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Lord Botetourt High School senior Alex Norris is learning unexpected lessons as he completes his Eagle Scout project in Fincastle.
CATHY BENSON | The Botetourt View
Lord Botetourt High School senior Alex Norris installed his Eagle Scout project in the historic town of Fincastle on July 12.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Alex Norris and two helpers installed his Eagle Scout project in the historic town of Fincastle on July 12, during a break from torrential rain. The rising senior at Lord Botetourt High wanted to do something community-minded, long-lasting and reverential.
He has succeeded.
It’s in a small, brick courtyard outside the Botetourt County Public Safety Building, about a block from the county courthouse. It comprises four 4-foot-long gray granite benches — two on either side of an already-standing flagpole.
Each pair of benches faces a 4-foot-long black granite marker set on the flagpole’s opposite sides. One marker is engraved with five emblems representing America’s military services. On the other are five emblems representing local first-responders. On each, an engraved headline explains: “In thankful remembrance for all who served.”
It sounds simple, right? It was anything but. Norris, 17, hasn’t chosen a title for it. I will suggest one: “A Boy Scout’s Introduction to Red Tape and Red Ink.”
That’s not to take away anything from the Cloverdale teen, or the positive contribution he’s made. But the kid has been through the wringer with this thing. He’s still going through it. He’s not yet an Eagle Scout.
Allow me to explain.
Norris’ original idea came to him something like two years ago. It was to put benches and a marker honoring troops at the Botetourt Center at Greenfield recreation area.
“It was from a 16-year-old’s heart,” said his mom, Kaye Norris.
He approached Botetourt County Parks and Recreation about the idea, and got a green light from the Boy Scouts.
Since then, just about every facet of the project has changed in significant ways: One was the location. Another was the scope. The composition, engraving and materials changed, too. So did the fundraising.
Norris has overcome those first five obstacles, and he’s drawn a bead on resolving the sixth.
The biggest two hurdles were the engraving and the materials. We’ll focus on those and his fundraising efforts.
Norris had intended that the emblems on the markers would be sandblasted/engraved into gray granite, which is considerably cheaper than black granite. He costed out the project at $3,700.
To raise it, he gave talks in the community that yielded about $2,200 in donations. One of the donors, a West Point graduate, gave $1,000, Kaye Norris told me. The Kiwanis and VFW also chipped in.
In June 2012 Norris organized a combination car wash/cookout/bake sale at Advance Auto on U.S. 460 near Parkway Wesleyan Church, where Boy Scout Troop 136 meets. That netted another $1,000. He was still $500 short.
So last August, the scrappy teen and a handful of his fellow scouts sold Krispy Kreme doughnuts door-to-door at $7 per dozen and raised the remainder.
“At that time my project was fully funded,” Norris told me. At least, that’s what he thought.
But late in the game an official with the Botetourt Department of Emergency Services (he is no longer there) requested changes. He wanted much more detailed emblems on one of the markers. That was a problem.
The new emblems could not be sandblasted/engraved, because with that process “you can only carve letters so small,” said Valley Funeral Home owner Buck Simmons, who assisted Norris in the project.
Instead, they would have to be laser-etched, which costs more.
Besides that, you can’t laser-etch gray granite, Simmons explained to me. In that color the etching doesn’t show up. So Norris and Simmons decided to order laser-etched black granite circles that would be set into the gray granite markers.
They spent months dealing with a monument company in North Carolina trying to make sure its stonecutters understood the order exactly. But somewhere along the line there was a communications foul-up. The monument company produced 100 percent black granite markers instead. Those cost more, too.
The bottom line is, Norris’ Eagle Scout project experienced a cost overrun of almost $1,000. He’s been scrapping for the difference ever since.
Friday, Norris held a hot dog and bake sale outside the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department. “I made about $290 profit,” he told me. He is still $490 short, though.
That is another hiccup. Eagle Scout projects must be fully funded. To complete it, Norris must close that funding gap.
“This has been a positive thing. We’ve been blessed and very fortunate,” Kaye Norris told me. “This is life. You’ve just got to move on.”
The neat thing about Norris’ experience is that he’s learned valuable lessons about dealing with bureaucracies and businesses and people. Those will serve him well in the future. Overcoming such challenges is part of the point of an Eagle Scout project.
But couldn’t Botetourt County, the beneficiary of this one, bail the kid out? I put that question to Supervisor Billy Martin Wednesday.
“I don’t know,” Martin told me. “That would have to come before the board.”
It should. Stay tuned.
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