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Deputies play Santa's helpers

December 11, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT - At the North Pole, Santa Claus wears a red suit, black belt and boots, and is fat and jolly. But in Williamsport, the garb is a little different - blue uniforms, badges and walkie-talkies.

Washington County Sheriff's Deputies 1st Class Carl Witmer and Jason Willison say they are just helping Santa out by making sure that deserving youngsters get to enjoy Christmas this year.

Witmer and Willison, resident deputies for the historic town along the banks of the Potomac River, are looking forward to a mid-December shopping trip with two Williamsport children who were identified as needing a little help during this festive season.

"The program is called Shop with a Cop," Witmer said.

Early in the process, Witmer and Willison began canvassing businesses in Williamsport seeking financial support for the endeavor.

Businesses that donated this year were Leiter's Fine Catering, Dave and Teri Leiter; Mason-Dixon Fire Equipment, Kevin Greenlee; Murray's Service Center, Jack and Phil Murray; Osborne Funeral Home, Craig, Brandy and Major Osborne; Tony's Pizza, Jim Horn and employees; and Willison Electric, Witmer said.

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Tony's Pizza is also providing a free meal for the deputies and the children on their shopping day, Witmer said.

Each firm received a thank-you note from the deputies for their contributions.

"We got more than $400," Witmer said.

The deputies will let the child shop for family, friends, teachers and themselves, but part of the money must go for a good winter coat for the child, Witmer said.

There also will be attention as to whether the purchase is age-appropriate, he said. "Two years ago, one child got things for his family first, not for himself."

Both Witmer and Willison are fathers who are very enthusiastic about the program.

Willison has a 2-year-old son and a newborn daughter. A Hancock native, he holds a degree in political science and criminal justice from Frostburg State University.

"I'm the classic kid who always wanted to be a cop," Willison said, noting he is the first to do so in his family. He has been assigned to Williamsport for 2 1/2 years.

A six-year veteran of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Witmer has also been in Williamsport for 2 1/2 years.

Witmer, who has two children and two stepchildren, is a Clear Spring High School graduate who went through the Western Maryland Police Academy and has earned college credits.

On the day of the shopping trip, Witmer and Willison will join with Deputy 1st Class Ken Cain, Sharpsburg/Keedysville resident deputy, who also will have children in the program.

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