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Local scout’s unique journey to benefit Townsend Fire Department

  • Local scout Kaylee Meadows stands with her Eagle project, a...

    Local scout Kaylee Meadows stands with her Eagle project, a gear dryer for the Townsend Fire Department, at the fire department’s Station 3 on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Meadows virtually joined the “Triple Nickles” scout troop in West Linn, Oregon back in March 2020 but, rather than do a project on the other side of the country, she decided to give back to the local fire department where her dad is a volunteer. (Shane Rhodes/Nashoba Valley Voice)

  • Townsend Fire Chief Gary Shepherd (left), Kaylee Meadows (center) and...

    Townsend Fire Chief Gary Shepherd (left), Kaylee Meadows (center) and her father, Michael Meadows (right), at Station 3 of the Townsend Fire Department on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (Shane Rhodes/Nashoba Valley Voice)

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TOWNSEND — Kaylee Meadows’ scouting journey hasn’t been what many would consider “typical.”

A lover of the outdoors, Kaylee Meadows joined Scouts BSA in March 2020. While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges in and of itself, she also struggled to find a local troop that was right for her.

Fortunately, Meadows found a troop that was, in her words, “the perfect fit” – over 3,000 miles away in Oregon.

“My experience is certainly unique,” Meadows said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

Virtually, Meadows joined West Linn, Oregon’s Troop 555, an all-girl unit dubbed the Triple Nickles. John Cimral, Meadows’ grandfather who founded the Triple Nickels in 2019, said the familial connection — Cimral’s daughter and Meadows’ aunt, Juliana, was also a member — and the friendliness and “we can figure this out’ attitude” attracted her to the troop.

“In an odd way,” Cimral said, “COVID kind of took this barrier down for Kaylee as it put up so many others.”

“The question was could we support her, could she participate and we thought, with everything moving to Zoom anyway, what difference would it make if Kaylee was there in Oregon or back in Massachusetts? And, because of COVID, the situation was almost natural — not a single girl batted an eye when she was introduced,” he said.

Meadows quickly found her place in the group and, despite the distance between them, was just another Triple Nickels scout. She was even elected as their senior patrol leader in 2021.

Now, two years later, Meadows is on a mission to join a small but growing list of girl Eagle Scouts — much to the benefit of the Townsend Fire Department.

On Feb. 1, 2019, Scouts BSA, formerly Boy Scouts of America, allowed girls to achieve the rank of Eagle through an Eagle project. Through their work, prospective Eagle scouts must demonstrate leadership while also serving the community. But, rather than serve the West Linn community, Meadows instead chose to give back to Townsend’s fire department by building a much needed and otherwise expensive gear dryer.

Most Eagle projects make use of the scout’s entire troop. But, back in Massachusetts, Meadows had to complete much of the work herself with some help from local volunteers. Through a GoFundMe, she raised more than $1,600 toward the project.

“It’s impressive, what she’s been able to do for, the most part, on her own,” said Michael Meadows, Kaylee Meadows’ father and a volunteer for the Townsend Fire Department. “And to think of a volunteer fire department — we don’t have a lot of money, so for her to go out of her way and do this, it just means a lot.”

“I’ll always be proud of her for that — even if I wasn’t her dad, I’d still be proud of her,” he said.

The dryer will ensure that the firefighter’s gear is kept clean and safe for use, quickly drying any jackets, pants and gloves that need to be cleaned of any smoke and or other contaminants post firefight.

Townsend Fire Chief Gary Shepherd thanked Kaylee Meadows for her work. He also called the dryer a “critical addition” to the department after the town failed to pass the Proposition 2 1/2 override, which would have increased the town’s budget by $350,000, in Monday’s annual election.

“This is a big deal for us — it’ll help keep our firefighters safe and healthy,” he said. “Without the override, our budget is going to get hit at some level — so, if it weren’t for Kaylee, who knows how long we would have gone without something like this.”

A new dryer can cost upwards of $7,000 according to Kaylee and Michael Meadows.

Kaylee Meadows said the connection to her dad and the opportunity to help first responders made her project much more meaningful. She also said everything she has learned through her project and Scouts BSA, in general, has made her a better person.

“It meant a lot to me, just to do the project and to know it would help my dad and the other firefighters,” she said. “Being able to help the community out, in any type of way, is just really important to me and really symbolizes what it means to be a scout.”

“I’ve learned so much,” she said, “and I know, being able to say I’m one of the very few female Eagle Scouts, it’s going to open up so many opportunities for me. It’s just made me a better person.”

Kaylee Meadows also stressed that, while she would advocate for an in-person scouting experience over a virtual one, scouts should not be afraid to branch out if they, like her, are unable find the right troop for them.

“If they feel the fit is right, they should try and join, no matter where they might be,” she said.

For more information on Kaylee Meadows or her project, visit https://bit.ly/3MLbtPC.

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