Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 18, 2013

Troop restores piece of W.Va. history

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BRAMWELL — Click here to watch video

Dozens of Boy Scouts packed Main Street in the Home of the Millionaires Wednesday to help restore a piece of local history.

The Scouts chipped away at old paint and applied a fresh coat on the wrought iron fence around the historic Bramwell Presbyterian Church, one of several projects taking place across Mercer County as part of the 2013 Boys Scouts of America National Jamboree Day of Service Initiative.

The more than 100-year-old fence was brought over from Germany to adorn Main Street in Bramwell as well as the church itself, constructed on the behest of Bramwell banker Isaac T. Mann. Scouts learned a little bit of the area’s history before getting to work alongside local volunteers for the project.

Scoutmaster Leo Bernier said the 36 Scouts were from the Crossroad of America Council in Central Indiana and most were based in or around Indianapolis. Of the Scouts present, Bernier said six have already attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

“For most of these kids it’s their first time in West Virginia,” he said. “A few have been here to whitewater raft the Gauley or New River, but most of them have never even been out of Indiana. They love it here. It’s hot but they are resilient.”

Bernier said he and the Scouts enjoyed learning about Bramwell’s rich history.

“They are doing a good job with the painting,” Bernier said. “This community has embraced us and we want to show them our thanks for their support. Scouting is all about giving back to your community, and West Virginia has become like our community.”

Austin Shepherd, 17, a senior patrol leader with the troop, said the troop didn’t know what kind of service project they would be assigned but were more than happy to end up in downtown Bramwell.

“We didn’t know what was planned for us, but we’ve had a lot of fun,” he said. “We are really having a good time. It’s really cool that we are getting to make an impact on a community. We are also enjoying getting to know the people here and helping them out. It’s been a great experience.”

Shepherd said this is his first time in West Virginia.

“It’s a much different environment than where I’m from,” he said. “There’s a lot more hills and it is very, very green. The jamboree itself has been fun. I did the mountain biking and BMX trails the other day and I’m looking forward to doing the zipline. They told us it’s now the longest zipline in the country.”

Bramwell Mayor Lou Stoker said residents were excited to see all the Scouts working downtown.

“They came here and went to town,” Stoker said. “AmeriCorps has been down here working on the site preparation and supervising the Scouts, which has been wonderful. The Scouts have done about 450 feet of fence work and they’ve only been here a few hours. The church supplied the paint and tools while the kids supplied the labor.”

Stoker said having the Scouts reduced both the cost and the time on the project.

“It looks so pretty and they’ve done a wonderful job,” she said. “They have worked so hard on it. Usually, it takes the church about a month to repaint the entire fence and they have to hire someone to do it for them plus buy the paint. It has been a wonderful first day. We are thrilled about getting to show them downtown Bramwell.”

In addition to local officials and volunteers, West Virginia Secretary of Education and the Arts Kay Goodwin came to Bramwell to thank the Scouts on behalf of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the people of West Virginia.

“We are delighted to have them and the whole state appreciates having them here,” Goodwin said. “I always love coming to Bramwell. It’s a fabulous town and when I had the chance to not only come here and see the Scouts I had to take it. We have been planning these projects for months even years, so to see them actually happening is fabulous.”

Goodwin said the Scouts were bringing fresh energy into the state.

“They are doing such a good job and putting in so much hard work,” she said. “Having all these young people around is just so energizing. They are learning all of the history about this area and we are thrilled to share it with them. It’s tremendously important to have them here not just to stimulate the economy, but because of all the attention the state is getting from having them.”

Goodwin said she hopes the Scouts will be goodwill ambassadors for West Virginia when they return home.

“It shows that people are coming to West Virginia and loving the time they spend here,” she said. “So many of these Scouts have said so many wonderful things about West Virginia. They can help enrich everything we have here.”

— Contact Kate Coil at