Hedgesville grad first recipient of scholarship in memory of beloved Martinsburg man

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Hedgesville High School graduate is the first recipient of the Jimmy the Hot Dog Man Scholarship.

Mention the name “Jimmy the Hot Dog Man” in the Eastern Panhandle, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear stories of a man described as “bright, happy and genuine”.

Dimitrios “Jimmy” Boulafentis died on December 30, 2018 at the age of 67.

Jimmy moved from his birthplace Kalymnos, Greece at the age of 16 seeking more opportunities. His fifth grade education was compensated by a desire for learning, an exceptional work ethic and the passion for making people happy.

George Boulafentis is Jimmy’s son. He shared his father’s story on Panhandle Live, heard on WEPM Martinsburg and WCST Berkeley Springs, shortly after his passing.

“At 16 he got on an oil tanker and started sailing across the world delivering and picking up oil. (At) 18 he ‘jumped ship’ and took a Greyhound bus to Manhattan and moved in with his brother, my Uncle Nick, and started street vending and selling hot dogs ever since.”

Jimmy moved to Martinsburg in 1988 and continued to run his hot dog stand at various locations throughout town. Locations included the former Blue Ridge Outlets, the Berkeley County Courthouse and the DMV. His most recent spot was in front of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Apple Harvest Drive.

“He really loved people. People really mattered to him and it was cool to see how much he mattered to people. The stories that they have shared have been amazing. If he knew your grandmother was sick, he asked about her. If he knew your kid went to college, he’d ask about them. Somebody had a baby or something like that he rarely forgot a name.”

After Jimmy’s passing, George decided to start something special. He then created a $500 educational scholarship in honor of his father.

“When I think about my dad, it’s just a really feel good immigrant story. He was an absolutely beautiful soul. He came from a rock in the middle of the Mediterranean with very limited opportunities. He quit school at twelve to become a plumber’s assistant. Education was always a big thing to him for both my sister and I. This is definitely a great way to remember him.”

George received around 20 applications from high school and college students. Applicants were required to write an essay on how they would like to see the community improve.

After combing through the applicants, George selected Hedgesville High School graduate and WVU freshman Lynn Bittorf.

“I was really young, but I always remember that he was always so bright and happy to see everybody,” Bittorf said on Panhandle Live. “It could have been the worst day ever and he’s just there selling hot dogs just happy to be alive and proud of what he does.”

Bittorf is studying German and marketing. She wants to work in Germany, where her family is from.

“We moved here in 2002 and we would make a lot of trips to Lowe’s. (Jimmy) was always outside with the hot dog cart and that was what my dad would treat me to. That was kind of a tradition for us. Anytime we’d go to Lowe’s for home improvement things we would come out with a hot dog.”

Echoing comments made by George and community members following Jimmy’s passing, Bittorf added she is honored to be the first of what George hopes are many recipients of the scholarship.

“I think that really any conversation that (Jimmy) had with anybody left an impact on that person. Like I said, I was so young but I still have such vivid memories of him as a person.”

You can donate to the scholarship fund at any City National Bank location in the Eastern Panhandle or by emailing boulafentis@gmail.com.

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