By Jim Workman
THE SUMMIT —
Thousands of Scouts. Nine counties. Over 350 community service projects.
About 160 buses filled with eager workers and volunteers leaving the Summit Bechtel Reserve each day at about 7 a.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and again this week on Monday and Tuesday.
Keeping up with all of that activity was a challenge, one that has been planned for about two years.
“The Initiative” came together, much of it in an “Incident Control Center” set up in the Beckley offices of the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia on George Street.
It served as the brains of the operations, the nerve center of a flurry of activity performed during the 2013 National Boy Scouts Jamboree, the first time the Boy Scouts of America have incorporated community service into its Jamboree itinerary.
Community service was performed in Raleigh, Fayette, Mercer, McDowell, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Greenbrier and Wyoming counties.
Representatives from AmeriCorps/VISTA, the CCC, Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross worked together to ensure the projects were handled efficiently, and for the safety and well-being of the participants.
Data received from the troops at the end of the day helped in planning the next day’s projects — as progress was assessed at each location.
The staff at the center kept a close watch on the weather, also. A few times, projects were altered due to incoming storms.
“At the end of the day, we have a de-briefing with the staff and volunteers,” JAK Kincaid, project coordinator for the Reaching The Summit Service Initiative, explained during the Jamboree. “We go through county by county and talk to everyone, hash out the issues, and make sure that there’s nothing that we need to reset.”
Brooklyn Vega, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and an AmeriCorps volunteer, was monitoring Fayette County projects on Monday. Other center staff members are from various states, including Oregon, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Idaho and Maryland.
“It’s been good to see these projects come together,” said Tristan Cleveland of Baltimore, who is with AmeriCorps/VISTA, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. “Because we’ve been working on developing these community service projects, from soliciting projects from the community to developing the projects for community members. It’s nice to see it all work out. We’ve heard nothing but good reports. Everyone has been very excited.”
While the flow seemed to go smoothly, there was the daily issue of keeping the Scouts, volunteers and leaders hydrated.
It was a challenge with which the American Red Cross was ready and willing to help.
Water distribution was set up at rally points in each county.
“By the end of the day (today), there will have been about 100,000 bottles of water passed out,” said Vic Bowman, emergency services director for the Red Cross, West Virginia Region. “There are always challenges, but it has worked out well. We have been staged at the Beckley Church of God and the Dream Center. They have cooperated with us greatly. Over 50 volunteers have been working out of there.”
Although the Red Cross is better known for disaster relief, its role in the community service projects was crucial in preventive measures.
“It bears some resemblance (to disaster relief),” Bowman said. “But we knew this was coming for several months. That’s how we organized and tried to support it, operate kind of like it was a disaster where water was the primary need.
“It’s an exercise for us, and hopefully a benefit for the Scouts and the communities.”
April Brooks, executive assistant with the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, has played a key role in the success of the center.
Her experience as a dispatcher for the state’s Courtesy Patrol came in quite handy.