An Eagle Scout is the highest honor in Scouts BSA. Walking around Montgomery County or Radford, there may be a casual observation of a plaque indicating an Eagle project. Citizens of the New River Valley may be surprised by how many projects and the number of volunteers hours provided by these Eagle Scouts from 2006-2018.
Based on a spreadsheet of Eagle projects completed in the New River District (Montgomery, Floyd, Pulaski and Giles Counties along with Radford City) from 2006 (first electronic records) through the end of 2018, the number of projects over those 13 years was 346 projects.
These numbers are fascinating and point to a tremendous volunteer effort that benefits not only the region, but beyond.
Each project in the spreadsheet had information on the Eagle candidate, the troop, number of project hours, and the first 255 characters of a description.
From this information, Troop 145 Assistant Scoutmaster Henry Bass and Blacksburg High School Senior Joel Hodges created a unique Google Map using a data-import feature. Once an approximate location of each project was pinpointed, Bass and Hodges rendered a map plot. The map has a separate pin for each project, and in the web version, clicking on any pin reveals the project title, date, hours recorded, project description, Scout BSA Troop number, and initials of the Eagle Scout candidate. Map pins were color-shaded, indicating the relative number of hours in each project. This map is available for viewing at https://tinyurl.com/NREagle
Traditionally, an Eagle Project is considered as building something: picnic tables, benches or information kiosks. Eagle candidates can perform any service project that benefits a non-scouting organization. Notable NRV projects over the last 13 years have included restoring Oak Grove Cemetery, which is the resting place for numerous Civil War soldiers, building a gazebo for the residents of Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg, and installing a greenhouse for Micah’s Garden, which helps to feed needy students in the New River Valley.
There is no requirement for a specific number of hours in an Eagle project, only that a well-developed proposal which meets the Troop’s Scoutmaster and Advancement Committee’s approval. It must also receive the approval of the benefitting organization and a New River District volunteer who brings the wisdom of overseeing all Eagle Scout projects in the area.
The official text of the Eagle Scout Requirement reads, “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. The project must benefit an organization other than Scouts BSA. A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your Scoutmaster and unit committee, and the council or district before you start.”
A scout’s road to even start planning an Eagle project is a long one. A scout must rise through all the ranks, perform in leadership positions and earn at least 21 merit badges including mandatory skills like cooking, citizenship, first aid and sustainability. Once an Eagle project idea is written in a proposal and approved, the work on the project begins with organizing, leading and documenting the process. Completion of a project means a scout needs to prepare for a Board of Review. This entire process must be completed before a scout’s eighteenth birthday.
From the data, project work varied from 15 to 1,407 hours, with an average of 138.4 hours. In total, Eagle candidates have performed 48,025 hours of service in the New River Valley. This is not the only service hours on the path to Eagle: 5 ranks along the way also require service hours. The most common beneficiary of Eagle projects in the New River Valley area have been churches, with 107 of the 346 projects. In addition, 35 projects benefited a local school, and 16 were for recreation centers in Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Floyd, Giles and Pulaski. Six projects were for the Montgomery County Christmas Store, 6 for the Pandapas Pond recreation area, and 4 on the Appalachian Trail.
Scouts often relocate as their parents change jobs. As a result, service projects sometimes begin, or end, outside of our area. In the last 13 years, scouts in our area have also worked on projects in Utah; Vincenzo, Italy; West Point, New York; and the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.
The Christiansburg High School Band program has been the recipient of three Eagle projects. An instrument storage shelf system in a storage room allowed more room for the growing band and inventory. A marching band conductor tower was constructed to allow Band Director David Miller a way to get a better view of the marching field. A second tower was completed this past year to offer greater height.
Miller said, “Our band boosters would not have been able to complete such projects. The Eagle Scouts were all great to work with and have a great attitude about helping the band program.”
Christiansburg Mayor Mike Barber is in awe whenever he passes by any one of the 346 projects completed and over 48,000 man-hours donated to his community. As an Eagle Scout himself, Barber feels pride when he sees an Eagle project in Christiansburg
Barber said, “The scope of the work these young scouts and their supporting, fellow troop members, family and friends is overwhelming; not only from the time involved but to the thousands of citizens that have benefited from the work. Improvements to churches, parks, retirement homes, schools have each in some way made life better for all. My hat goes off to these scouts. Future generations to come will benefit from this work.”
According to Bill Foster, Chairman of the Smithfield-Preston Foundation, the Historic Smithfield has benefited from a number of Eagle Scout projects over many years by young men. The projects they have undertaken have all helped Historic Smithfield better accomplish the essential mission of education. Whether kiosks or pathways, repair to fencing or retention walls, the Eagle Scout projects have helped present the area around the house in a more educational and functional way.
Foster said, “An important aspect of the Eagle Scout work at Historic Smithfield is a feeling of accomplishment. These young men can return in the years ahead to still see the contribution they have made. They can even show the fruits of their effort to their future families. We are very grateful for the commitment and energy these young men have exhibited. ‘Helping others at all times’ is indeed part of their outlook on life.”
Eagle Scouts have delivered projects such as refreshing garden and building spaces, building pathways, and carpentry around the libraries in Montgomery County Libraries.
Karim Khan, Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library Director, said, “We welcome Eagle Scouts, especially when they come with ideas and imaginations that will help us help our community”.