Local communities teeming with Boy Scout volunteers

(Jessica Nuzzo/The Bluefield Daily Telegraph)Boy Scouts volunteering at the Bluefield State College campus Friday take a break to watch Bluefield Police Officer Mike Pertee demonstrate K-9 Ace's abilities in tracking, discipline and how to take down a suspect. 

BLUEFIELD — A Mercer County campus and a Monroe County cemetery were among the many southern West Virginia locations alive with volunteers this week as Boy Scouts visiting from as far away as California and Michigan used brooms, shovels and paint brushes to help their host communities.

Thousands of Boy Scouts are attending the 2017 National Jamboree now underway at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean. Scout troops are heading out daily to communities throughout southern West Virginia. Venues ranging from the city of Bluefield to Concord University in Athens are benefiting from the scores of volunteers.

Scouts spent much of Friday morning and the early afternoon working around Bluefield State College's Dickason Hall. They painted new parking lot lines, cleaned the grounds, spread fresh mulch and performed other tasks around the grounds.

"We have 35 Scouts and four adults, and we're just one contingent," Scout Master Bryan Kocen of the California Island Empire Council said. "One hundred troops are out today."

About 100 Scout troops leave the Summit Bechtel Reserve early each morning and head for a variety of assignments. Each troop is doing a day's worth of community service.

"This is our official name, a Day of Service," Kocen said. "We believe very strongly in community service." He looked around at Scouts busy with their assigned tasks. Older Scouts supervised the younger ones. "This is how they learn how to be men."

One of things the Scouts learned is the importance of being on time. Boys and young men used to sleeping late during their summer breaks were, instead, getting up at dawn so they could board their buses and be on their way.

"We were off the reserve by 7 o'clock," Kocen said. "Getting up early is good for the Scouts. They may not have felt like it, but it's good for them. We're fine with it."

Scout Ryan Hosking of Canyon Lake, Calif., was leading the work in Dickason Hall's upper parking lot. While adults were present, the Scouts themselves coordinated and supervised much of the project. He said that the service was a show of appreciation for everything the Boy Scouts have in West Virginia for the jamboree.

With many sets of hands available, the work moved swiftly. Scout and Senior Patrol Leader Fritz Melzl of Combined Locks, Wisconsin, said the team effort the became together for the work was almost a "Frankenstein Monster" which took on a life of its own.

"It's so important to do service," Scout Master Mike Hogan with the Bay-Lakes Council, which covers parts of Wisconsin and Michigan, said. "It's so important to share our time and energy with other people."

One way the community showed it appreciation was by giving the visiting Scouts a demonstration of one of the Bluefield Police Department's K-9 units. Scouts turned out to see demonstrations of tracking and other K-9 unit duties.

In Monroe County, 40 Scouts and their leaders, in conjunction with the Peters Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, spent much of Thursday cleaning and resetting tombstones near at the Dickason Family Cemetery near Lindside. The Scouts, National Jamboree 2017 Troop 4339, were all from Central Tennessee, officially representing the Middle Tennessee Council.

Project supervisor Becky Crabtree said she was relieved that the Tennessee boys were familiar with snakes and bears and the business end of a shovel.

“They were fearless and worked hard in the heat.” she said. “The remote location and rugged terrain of the cemetery on Peters Mountain is a reality and there were concerns in case of serious injury, but a member of the Army Reserves worked out the coordinates in advance so a helicopter could land if necessary. Thankfully, the only medical need of the day was a blister from shoveling.”

Historic information was presented prior to the workday. Crabtree said she explained that many of the graves were marked only by fieldstones and explained that there were four pages of names of persons buried there, but many of them had no marker. The graves of two veterans, William Ross and Sidney Dickason were pointed out and the Scouts told of the farm and the time when slaves were used to tend it. Parents and siblings of Dr. Henry Lake Dickason, first president of Bluefield State College are buried there as are the original landowners Jacob and Betsey Pack Dickason.

Because the graves date back to the early 1800s, special care was taken with cleaning, Crabtree said. The boys used scrub brushes, toothbrushes, plastic scrapers, paint stirrers, and wooden skewers to clean the stones, even the etched letters and numbers. The boys worked respectfully, often silently, as they dug or scraped or scrubbed in the summer sun. They pieced together broken stones and reset toppled stones, improving the cemetery’s appearance and reopening pages of history, now more easily accessed.

Lindside and Peterstown community members loaned shovels and work gloves and the DAR provided cleaning equipment as well as drinks and snacks for the project.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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