CONWAY — U.S. Forest Service personnel joined Saco District Ranger Jim Innes on Monday in North Conway in presenting a Citizen Stewardship and Partnerships Volunteer and Service Award to Home Depot store manager Brad Bousquet and his employees.
The award recognizes the store’s assistance in restoring the historic Bartlett Lodge on the Bartlett Experimental Forest over the past two years.
The renovations were needed to house military personnel staying at the lodge as part of Armed Forces Conservation Corps, a Forest Service program that enables service members nearing the end of their service to intern with the White Mountain National Forest to learn skills in land management that may lead to jobs with the Forest Service, Innes said.
“We’re here today to present this award and to thank the Team Depot for all their work helping us to restore the Bartlett Lodge and also to the Home Depot Foundation for their generous donation,” said Innes, noting the foundation gave grants totaling $22,000 and Team Depot volunteers donated two days of labor painting the lodge.
Had it not been such assistance, “we would not have been able to get the AFCC program up and running in May of 2017,” Innes said, who noted the award is given to one recipient in a 23-state region that spans from Minnesota in the west to Maine in the East and as far south as West Virginia.
Bousquet said Home Depot was happy to take part and that the Home Depot Foundation has supported many community projects over the years, including helping American Legion Post 46 get ready to host “The Wall That Heals” in Conway last week, as well as the Francis Murphy VFW Post in Bartlett and the North Conway Community Center’s grounds and bench project.
Team Depot’s work on the Bartlett Lodge began in May 2017 when they painted the interior and installed the kitchen floor. It continued in September 2018, when they painted the exterior of the building and garage, Innes said.
In addition to Innes, on hand for Monday’s presentation were the Forest Service’s Zoe Eisenpress, Katie Ellis, Jessie Dubuque, Mike Mosley, Drew Copeland, Ken Jager, Nick Sindorf, Rick Alimi, Mike Shingler, Clare Long, Michelle Hanson, Cristin Bailey, Dylan Alden, Matt Schomburg and Steve Ogden.
Home Depot Team members on hand included Cheryl Fisler, Kodi Barrows, Krista Ames, Matt Rousey, Sherri Ballou, John Biggio, Jessica Burham, Doug Pratt, Paul Hurd, Dan Dawicki and Suzette St Pierre.
Innes said work on the lodge was done in a separate effort by members of HistoriCorps, who through a $30,000 federal grant removed lead paint and primed the exterior in summer of 2018 to enable the Home Depot team to paint in the fall.
Additional volunteer labor was donated by Brian Taylor of Architectural Woodworking, who restored the garage doors, and Habitat for Humanity, which did some finish work.
That followed work done by the USFS from January-May 2017.
“We completely renovated the interior of the house from the studs out, using contractors and labor from the district employees,” Innes said. Thanks to the Home Depot grant, “we were able to buy all the building materials, appliances and kitchen cabinets,” he said.
On hand for Monday’s presentation were three soldiers who are staying at the lodge: Lt. Michael Nims of Fort Hunchuca of Arizona; and Sgt. T.J. Williams and Spc. Taylor Thomas, who are both from Fort Drum, N.Y.
As part of the Armed Forces Conservation Corps, military personnel do backcountry trail work, wilderness patrols, timber and wildlife management projects, and work at the recreation sites along the Kancamagus Highway.
The program started at the forest in 2017 with three soldiers. Last year, four soldiers participated. This year, they had four soldiers in the first cohort, and may have at least four, possibly six in the next cohort this fall.
“We can take up to six per cohort, and the program is really taking off, we are now getting more applications than we have slots to fill,” said Innes.
“We started with just the Army, but now we are also are getting interest from the Marines and Navy, so the word is really getting out,” he said.
Innes said the program is also a huge benefit to the Forest Service.” The soldiers coming out of the military are highly trained and excellent employees.”
For more information, call the Saco Ranger District at (603) 447-5448.