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Community service CEO: Boy Scout service project unlike any other

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Thousands of Boy Scouts will be exposed to a number of activities designed for fun and personal enrichment, but those same scouts will also complete more than 350 community service projects in Southern West Virginia.

Wendy Spencer, CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service told the State Journal that she is not aware of any community service efforts so large that are concentrated in a specific region. The projects were identified by local community members via surveys conducted by members of Americorps.

"Quite frankly, I'm not aware of another immersion, in this short of time period with one organization like the Boy Scouts," Spencer said. "If there is one, I haven't found it yet."

Spencer has been the CEP of CNCS since April 9, 2012. CNCS is a federal agency that guides about 5 million Americans in joining community service efforts. The agency operates through more than 70,000 locations across the country.

The CNCS is one of many organizations working to put on the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative. The initiative includes groups from the nine-county region surrounding the Glen Jean Scout camp in the categories of green-friendly, wellness, construction, infrastructure and arts and education.

The initiative will deploy up to 40,000 Scouts and thousands of additional youth volunteers who will perform over 300,000 hours of community service over the 5-day period starting July 17.

Spencer will get to experience first hand when she visits the site.

"I can't think of a better way to immerse myself in nine counties," Spencer said. "…We're just super excited about partnering with the National Scout Jamboree this year where 40,000 boy scouts will immerse themselves in volunteer and community projects across nine counties."

Spencer said it her hope that the projects including construction, landscaping painting and a broad variety of projects will "really lift up the community."

"This is just an amazing opportunity," Spencer said. "There will be thousands of volunteers plus the hundreds of Americorps members leading the projects and 40,000 Scouts."

Spencer said there have been large-scale national service days where thousands participate in service projects, but the Boy Scouts was unique in that a single organization is working several days in a particular region with unprecedented numbers of volunteers.

"This is really significant in that you have Scouts coming in form all over the country you are giving back to the very state that they are visiting," Spencer said. "… I think it's a very unique opportunity for West Virginia to show all that it has to offer to these scouts and these volunteers and Americorps members who might want to come back here for college or to move and live here in West Virginia because they will meet the wonderful West Virginians they will are going to be coming into contact with."

Spencer said that a natural tendency toward volunteerism is uniquely American idea that thrives and grows when people are exposed to it.

"It really offers a lot of personal satisfaction and leaves something positive behind," Spencer said. "…These are things you can do together as a team and feel good about it. We see that this oftentimes introduces service to those who never really thought about it before.'

Those visiting their own homes and communities will likely see vast improvements to the area after only five days of works due to the sheer numbers of volunteers. However, some of the little projects that might get overlooked will also be the center of the Boy Scouts attention.

"Some the basic infrastructure in a community, especially for children, is often overlooked," Spencer said. "It could be something as basic as putting nets in basketball goals or painting the lines on the basketball court or painting the school, landscaping a blighted area or other construction projects."  

Spencer said she is particularly looking forward to spending some time with the youth who will be volunteering.

"They have such good energy and spread such joy," Spencer said. "It just gets really excited about the youth today when you see our Scouts helping others which is great."