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Volunteers Build a Shed in Georgia
and Open up the Skies


September 15, 2014

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Volunteers built the shed over three weekends in August, using park materials, volunteer labor and proceeds from a conservation fundraiser for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

When Phil Delestrez got off the phone he said he thought there had to be a catch.


“They just asked if there were any projects we’d like to do at the park and that they had money to help fund it,” said Delestrez, the resource manager for Hard Labor Creek State Park, 5,000 acres of rolling hills an hour east of Atlanta known for a large lake and a fiendishly difficult golf course. “We hadn’t applied for anything. The phone call just happened.”

On the other end of that June phone call was Kate Nation, communications manager for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, a national conservation group run by and for union members who hunt, fish and shoot. Each year they hold around 20 conservation dinner fundraisers around the country. The Atlanta dinner last October raised nearly $6,000.

The dinner’s organizer was Atlanta Local 613 Business Manager Gene O’Kelley, and with the organizing committee, they decided to do a project with Hard Labor Creek.

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The volunteers who built the shed were coordinated through USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

“I checked out the website and made sure they were legit,” Delestrez said. “But I knew right away what needed to be done.”

Two, sometimes three times a week, Delestrez led kayak trips on the park’s 275-acre lake, often at night. Hard Labor Creek is outside the star-obscuring glow of the Atlanta metroplex and gliding over the calm dark lake to see the bright band of the Milky Way has become one of the most popular programs the park runs.

“Out on the lake you can see the whole sky, planets, constellations that are hidden in the city,” Delestrez said. “People are apprehensive about going out at night, but with a guide, it’s not scary and we’ll get 20 people at a time out there.”

But hauling 20 kayaks from their storage shed a mile and a half away to the lake took up to an hour each way. The kayaks are tough and durable, but they have to be kept in the shade or they will deteriorate and warp in the unrelenting Georgia sun.

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Thanks to volunteers from Atlanta Local 613 and International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 32, rangers at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Ga., only have to haul kayaks 20 feet instead of a mile and a half.

Into that summer sun came 25 tradesmen from Local 613 and International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 32. For three Saturdays in August they hammered in pilings, poured cement, hung rafters, built shelves and, one final Thursday night, Ken Wallace, a member of Jacksonville, Fla., Local 177 worked late to get the shingles hammered home right.

Now the park’s 20 kayaks sit shore side and loading and unloading takes Delestrez between 10 and 15 minutes.

“We used them the next day,” Delestrez said. “And now that they are right out on the lake we have lots of people asking when we will start renting them. There is a real demand that we could never meet before.”

Because the project only needed about $2,500, another project at another nearby park is in the works. Nation says where is still up to the organizing committee.

“It doesn’t have to be a place where hunting or fishing happens, just a part of our natural world that is important to our members,” she said.

To find out how to host a conservation fundraising dinner, visit the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website at www.unionsportsmen.org.



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