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Fundraiser to renovate St. Helena’s Scout Hall off to brisk start

Fundraiser to renovate St. Helena’s Scout Hall off to brisk start

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A campaign to fund the renovation of Scout Hall is off to a brisk start as donors line up to help an iconic St. Helena building that’s served Scouts since the 1930s.

St. Helena Construction provided an estimate of $197,700 to replace dry rot, replace windows, upgrade the electrical system and repair the back steps. Organizers have set a target of $250,000 to cover contingencies and add a solar system.

The Roger Trinchero Family Foundation has awarded a $100,000 matching gift to the “Friends of Scout Hall” project.

Other donations so far include:

- In-kind donation of a solar system from Mark and Pam Smithers

- Warren Winiarski: $5,000

- Troop 1 Boy Scouts Venture Crew (ages 14-18): $5,000, generated from barrel sales

- St. Helena Rotary Club: $5,000

- St. Helena Kiwanis Club: $5,000

“We’ve had all these pledges and we haven’t even started dialing,” reported Jim Sweeney, who’s chairing the fundraising committee for Troop 1. “This is all organic.”

Checks made out to “St. Helena Rotary Foundation,” with “Troop 1 Scout Hall Project” in the memo line, may be mailed to St. Helena Rotary, P.O. Box 211, St. Helena, CA 94574. Online donations are being accepted at www.friendsofscouthall.org.

Originally an olive oil factory, the building was donated to the city by Nellie Smith — whose husband William Smith had founded Smiths Pharmacy — in 1936 for “the exclusive purpose of providing a meeting place for the members of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Having a dedicated building is rare for Scout Troops, and Scout Hall has helped Troop 1 thrive, becoming one of the oldest continually chartered troops in California, founded in 1919. Sweeney said the other two reasons for Troop 1’s longevity are a lasting partnership with the St. Helena Rotary Club, the Troop’s nonprofit sponsor, and adult leaders who stick with the Troop long after their kids age out of the program.

Today the troop has 33 registered Scouts, and St. Helena’s Girl Scouts – who were granted use of the building in the 1980s – have 11 members.

The building underwent two renovations over the years, most recently an effort begun in 1979 under the leadership of Gregory Hunter. Although Scouts still use the building, time has taken its toll over the last 42 years.

“We’re one good storm away from a problem,” Sweeney said. “We’re looking at over 40 years of deferred maintenance.”

Earlier this year the city addressed the most pressing needs by repairing the roof and stabilizing the parapet. The Scouts have stepped up to raise money for the rest of the work.

“It’s in the spirit of Scouting. We want to give back,” Sweeney said.

The city and the Scouts recently negotiated a new use agreement which is closely based on the arrangement envisioned by Smith in 1936 but couched in modern legalese. The City Council approved the agreement on Aug. 24.

As the fundraising campaign continues, expect to get an appeal in the mail and to see Scouts collecting donations in front of businesses like Sunshine Foods.

Looking for Girl Scout cookies? Don't expect to see the seasonal booths outside grocery stores this year. Due to COVID-19, cookie sales have gone online. Talia, a Napa Brownie Girl Scout, created her own video cookie sales pitch. To order cookies from a Girl Scout near you, visit ilovecookies.org.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.

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