Editorial: W.Va. owes a large debt of gratitude to the Boy Scouts

From The Register-Herald of Beckley:

Southern West Virginia said goodbye to the Boy Scouts of America Friday following nine days of adventure, learning, camping and more at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

We hope the Scouts, Scouting officials and volunteers from all over the United States — scores of whom had never been to West Virginia previously — were properly impressed with the beauty of the Mountain State and all it has to offer. Those who left the Reserve were treated to the hospitality that West Virginians love to share.

We hope many like us enough to come back and pay us a visit when they have the time to leisurely prowl around the region and see what other wonders we have to offer.

But the Scouts’ time here meant more than just the potential for an influx of tourists.

While they were here, they performed dozens and dozens of community service projects all across the state.

Coordinated by the Civilian Conservation Corps, in partnership with West Virginia’s Arrow to the Summit Community Service Initiative (The Initiative), up to 40,000 Scouts and thousands of additional youth and volunteers were deployed to perform an estimated 500,000 hours of service over just six days.

In Fayette County alone — home of the Summit — beneficiaries were Fayette County Parks and Recreation, Just for Kids Inc., Mount Hope Heritage Center, towns of Fayetteville and Montgomery, Minden Community Center, the National Coal Heritage Area, Fayette Board of Education, Southern Appalachian Labor School and the Whipple Company Store, and Fayette libraries.

Painting and repairs, clearing brush, planting seeds, landscaping, cleaning cemetery headstones, debris removal and trail-building were among the jobs performed — all of incomparable value to the recipients, many of which operate on shoestring budgets, financially challenged due to the economics of the region.

The estimated economic impact of their work — $8 million.

But the places the Boy Scouts worked weren’t the only ones that benefited.

Interviewed on breaks from their chores, the Scouts touted the positives of the experience.

One 17-year-old Scout working at Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley said he will continue doing community service for as long as he can. “I love it. I do it to see the smiling faces.”

Another, just 13 years old, said working for the Beckley community was exciting for him. “It’s definitely hot out here, but I promise it’s all worth it. I’m glad this hospital gave us this opportunity.”

In Mercer County, the Scouts themselves coordinated and supervised much of their project at Bluefield State College. One of the boys said that the service was a show of appreciation for everything the Boy Scouts have in West Virginia for the Jamboree.

Southern West Virginia owes just as large a debt of gratitude to the Boy Scouts for all of the hard work they put forth for so many people and places on their sojourn here.

When the National Scout Jamboree returns in four years, we will cheer them on as they take on all of the adventure and fun the Summit Bechtel Reserve has to offer. And, should The Initiative be a part of that Jamboree, we will welcome their strong backs and busy hands, supplying them again with plenty of work to be done.

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