CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s first Boy Scout will be memorialized when the $3.7 million H. Bernard Wehrle, Sr. Scout Leadership Service Center opens as the new headquarters for the Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America next year.
“My grandfather was a warm, funny and engaging individual who loved being around other people,” Bernie Wehrle said Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility that, once completed, will serve and host Boy Scouts from across West Virginia and the United States.
The current facility, the Wyatt Scout Service Center which is located along the Kanawha River in Charleston, was built in 1979. “It was meant for a Boy Scout Council that was half the size of what the Boy Scout Council is now,” said Jeff Purdy, scout executive for the Buckskin Council.
The Buckskin Council has expanded three times and now includes 32 counties in four states — 22 in West Virginia, four in Kentucky and three in both Virginia and Ohio.
In addition to office space for executives and others with the Buckskin Council, the new facility will include improved program facilities, a Scout shop and museum displays. The center will also have enough space to host large meetings, conferences, volunteer trainings, program coordination and overnight trips.
“It’s going to be a significantly larger space, a much larger footprint here,” Purdy explained. “We’re even going to have a campfire ring on the backside along the (Kanawha) River.”
The Buckskin Council is home to the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County, host site for the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree and the 2019 World Boy Scout Jamboree.
“A lot of the visitors that go there have a chance to stop by here as well. In fact, we’ve already seen an increase in foot traffic in our Scout shop, in our facilities,” Purdy said.
“When people come to West Virginia now to visit the Summit, oftentimes they’ll stop at the local Boy Scout Council. When they do that, from this point going forward, they’ll know the Buckskin Council is alive and well.”
Fundraising for the leadership service center project included a $1.5 million contribution from the Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation and the H.B. Wehrle Foundation.
H. Bernard Wehrle, Sr. founded those foundations in the late 1950s by gifting stock from McJunkin Supply Company, the company he created with Jerry McJunkin in 1921 that is now a Fortune 500 company known as MRC Global.
“This gift to the Boy Scouts is made possible by what he did,” Bernie Wehrle said of his grandfather who was recognized late in his life as the first Boy Scout in West Virginia. He joined the organization on May 10, 1911.
The goal is to open the H. Bernard Wehrle, Sr. Scout Leadership Service Center by May of next year. Buckskin Council office workers will relocate to temporary space in November.
Overall, Purdy reported increases this year in Boy Scout participation within the Buckskin Council. At the close of August, he said membership was 13 percent above numbers from the same time last year.