have a new flag out front."

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