Boy Scouts break ground on welcome center in Ava

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AVA — The Leatherstocking Council, Boy Scouts of America, welcomed some 50 capital campaign donors to Camp Kingsley on Wednesday to help turn the first shovels of dirt as they broke ground for what will become a new welcome center at the century-old site.

The 100th anniversary capital campaign to fund The Robert Barnes, Sr. Welcome Center began with a challenge pledge made by the Barnes family in the summer of 2019. The challenge: If the Leatherstocking Council raised $200,000 by March 1, 2021, the Barnes family would donate another $100,000 toward the capital campaign. The successful challenge was met by 408 donors.

Robert “Bob” Barnes, Sr. of Canastota, was a longtime volunteer at Camp Kingsley and father of three eagle scouts. Bob passed away in 2013. He was an electrical technician at General Electric for 35 years and was a very active leader of the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Bob achieved his Eagle Scout rank as a youth and as an adult was a scout master, earning many prestigious awards including the Silver Beaver Award, District Award of Merit and the Wood Badge Award recognizing his leadership.

“It is appropriate we name this welcome center after Bob since I remember that over a decade ago, he was the first to communicate the critical need for a convenient location at Camp Kingsley where our guests may check-in after a long journey,” said Ray Eschenbach, scout executive for the Leatherstocking Council. “We are grateful to the Barnes family for making this multi-use facility possible because until now, it was something our volunteers only dreamed about.”

“Building this new welcome center displays our commitment to the scouting program for years to come,” said Leatherstocking Council Board President Matthew Dziedzic. “By investing in our camps, programs and community — even in tough times— we are showing our youth that no matter how daunting the challenge, a Scout never gives up and always moves forward.”

Cub Scouts come year-round to Camp Kingsley from all over the Northeast. For the facility’s nationally-recognized Blizzard Camp, scouts travel from as far away as Florida to see snow for the first time and obtain their winter survival merit badge.

The Robert G. “Bob” Barnes, Sr. Welcome Center will be a warm and inviting space for guests to check into camp, relax in the lounge, use the restroom upon arrival and even take care of their health paperwork, officials said. It will be designed as a multi-use facility that non-Scouts can rent when BSA members are not in camp, and groups from Utica College, Thea Bowman House, the Army, and other organizations rent campsites and cabins at Camp Kingsley throughout the year.

The Leatherstocking Council provides character development and leadership skills training to approximately 3,000 Scouting families across Delaware, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Otsego, and Schoharie counties.

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