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Gift drive ensures teens not left out

Martinsburg Correctional Center and Martinsburg Police organize gift drive

Martinsburg Correctional Center and Martinsburg Police organize gift drive

November 21, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- More than 1,000 teenagers in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties will not be left out on Christmas Day because of Operation Christmas Teen, a gift drive organized by the Martinsburg Correctional Center and the Martinsburg Police Department.

This is the fourth year for the gift drive said Kathy L. Cole, human resources director at the Martinsburg Correctional Center, and it will provide gifts for the largest number of teenagers so far.

"I need help from the community to donate gifts for 1,012 teens," Cole said. "Keep in mind, they love gift cards."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) Police Department joined Operation Christmas Teen to help with the drive, as well as Kmart, Five Below, and Martinsburg Mall merchants. Chick-fil-A, Royce II, McDonald's, Ruby Tuesday, Buffalo Wild Wings and Food Lion are also contributing to make the program a success, Cole said.

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Scott E. Paugh, warden at the correctional center, said teens between the ages of 13 and 18 that are in school are eligible for the program.

Schools, law enforcement agencies and family members "find the teens that we want to provide gifts for," Cole said.

Other programs are geared to younger children up to age 12, Paugh said.

Cole said she saw a need to provide Christmas gifts for teens when she delivered presents to only the younger family members through other charitable organizations.

"The older brothers or sisters would help carry the gifts into the house, but there was nothing for them -- even a 13-year-old," she said.

Capt. Barb Bartley of the Martinsburg Police Department helped organize the program with Cole.

"A program like this was needed for teens," Bartley said. "It builds a rapport with them and helps restore their faith in us."

Martinsburg Police Department Patrolman Ron Bleigh said this is his first year participating in the gift drive.

"Being able to do this for the teens shows we want to be sure they are not left out during the holidays," Bleigh said.

Every Saturday until Christmas, correction and law enforcement officers will be at Kmart on Winchester Avenue in Martinsburg to receive donated gifts for the teens. People will be handed a list of items needed, Cole said.

"Black Friday is our official and longest day," Cole said. "We will be there at 6 a.m. in front of Kmart."

Officers also will be at Martinsburg Mall and at The Commons in front of Five Below on Saturdays. Lists of items needed for the teens will be handed out, Cole said.

When Operation Christmas Teen began in 2006, 236 teens were provided Christmas gifts. The number of participants increased to 579 in 2007, 671 in 2008 and 1,012 this year, Paugh said.

"It's a chance to see people at their best doing something worthwhile for their community," Paugh said.

"Everybody steps up to the plate," Cole said.

Because the correctional facility's storage area was filled with gifts after last year's Black Friday, Bowman Trucking Co. in Hagerstown donated a portable storage unit for this year. The locks were donated by LDH Electrical Contractors in Falling Waters, W.Va., to keep the unit secure, Cole said.

John Bodencak, an officer at the Martinsburg Correctional Center, said he is participating in the program this year, and said the community needs to focus more on teens.

"There's nothing for them to do," he said.

"The teens need not to be forgotten," Cole said.

Gifts can be dropped off until Dec. 20 at the Martinsburg Correctional Center at 38 Grapevine Road in Martinsburg and at the Kmart on Winchester Avenue. Cole said arrangements also can be made to have gifts picked up.

For more information, call Cole at 304-267-0156, ext. 306, or send an e-mail to kcole@mail.wvnet.edu.

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