By 9 a.m. Saturday the line of cars at the Dunkin’ in Westminster spilled onto the roadway at 140 Village Shopping Center. The parking lot was full too, every space taken.
Customers were greeted with waves from above. Carroll County’s most prominent law enforcement officials were on the roof, kicking off a 30-hour stint and launching the tenth year of Cops on Rooftops.
Jeff Spaulding, recently retired Westminster Police Department chief, greeted customers in the drive-through, soliciting donations for Special Olympics. It’s his first year to be off the roof at an event he started 10 years ago.
“Law enforcement adopted Special Olympics as our charity of choice internationally in 1986,” Spaulding said. “Police officers in all 50 states and 40-some foreign countries hold events like this to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics. Last year in Maryland our law enforcement raised about $3.2 million for Special Olympics. This location raised $14,800 last year. We’re also involved in the Polar Bear Plunge, the Deep Creek Dunk and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.”
He paused to name each official on the roof.
“State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, Sheriff Jim DeWees, Westminster city police Chief Tom Ledwell and Rebecca Bosley, commander for the Westminster state police barrack, will be up there from 6 a.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday.”
Spaulding recalled the nor’easter that hit during the event about five years ago.
“We have a little popup on the roof to protect us and we put tarp walls around it, but the wind and rain were blowing so hard it literally collapsed the roof,” Spaulding said. “We actually had to abandon the roof at about 2 in the morning. We came down and got in our cars until about 5 a.m. when the storm let up, then went back up on the roof. That’s probably the most memorable one.”
Up on the roof, DeWees remembered a photo of him taken during the nor’easter, wrapped in a tarp but still wet.
“I think the comment [I] made at the time was, ‘We are the dumbest people in Carroll County right now. We need to roll out of here,’ and then we did abandon ship,” he said.
For DeWees, this makes seven years on the roof.
“We have a strong relationship with Special Olympics,” the sheriff said. “We are around these athletes a lot during the year, so getting on the roof of Dunkin’ Donuts once a year to raise money for them is easy to do, especially if you see how they respond to the Special Olympics. We all go out to see them. When you know you’re making money for them, it’s easy to do.”
Down below, off the roof, Special Olympian Sean McCann and his mom Sandy McCann arrived to greet people in the line.
“This is my first time,” Sean said. “I like handing out the shirts.”
Customer Elise Golberg said she was happy to support this cause.
“It’s a great organization. It’s great what they do, and that Carroll County pulls together for this,” she said.
Horns honked at DeWees and DeLeonardo, perched side by side on the roof.
“People yell up to us,” said DeLeonardo, on the roof for his fifth year. “They’re great. People in the drive-through wave and we see kids getting money to put into the bucket. We are very fortunate. The community and the interaction here are very positive. People are always incredibly supportive. That’s one of the great things about being in Carroll County.”
Ledwell was experiencing his first year on the roof.
“I’ve volunteered down in the lines below,” he said. “I was appointed chief on March 1, so this is my first year on the roof. It’s a very worthwhile cause and a really good opportunity to see how generous people are for a good cause. I am happy to do my part.”
Customer Bonnie Higgins smiled in support.
“It supports the community and helps people around here locally, as opposed to people outside our community. And it brings everybody together,” she said.
Bosley was topside for her second year, representing the Maryland State Police Westminster Barrack. A stack of thick blankets in plastic bags sat beside her, a cot not far away.
“We have the cot, but Brian is used to sleeping on the floor,” she said. “I slept on the floor last year and it was the best spot to be because it was raining. That and beside the kerosene heater.”
According to Spaulding, the 2018 rain was a cold one.
“We’ve had terrible heat, we’ve had rain, and we’ve been here in the cold,” he said. “But it’s all for a good cause, to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics.”
Spaulding said he hoped people would stop by Dunkin’to donate before noon Sunday.
Customers filing in the door of Dunkin’ met the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office’s newest recruits, Tyler Sitarek and Jessica Snyder.
“So far this morning we’ve been greeting the people,” Sitarek said. “Depending how much they donate they can get a voucher for money off, a dozen donuts or a T-shirt.”
Snyder nodded, holding the bucket as a customer dropped money inside.
“I wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to work with the community and to get to know some of the faces within the Sheriff’s Office, since we’ve only been there a week,” she said. “And it’s been nice to meet Westminster city (police) as well.”
On the roof, Bosley counted out donation money.
“These are the core leaders of the largest police departments in our county and we all go through Brian, who is our state’s attorney,” she said of her comrades on the roof. “We want citizens to see the faces of law enforcement in our county, and it’s for an amazing cause. We’re supporting something we believe in. A lot of these people have huge hearts when they donate.”
Dunkin’ employee Chintan Jani agreed.
“We’re seeing a positive reaction from the people,” he said. “Some tell us they donated outside and then they donate again when they get inside.”
His co-worker Corrina Cheche smiled.
“We try to do what we can to help out.”
A moment later, customer Cindy Mann dropped a donation in the bucket.
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“It’s a good cause,” she said. “And I like that they have a bird’s-eye view of everything that is going on — to keep us extra safe!”