Community Celebrates Rebuilt Scout Lodge
With the help of volunteers, local businesses and young folks, a burned-down Scout lodge has risen like a phoenix from its own ashes.
Recently, a formal ceremony was held to mark the accomplishment. A crowd estimated at more than 700 showed up on that chilly afternoon. Scouts and Scouters, moms and dads, and other volunteers joined in a celebration and dedication of the rebuilt West End Community Youth Lodge - a lodge for Troop 98 and a center for both Boy and Girl Scouts, Brownies and Cubs.
That troop is one of the oldest in the county. West End United Methodist Church sponsors all the groups.
In August 2009, fire destroyed the lodge that Boy Scouts and other volunteers were building just as it neared completion.
A former Scout confessed to setting the fire that burned the building and much of the material donated to finish it. In court, Aaron Jaymes Lee pleaded guilty in a deal that sent him to a farm for troubled youth in western North Carolina. Lee had been charged in connection with several fires, including the lodge fire.
The loss seemed devastating at first. It was considered a total loss, with an estimated $400,000 in damage, according to the Sheriff's Office. Firefighters responding stayed at the site until the early hours of the morning, but the blaze was so hot it fractured many stones in the hand-built fireplace and chimney.
Many of the firefighters returned later to help rebuild the first structure in the 65-year history of Troop 98, according to Assistant Scoutmaster and Assistant to Scoutmaster and Adventure Crew leader Dwayne Parsons.
"Without the community, we couldn't have put this building back to where it is," Parsons said. "The firefighters not only came that night, but a lot of the fellows came back to drive a few nails. They are local guys. We invited Aaron's family, but I didn't see them there. His parents say he is doing well in his first year up there."
Cub Scouts began the formalities with a flag ceremony, raising the national banner on the flagpole in front of the lodge. Parsons thanked all the volunteers and thanked everyone for coming out on such a cold day. It was officially named the West End Scout Lodge at Johnson Park.
"Mr. Billy Johnson donated the property more than 20 years ago to the Metho-dist church," Parsons said. "About six years ago, some of us got together and thought it would be a great place for a lodge. The church agreed and work started."
Some insurance money helped restart the project, and because of the fire, community support started pouring in.
Parsons himself was surprised by two awards. He was honored with an Award of Merit from the Occonneechee Council.
He also received a Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. The council created the President's Volunteer Service Award program as a way to "thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others" to engage in volunteer service.
Parsons said many others deserve an award.
"The award stuff caught me off guard," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. "We were dedicating the building to Scouting and the community. It was built by the community. There were a lot out there that deserved awards. I told the crowd we really appreciated their coming. They knew who they were. To start naming them, it would be a long list and I'd be afraid of leaving somebody out."
The pastor of the Methodist church called attention to one particular stone in the rebuilt fireplace as representative of a Scout's need to build a firm foundation.
"Our minister has a long Korean name, but everybody just calls him Preacher Won," Parsons said. "He spoke about how Scouts, stopping along a trail, sometimes secretly slip rocks in another's pack as a joke - making it heavier. One time, one the size of a brick showed up; it got passed around."
From trek to trek, Scouts carved initials in that rock as it was passed around.
"One day, we said we'd retire that rock," Parsons said. "When we build our lodge, that rock will be somewhere in it. It was there in the fire. During the fire, we lost so much. Many stones were in pieces. That rock somehow survived the fire. When we rebuilt, we put that rock back. Preacher Won talked about how that rock was a good foundation, and how important a good, solid foundation is."
Scouts have already been meeting in the lodge.
"Now, of all things, we have a scheduling problem," Parsons said. " We could use it every night. We have 17 acres there, with four established campsites and a fire ring for ceremonies, camp fires and such, thanks to the Methodist church and the community."
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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