By Jessica Farrish
He wasn’t a Boy Scout, but one U.S. senator couldn’t stay away from West Virginia during Jamboree preparations.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., came to Beckley Friday to welcome the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to his constituent state.
“It is the biggest (service project) going on in the country, which is just staggering,” said Rockefeller, who made his comments at Tamarack.
Rockefeller met with a group of Scouts, troop leaders and officials with the Citizen Conservation Corps of West Virginia and the National Park Service.
Pointing out that the population of West Virginia will increase by 5 percent when the Jamboree attracts 40,000 people to the Summit Bechtel Family Reserve, Rockefeller emphasized the importance of community service.
The Boy Scouts will perform about 350 community service projects in nine counties while they are here.
Rockefeller said, “Everybody should do something for their country,” noting that the most obvious would be military service, but added that service projects in other fields such as social work are also possible.
“There should be an inscription for the draft,” he stated. “I think everybody should do something for their country.”
Rockefeller, a New York City native and great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, first came to West Virginia as a VISTA worker in 1964.
He reminded reporters Friday that he got paid — more than $3,000 per year — but that he believes living and volunteering in another country or culture not only enriches the people being helped, it enriches the helpers.
“You find out much more about them, but also much more about yourself,” he said.
Rockefeller served as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, served in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and as secretary of state and governor.
Rockefeller said the Boy Scouts’ Community Service Initiative is an ideal fit for West Virginia, where public service is a way of life.
“Leave it to West Virginia to embrace, with open arms and hearts, the Boy Scouts’ call to community service,” Rockefeller said. “Public service is in our bloodstream, and something that we come to naturally in West Virginia. Our deep sense of ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ is a perfect match for the Boy Scouts’ mission and legacy as a public service organization.”
The Boy Scouts created the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative to coincide with the 2013 Boy Scouts Jamboree being held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.
Volunteer initiatives, led by the Citizen Conservation Corps of West Virginia (CCCWV), include more than 350 projects in nine West Virginia counties during five days of the Jamboree.
It is the first time the National Jamboree has instituted a community service campaign, and it represents the largest such initiative in the country.
Thursday, Rockefeller submitted a statement to the official Congressional Record touting the Boy Scout Jamboree, and its efforts at giving back in West Virginia’s communities.
“The Boy Scouts of America would like to thank Sen. Rockefeller for embodying the spirit of service and encouraging West Virginians to help their neighbors and communities,” said Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive of BSA.
“Serving others has long been an important part of Scouting and we are proud that nearly 30,000 Scouts from around the country will be able to contribute to the future of the state through hundreds of service projects during the National Scout Jamboree.”
Rockefeller’s meeting Friday was part of his “Summer of Service” tour of West Virginia.
The first event was a roundtable discussion in Morgantown about student loans and encouraging students to pursue public service careers.
Last month in Charleston, he convened a roundtable on the meaning of public service to the history and people of West Virginia.
Earlier this month, Rockefeller joined with community leaders in Marlinton in opening the new Pocahontas County Community Wellness Center while celebrating the strong legacy of public service that county.
Rockefeller said Friday that a spirit of public involvement characterizes the new generation of college graduates, who are applying to both the Peace Corps and Central Intelligence Agency in record numbers.
He added that the SAT scores of CIA and Peace Corps applicants are “higher than ever.”
On other issues, Rockefeller said he was disappointed by the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
He added that the recent federal sequestration has hurt development of the state.
“Some people just want to keep it going,” he said.
Rockefeller also stated Friday that when he left Washington, the Senate was close to working out a deal that would lower interest rates on student loans, but added that in American politics, that could change quickly.
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