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Officers shop for needy kids

December 17, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The law enforcement "investigation" launched at Kmart on Tuesday evening near Martinsburg was anything but criminal, but solving it was still a bit of a challenge.

"The kid wants Spider-Man stuff (for Christmas) - I can't find any," Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Lt. Gary Harmison said after looking through a rack of pajamas.

Harmison joined a number of other deputies, members of the Sheriff's Reserves, Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crime Task Force, family and friends, to shop for about 50 less-fortunate children, many of whom are in foster care.

Sheriff's Department Capt. Dennis Streets said the annual shopping event has been held for more than 25 years. The effort was coordinated by members of the Berkeley County Deputy Sheriff's Association.

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"My wife and daughter are taking the girls that I have (to shop for) and my son and I are taking the boys," Streets said.

"I'd rather look for boys stuff than girls stuff," Streets said with a laugh.

Volunteer shoppers could spend $100 on each child and were provided with the age, gender, specific wishes and clothing sizes.

After shopping was completed, the bags of gifts were loaded onto a rented moving truck. They are expected to be delivered today to the National Youth Advocate Program's facility along Winchester Avenue, Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Ted Snyder said.

Snyder highlighted support from the Care Work Life Council at City Hospital and Les's Auto Repair & Towing in Martinsburg for supporting the event.

"We want everybody to have a nice Christmas," Carolyn Walls said of the support given by her and her husband, Les.

"Every child deserves it," she said.

The "help drive" is generally supported by fundraisers, but Snyder said the economic downturn prompted the deputy sheriff's association to abandon those efforts this year. They relied on donations and "dipped" into their savings instead, Snyder said.

"Next year, we'll be probably aggressively fundraising and hoping the economy turns around - otherwise next Christmas may be in doubt."

Sheriff's Deputy Coby Myers said he doesn't usually shop for anybody else.

"I just do it for the kids," Myers said as he and his mother found themselves attempting to unearth some Indiana Jones toys for one child.

Unlike Myers, who said he had completed his Christmas shopping on Black Friday, Harmison admitted he still needed to do some legwork.

"I've got 'til the 24th," Harmison said.

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