After many years of neglect, wood-rot and damage from animals has caused deterioration at the former Camp Hazlewood property, a volunteer program named A Year to Volunteer has spent the past week and a half renovating the once prominent Girl Scout campground, aiming to restore it to its former condition and have it suitable for campers to enjoy again.

A Year to Volunteer was started in early 2020 by Shar and Phil Roos, a couple who had been living in Arizona before deciding to take their RV to different states and dedicate a year to helping people. Phil Roos had recently retired from the Navy as a captain after 36 years of service and Shar Roos was working in finance. 

“Phil had retired from the Navy and I was working in the insurance industry and we were really unfulfilled with what we were doing in our daily life. We wanted to travel and be able to go make a real impact in the world, so we decided to hop in the RV and take a year to volunteer,” said Shar Roos.

Camp Hazlewood is the couple’s 11th project and Tennessee is the eighth state in which they have volunteered, the others being Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, Indiana, South Carolina and Georgia.

A Year to Volunteer has not only restored the decayed cabins and redeveloped the Jolly Hall dining area with new boards and fresh paint, the volunteers have taken it upon themselves to build new amenities, fix the drainage pipes in the bathrooms and fixed up the counselor’s cabin, making it possible for people to eventually stay at the Girl Scout Camp Road campsite again.

“We went in and bleached off and cleaned the cots in all of the cabins, we’ve built new doors, wire brushed and sealed off the roofs, redone the walls that were rotting, fixed the flush valves in the bathrooms and we’re building a roof and structure around the showers so people can take showers indoors,” said Phil Roos. “We’re aiming by the time we leave Friday that this place will have people staying here again.”

The Rooses have developed a community of volunteers that follow them from project to project and as a result, more than 30 people have been putting in work at Camp Hazlewood since March 1. Some came from nearby areas such as Dresden, others traveled here from Texas and Michigan. One of the volunteers, John Moran, retired from the Fairfield Police Department in Connecticut after 30 years of service just to lend the Rooses a hand with their work.

The Rooses and their friends will be off to Montana for their next project after they finish up work at Camp Hazlewood Friday. They likely won’t have to worry about their efforts being wasted, as Zach Tinkle, Paris Landing State Park manager, said there will be plans to have people back in Camp Hazlewood.

“We’re formulating what it’s going to look like, but we do have a plan to utilize it for groups at some point. We just don’t know exactly when yet,” said Tinkle.

The campground was bought by Henry County from the former Girl Scouts of Reelfoot Council for $1.5 million in the late 2000s, prior to the council’s merger into the current Girl Scouts Heart of the South. The property was then purchased from the county by the State of Tennessee in 2009, when it officially became part of Paris Landing State Park.

There have been some efforts to revive the former Girl Scout camp during the course of the following decade, but some issues, such as funding, always seemed to come in the way. A Year to Volunteer is now doing it without charging a penny.

The Rooses have put in more than 150 work days and about 12,500 work hours on their journey so far, and they don’t plan on stopping until they’ve completed projects in all 50 states. 

So, what started as a retired Navy officer of 36 years and a dissatisfied financial expert becoming bored with daily life has since grown into something that has helped bring back some natural beauty in Henry County.

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