Rainelle — Along with a half-dozen enthusiastic local volunteers, a troop of Pennsylvania Boy Scouts tackled tasks from tombstone cleaning to fence building at the Rainelle Cemetery, as part of the National Scout Jamboree now under way at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.
“This is our day of service,” explained Leo Ciaramitaro, Scoutmaster of Troop 1311, from the Keystone State’s Westmoreland and Fayette counties.
“It’s nice to get this done on the first day,” he noted.
The Arrow to the Summit Community Service Initiative began Thursday and will continue today and Monday through Wednesday of next week. Scouts participating in the National Jamboree will each spend a day working on one or more of 220 projects around the region.
Troop 1311 boasted 30 Scouts and three adults on Thursday’s work detail at the cemetery, where Ciaramitaro’s son, William, and Daniel Kotik, both 16, put their backs into tossing branches hewn off by other Scouts into the bed of a large pickup truck. That underbrush was being cleared to make way for a walking trail that will eventually link up with the existing Meadow River Trail, according to Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton.
Supervising the brush clearing task was Don Ratliff, a local retiree who volunteers to help out so frequently he’s been given a title — “coordinator” — he said with a chuckle.
“I’m able to do all of this, so why not do it?” he asked. “Anything for the town. I retired, but I didn’t die.”
Another volunteer, Skip Deegans, served ably as supervisor for the tombstone cleaning contingent. A native of Rainelle who was a childhood friend of the mayor, Deegans brought the expertise he has gained through involvement in the monument restoration effort at Old Stone Cemetery in Lewisburg, the town where he now lives.
“I’m trying to get the volunteers here started on cleaning (the tombstones) properly,” he said. “You have to be careful with the kinds of cleaning materials you use.”
Deegans is quite familiar with the Rainelle Cemetery, noting that as a boy, he camped on the hill overlooking the graveyard.
Overseeing the third cadre of Boy Scout workers was another of the town’s volunteers, Darrel Brown, who lives about 10 miles from Rainelle and owns a sawmill. Appropriately enough, he was in charge of construction of a sturdy oak fence bordering the cemetery’s entrance.
“I started this fence four years ago, with the last group of Boy Scouts,” Brown said, referring to the Scouts who participated in a community service project in Rainelle during the first National Scout Jamboree held at the Summit in 2013.
“Now, we’re just bringing (the fence) across further, so I sawed these boards to match what we did four years ago,” Brown said.
Among Brown’s Scout workforce was 13-year-old Ben Hollerman, who said he found the work enjoyable because of the fence’s purpose of keeping people from tramping up and down the hillside, preventing vegetation from holding the slope in place.
“I like that it helps keep the grass growing,” Hollerman said. “It’s a soil and water conservation project, and that’s important.”
Just a month away from his 14th birthday, Brady Shore also worked on the fence project, helping to dig holes and place posts in them, as well as maneuver some slats into place.
Like the other Scouts, Shore hadn’t had much time yet to explore the Fayette County site where the Jamboree is being held, having just arrived at the Summit Wednesday. But he said, “After we set up camp, I went to the laser gun (facility) and looked around, and later I did a lot of patch trading.”
Mayor Pendleton remarked that her little town would not be where it is today if not for dedicated volunteers who have put in so much time and effort to restoring Rainelle after last summer’s devastating flood.
She said the newly-cleared area between the cemetery and the golf course will someday soon be dedicated as the Rainelle trailhead of the Meadow River Trail.
“It means more maintenance for the town of Rainelle,” she said. “But won’t it be pretty?”
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