By Jessica Farrish
THE SUMMIT —
Boy Scouts, 40,000 of them, came for Jamboree 2013, and then they left southern West Virginians with revitalized parks, airports and trails — all part of their efforts to serve the community and be good neighbors.
But the group of local movers and shakers who helped the Boy Scouts of America facilitate and coordinate the community service projects isn’t going anywhere.
The Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia has a mission year-round of conducting projects and programs that strengthen and revitalize communities.
One of 156 independent CCCs currently operating in the country, the CCCWV is the premiere CCC on the East Coast, comparable to the Los Angeles-based CCC on the West Coast, according to CCCWV Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Douglas.
CCCs have a unifying mission of working with state and national parks and providing educational and employment training opportunities for youths ages 16 to 24.
CCCWV workers and a team of volunteers prepared for two years to coordinate the Reaching the Summit community service projects, and when the Scouts returned home from Jamboree, CCCWV officials felt their efforts had been a success, Douglas said.
“Someone commented that the amount of work done in two days would’ve taken two months to do,” she said.
BSA officials contacted the CCC, knowing of its familiarity with roadways through the West Virginia Courtesy Patrol program and its coordinating skills and contacts within the community and state and national parks, to ask for help in coordinating the Scouts’ community service projects.
“When they first came to West Virginia, they knew they were going to have to do this community service component, but they haven’t lived here, they don’t know these communities like we do,” said Douglas.
The first phase of the operation involved educating nine county commissions, identifying champions/leaders in each county, putting together volunteer groups and developing the projects, Douglas said.
Thus, the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative was born at the CCC.
Champions for each county were: Dave Pollard (Fayette), Roy Grimes (Greenbrier), Jim and Debbie Redmond (McDowell), Craig Mohler (Monroe), Steve Antoline (Nicholas), Judi Radford (Raleigh), Jack Woodrum (Summers), Christy Laxton and Silas Mullins (Wyoming) and Jeff Disibbio and Marc Meachem (Mercer).
“We developed five areas where the projects would fall: green-friendly, wellness, construction, infrastructure and arts and education,” Douglas reported.
Committees were established in each community, focusing on education, youth, volunteer, public relations/media and fundraising, and a “champion” sat on each committee, appointed as a chairperson.
For the next two years, CCCWV partnered with groups like the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Volunteer Group to select projects and to develop and set in motion a plan to commandeer 40,000 Scouts to nine counties to perform 350 hours of community service in a five-day period.
More than 400 community service project requests were submitted, Douglas said.
“We had to make sure it was meaningful and had enough work for a troop of 40 and had to determine if it needed more than a group of 40,” she said, adding that the NRGRDA helped groups to develop their applications. “Some were set up as contingency back-up projects if there was rain.”
As Jamboree 2013 approached, the group needed a plan of getting the Scouts to their service locations on time. Even a one-hour mix-up could mean that some of the projects wouldn’t get finished.
“The logistics for that project is a beast,” said Douglas.
She pointed out the CCC operates the Courtesy Patrol — 25 trucks that patrol nearly 800 miles of four-lane highway throughout the state, 16 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“Going into some of these counties, if you’ve never been to McDowell County, I don’t care if you have directions or not, it still could be a challenge,” she said.
One NRGRDA volunteer, Butch Christie, was a retired naval aviator and fighter pilot who knew something about setting up a command center, a chain of command that would send out drivers, Initiative workers and Scouts to their service locations, said Douglas.
To make sure everything would run smoothly, Initiative volunteers in every county had a drill last year to identify any potential problems prior to the Jamboree.
“The best thing we learned from that was that with the 350-plus projects, we needed to have two project managers for each project,” she said. “So we actually had 700 project managers.”
Ed Cornett, Courtesy Patrol director of operations, assisted in the logistics.
“They would leave the Summit site in the mornings to head to their projects, and they would give us a call,” Douglas said.
At the CCC office on George Street in Beckley, Initiative volunteers and CCC workers fielded an 800 number.
“We had monitors where (workers) could look at a GPS,” she said. “We would get the project ID number, troop number and bus number for all nine counties covered. They had bus packets that had the GPS directions for them, and the Scout leader would have the packet. We would get the Scout leader’s phone and we could call back.”
An Initiative volunteer was also on the bus with every group, she added.
Although it was a time-consuming project that involved many people, Douglas said, the end result is that the Scouts were able to complete their service projects.
Some projects were actually “too big” to be classified as a single project, she added, pointing to a 13-mile trail at Raleigh County Memorial Airport that four troops worked on every day for five days.
When such projects are calculated, said Douglas, Scouts actually performed 787 projects.
The American Red Cross, United Way of Southern West Virginia, various churches and businesses and other organizations assisted with the Initiative, said Douglas.
The Initiative fundraising committee got $1 million in donations for projects from donors including the National Coal Heritage Authority, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, various county commissions, the Carter Family Foundation and others.
“It’s amazing how everyone came together to make these projects work,” she said.
WVU football players came in to volunteer, and The Kupu CCC group from Hawaii came to West Virginia to help.
Along with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Marie Walker, CCCWV director of programs and development, met them at the airport.
“This was definitely an adventure for them,” said Walker, who added that some of the Kupu group had never been off the island of Lanai and enjoyed whitewater rafting and exploring Pipestem State Park.
“We were walking across the parking lot, and they saw a squirrel for the first time.
“They were all snapping pictures.”
The communities appreciated the Boy Scouts, Douglas said.
“Everybody has echoed things like how well-mannered these kids are and what great work they do,” added JAK Kincaid of CCCWV.
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