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Scouts, WVU players help out in Nicholas

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. -- With the help of Boy Scout labor this week, Nicholas County schools are getting something Superintendent Beverly Kingery only dreamed about before -- an outdoor classroom.

"[There will be] a demonstration area and seating for them to watch an outdoor demonstration, and a walking trail down to the water so we'll be able to do water activities and ecology activities," Kingery said

She envisions a "day at the park" project at the outdoor classroom, to be located at Nicholas Memorial Veterans Park, during which students do science lessons and then walk to a one-room schoolhouse for a picnic in the afternoon.

Boy Scouts, here for the National Scout Jamboree in Fayette County, have been taking on community service projects as part of the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative.

Other volunteers and groups have pitched in as well; on Friday, about 80 members of the West Virginia University football team joined the Scouts in Summersville.

Players mowed a baseball field by the school, painted and did other maintenance projects. They also signed autographs for fans and took part in a special-needs camp meeting at the school.

"Our team does a lot of community service initiatives -- not to this scale," said Alex Hammond, director of football operations for WVU. "We obviously get a lot of requests for community service, but this is one that, given the large scale of that, we really wanted our players to be [involved with]."

The project gave the players an opportunity to interact with fans in the Southern part of the state; fans they might not see often when they're in Morgantown, Hammond said.

The community service outreach associated with the Jamboree has been called the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history.

"Given the fact that it's happening in our backyard," Hammond said, "we thought it was a perfect opportunity for our football team to come down and be a part of it."

The outdoor classroom is just one of the service projects in Nicholas County the Boy Scouts are helping with this week while they're in West Virginia for the Jamboree. They're also renovating playgrounds and installing equipment and building walking trails.

And that's just for Nicholas County Schools. The Scouts are doing 39 projects in Nicholas County, Kingery said.

It's work that would have gotten done even without the Boy Scouts, but it would have taken a considerably longer time than 10 days, Kingery said.

"It probably would have gotten done, but over a period of 10 to 20 years," she said. "These are projects that are things that you'd like to have, [to] enhance the educational system, but they're projects that many times, unfortunately, because of financial situations and manpower, you have to put on the backburner."

The school system provided the materials and equipment.

Kingery estimates that the Boy Scouts service projects for the school system saved it about $200,000.

"It provided us the necessary manpower," Kingery said. "When you talk about bringing 300 people in to do projects -- that's a massive amount of work."

Scoutmaster David Braack of Fort Worth, Texas, said the community service projects are a way for the Boy Scouts to give back to West Virginia, since the Jamboree site is built here.

"I think [community service] teaches them values -- to do good for other people," Braack said.

Rick Stewart, superintendent for Norco Construction, which oversaw some of the construction projects at the school, said the Scout crews have done well with their projects.

"Some of the ones we had on Wednesday, I told the kids that were in that group -- there were only 10 of them -- I would hire all of them when they turned 18," Stewart said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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