Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 21, 2013

Boy Scouts build friendship in W.Va.


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — It was hot, a little muggy and the bugs seemed ready to bite, but that didn’t stop three dozen teenage boys from getting to work removing debris, cutting weeds and helping out with whatever they were directed to do.

It was amazing to watch weeds and thistles that minutes before had been several feet tall suddenly cut down and moved away. An area that had previously been overcome with brush, trees and ivy was cleaned up in a mere 30 minutes.

We at the Daily Telegraph have been writing and talking about the arrival of the Boy Scouts of America to West Virginia as part of the 2013 Boys Scouts of America National Jamboree, but it was a far different thing to actually see them here, getting to work.

What started as a story that West Virginia may be chosen as the future home of the jamboree has turned into a week’s worth of service projects bringing Scouts from all over the country right here to southern West Virginia.

It has been amazing to follow this journey as a reporter from when it was announced southern West Virginia would be the Scouts’ new home, to when the first call for projects were made, to the selection process, to the end result of dozens of Scouts converging on our area, restoring places we pass by every day to their former glory.

It took a lot of volunteers and hardworking people from our own communities to make sure everything was in place, but it is well worth it to see all of those long months of planning come to fruition. So many of the projects were worthwhile and it is obvious without the good-natured labor provided by the Scouts the money to fund these projects — let alone the physical effort needed to complete them — might never have been found.

I know we as a state have worked very hard to make an impression on the Scouts, but after my first venture out to see these young men working in our communities I was more impressed by them. Some of them still seem like little boys, the average age of Scouts on the trip being from barely 13 to almost 18, but they all pull their weight.

Not once did I see one of them relaxing. They were always asking how they could help, listening to instructions and were immensely polite. Those who think youngsters have forgotten how to say things like “yes ma’am” and “no sir” need to hang around these kids for a little while. They also helped each other, making sure all of their friends had help when they needed it and working to assist the adult volunteers whenever they were called upon.

The thing that struck me the most was how excited they all were. I had never seen a group so excited about what was essentially pulling weeds or painting fences, but they took to it like a fish to water. After being given their instructions and supplies, they divided up into their groups and set to work. I heard the projects they were assigned described as “cool,” “awesome” and “what we love to do back home.”

What was fun to watch was the expressions on the faces of the adults when they saw just how much work three dozen teenagers could accomplish in a mere half hour. Sure, they liked talking about getting to go BMX biking, rafting, canoeing, hanging out at the skatepark, ziplining and all of the other activities waiting for them back at the Summit, but they said they were having  just as much fun clearing up brush and painting.

And I found, for many of the Scouts, that’s why they enjoyed giving back. Many of them explained their desire to work to me in similar terms — that Scouts always give back to scouting and to their community. Since West Virginia had given them the Summit and all of the fun adventures within its boundaries, many of them said West Virginia was now all of the Scouts’ community. They hoped that their ability to give back to us would be enough of a thank you for the few weeks of summer fun the Summit provided them.

It’s been hard to tell who is more excited about this new partnership: the Boy Scouts of America or the people of West Virginia. For now, it seems to be pretty much a tie since everyone I’ve spoken with seems so grateful for the other party.

Of course, when they leave at the end of the month it will be West Virginia’s turn again to maintain what they have given us. The memories they have made they can carry forever, but if the impact they have made on us is to remain we have to keep up the work they have done and use their energy to encourage ourselves to continue doing good in our communities. Like all friendships, this one might take a little work, but as the old saying goes, I think this new relationship between the Boy Scouts and West Virginia is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at kcoil@bdtonline.com.