Bluefield College takes part in biggest service project in Ameri - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Bluefield College takes part in biggest service project in America

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Members of the Bluefield College family get involved in the "biggest service project in America."

Leaders with the college said six representatives with the school, including former professor Mickey Pellillo and current professors Charles Priest, Walter Shroyer, Ben Thorburn, Kelly Walls and Maria Zaluondo, joined more than 40,000 Boy Scouts of America and other volunteers in lending their hands to restore and improve communities in nine southern West Virginia counties.

In a press release, George Acosta with the AmeriCorps and Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia said, "This is being called the biggest service project ever attempted in America.   We're excited to be a part of it, to be doing an environmental project like this."

The 40,000-member service project is part of the Boy Scouts of America's National Scout Jamboree, July 15-24, headquartered this year at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,000-acre Boy Scouts adventure center in the wilds of West Virginia's Fayette County. The Jamboree, a celebration for Scouts, Venturers, volunteers and staff from all over the country, features camping, outdoor adventure, skills-building, exhibits, stadium shows and, of course, community service.

More than 200 Scouts were assigned to projects in Bluefield, West Virginia, where they traveled each day, July 15-19, on five buses from the Scout Reserve to join another 100 volunteers from AmeriCorps, the CCC and the local community, including the six workers from Bluefield College. Their task in Bluefield: improve the local trail system and city park facilities.

In the release, Acosta said, "I didn't realize just how many people use these trails.  We were out here early this morning, and there were people already on the trails. Our work is going to make a big difference for them."

The volunteers completed major improvements to the local trail system. They constructed a completely new trail for beginner bike enthusiasts and rerouted two sections of another hiking trail damaged by flooding and erosion.

"I use the trails to walk my dogs, so it's going to benefit me greatly," said Zalduondo about the work she and other volunteers completed on a new trail. "It's beautiful up here. It's truly a treasure. We're fortunate to have these trails and to have these young men make these improvements."

The workers also built kids' sandboxes and nature stations along a family-friendly trail to give children fun and playful ways to interact with nature. They erected signs, carved hiking sticks, repainted trail markings and completed other trail maintenance on additional local trails. All in all, they spent five days in the area, building, restoring and improving trails for local hikers, bikers, walkers, runners and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"The trails are going to be a lot more user friendly," said Shroyer. "A lot of local people use the trails, and these improvements will give even more people the opportunity to use and appreciate them."

Pellillo and Shroyer served as local project managers for the work being done in Bluefield. As such, they supervised the Scouts and managed the day-to-day operations of the assignments.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime change for our area," said Pellillo, who heads up the Bluefield Recreational Trails Committee. "The entire trail system -- 15-plus miles -- is constructed and maintained by a very small group of volunteers. I honestly believe from the bottom of my heart that the work the Scouts are doing in these five days we could not have done ourselves in five years."

Beforehand, in preparation for the arrival of the Scouts and AmeriCorps volunteers, Pellillo and Shroyer selected the projects to be completed, purchased materials, and trained local volunteers to help lead the work.

"I love working outside," said Shroyer, "especially on trails, and it's extra special working with the Scouts, because my son, Forrest, was an Eagle Scout with local Troop 14."

In addition to the trail work, the volunteers completed improvements to Bluefield City Park. Under the supervision of the City of Bluefield's Parks and Recreation Department, they resurfaced the park's basketball courts and painted and repaired other park recreation equipment. When it was all said and done, Walls said he was thankful to have been a part of the service project, because as a resident and an avid biker he knows he'll benefit from the improvements. But that, he said, is not the only reward he received by participating.

"I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful young men," said Walls about the Boy Scouts. "Makes me realize that the future of America is in good hands. It's truly been a great experience for me. I'm glad I was able to be a part of it."

While the Boy Scouts project is making a significant difference in the community, it is not the only community outreach program associated with Bluefield College this summer. Hosted by BC, nearly 400 youth participating in a community service program called WorkCamps spent a week completing renovation projects in Bluefield and Pocahontas, Virginia, July 7-13. Another visiting group of 150 volunteers from churches in the Kilpatrick Baptist Association in Georgia conducted service projects and summer youth programs in the community, July 13-20. And, another 75 volunteers from Pinecrest Baptist Church, also in Georgia, will do the same July 20-27.