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AT&T shares the wealth
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Children's hand prints cover the soaring, wooden roof planks of The Bob Woodruff Building at the Bert Adams Scout Reservation in Newton County.

More than 45 years ago those tiny, dirt-laden hands helped to build the reservation's dining hall, but until recently the building sat void of campers.

Local government officials and businessmen - many of whom once participated in Scout activities - gathered in the air-conditionless Woodruff Building Tuesday with area Boy Scouts leaders for lunch and to express gratitude for the AT&T Foundation's gift of $120,000 to the Atlanta Area Boy Scouts for the renovation of the Bob Woodruff Building and other additions.

"The purpose today is to celebrate scouting, first of all, and the Metro Atlanta Area Council and all they do for the area," said Paul Chambers, North East Georgia District Manager of AT&T Georgia, "and second to announce a major gift to the Scouts here from AT&T."

Yesterday's donation is the first part of a three-year commitment of AT&T for a total of $350,000.

"Sometimes I think when we talk about money and boards, we forget about the end user and that's the kids," Chambers said.

BSA Atlanta Area Council Scout Executive Don McChesney explained how the money will go toward the costly renovation of the Bob Woodruff Building as well as the addition of computer labs, swimming pool and Cub World dining hall at the Bert Adams Reservation - which serves a 13-county area.

"This year was kind of a challenge," McChesney said.

He explained how the dining hall was listed as a condemned building until recently, and this posed a problem to those feeding the some 7,000 campers the reservation served this summer

McChesney thanked Bill Smith, senior vice president of AT&T Southeast for their dedication to the Scouts.

"With Bill and AT&T's help we were able to find the cash to do what we wanted to do," McChesney said.

Tom Gay of Gay Construction helped with the labor of the renovation, and McChesney thanked him as well.

"Our plan for this camp is to expand and expand and expand some more," McChesney said.

He said with more capabilities the 1,250-acre reservation can serve more campers.

Tim Bentsen, President of the BSA Atlanta Area Council, said the Bob Woodruff Building was the heart of the reservation - which includes Camp Emerson, Gorman and Jamison - because all who visit will pass through it.

"This donation is going to be a great start to our capital campaign," Bentsen said.

He explained other donors always looked to see how BellSouth had given when formulating their own gift amounts, and since BellSouth and Cingular merged with AT&T, donors will now follow AT&T's lead.

"Scouting does so much for the community," Smith said, "and I hope we show today that the new AT&T is every bit as committed to the communities we serve as BellSouth was."

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) attended the meeting along with State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle), State Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle), Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey and several members of the Covington City Council and Newton County Board of Commissioners.

Ehrhart remembered camping at Bert Adams Reservation as a boy in the late 70s, and said he is now the proud father of a couple of Webelos.

"I'm looking forward to more great times out here with my sons," Ehrhart said.