Recently, two Dawson County Eagle Scout candidates joined together with nonprofit organization Friends of Lake Lanier to complete the construction of two structures designed to house life jackets free of charge for use by day park visitors at Lake Lanier.
Friends of Lake Lanier is a nonprofit that was founded in 2017 and works directly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on Lake Lanier to help enhance recreational opportunities and promote water safety and natural resources for the enjoyment of all people using the USACE parks, campgrounds and boating facilities. This includes collecting money for and funding projects at the USACE facilities, one of which are called “Life Jacket Loaner Stations”.
According to Friends of Lake Lanier Treasurer and Board Member Tim Baker, each Life Jacket Loaner Station contains life jackets ranging in size from infant to adult, and are available for anyone to use when they are in the USACE park. Through partnership with local Eagle Scout candidates, Friends of Lake Lanier has been able to install these stations at several of the USACE parks in the area.
Most recently, two of Dawson County’s own Eagle Scout candidates, Dale Padgett and Nathan Muncy from Troop 109 out of Bethel United Methodist Church, partnered together with Friends of Lake Lanier to build several of these stations.
“Each Boy Scout as part of an eagle project has to do two Life Jacket Loaner Stations,” Baker said. “We give them the blueprints and a sheet saying who’s responsible for what; to make it happen they need to get the specs and the materials listed and figure out how to build it.”
Padgett completed stations at Van Pugh and Burton Mill Day Use Parks on Lake Lanier, and Muncy completed stations at Keith Bridge and Longhollow Day Use Parks on Lake Lanier. Each scout spent about 82 hours on the project and had about 10 volunteers assisting them.
According to Baker, the USACE helps with drilling the holes for the posts, and Friends of Lake Lanier helps with the first $200 of the project’s funding. The scouts are responsible for raising the rest of the funding needed to build the stations, which Baker said is a huge help for Friends of Lake Lanier.
“What those Eagle Scouts do is huge because the total cost of a single LLS is about $800,” Baker said. "We will help them with $200 of that $800 and then they have to look for funding to fund the rest.”
The labor that the scouts put into the project also saves a lot of money for Friends of Lake Lanier, Baker said.
“It would be a much more costly project if it involved professionals,” Baker said. “It would be much more expensive than $800 per station.”
Friends of Lake Lanier collects donated life jackets to refill the Life Jacket Loaner Stations, which need between 250 and 300 each year. Baker added that the stations are used by dozens of people in the parks each year, making them a very useful project for the organization and Eagle Scout candidates to pour their resources into.
“It is amazing how many people actually use those life jackets,” Baker said. “It’s a view to walk out and see how many are actually being used by folks.”
In addition to the installation of Life Jacket Loaner stations with the help of scouts like Muncy and Padgett, Friends of Lake Lanier works to collect funding to install soap dispensers at USACE campgrounds, pollinator gardens at the parks, contactless payment options with QR codes and cash boxes at the campgrounds, volunteer uniforms for those working in the day use parks and around the lake, ranger shirts and drink machines in the day use parks.
The organization sells firewood, ice and laundry services in the USACE campgrounds to help raise funds to run their projects, and collects donations from people in the community who want to help out monetarily.
According to Baker, Friends of Lake Lanier is run completely by volunteers and is therefore always in need of new volunteers to help out. Volunteering opportunities include supporting the organization’s projects, supporting operations in ways like collecting lifejackets and working on signage, graphic and technical support and fundraising. Baker said that volunteering only takes about three to five hours a week.
For more information about Friends of Lake Lanier and how to support their mission in the community, go to the organization’s website at FriendsofLakeLanier.org, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/friendsoflakelanier or email FriendsofLakeLanier@gmail.com.