Brianna Powe, left, and her mother, Julie Balmelli-Powe, get ready to raise a brand-new flag on Oct. 15 next to the flagpole Powe installed at the Fern Hill Cemetary a week earlier.

When Brianna Powe needed to come up with an idea for her Eagle Scout project, it was a family friend who responded.

Powe, 17, is a member of the local Scouts BSA chapter, formerly known as Boy Scouts. She joined immediately after the national organization welcomed girls aged 11 to 17 for the first time in history in February 2019. 

Powe advanced through the seven-part ranking system the past 20 months by knocking off merit badges through completing various tasks, such as camping and hiking tests. All she needed was to come up with a project to complete her Eagle Scout requirements.

Brianna Powe, 17, of Chehalis, stands next to the flagpole she installed at the Fern Hill Cemetary in Chehalis as part of her Eagle Scout project.

Penny Mauel, who helps maintain the Fern Hill Cemetery, asked Powe if she would be interested in helping erect a flagpole at the 1885 cemetery located on Bishop Road in Chehalis. The cemetery, which opened in 1885, is part of the W.M. Lewis Johnson donation land claim. It was first called Chehalis, then Urquhart and later incorporated as a nonprofit under the name Fern Hill. Many Lewis County pioneers are buried there and most of the graves date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

“I thought that’d be a really good idea because Fern Hill is a small cemetery that not a lot of people see or know of,” Powe said. “I thought maybe a new flagpole and flag would bring a little bit of attention to it because there are a lot of people buried there that people don’t know about.”

Mauel offered to pay for all the materials, Powe just needed to order and coordinate the shipping and receiving of the items, along with installing them at the cemetery. But when Powe went around to local businesses to purchase the materials, she was surprised to hear the responses.

A few local businesses offered to donate the materials for free when they heard it was going toward an Eagle Scout project to help a local cemetery. Palmer Lumber donated two sticks of rebar for the footing and retaining wall and a bag of sand for sturdying the pole while it was being set; CalPortland, a cement company located conveniently right across the street from Fern Hill, donated about a yard of concrete, even pouring it for Powe on-site. Flagpole Store, owned by an Eagle Scout in California, gave Powe a $200 discount on the flagpole.

The flagpole was installed on Oct. 8, with help of her parents and scout master, and a brand-new flag was raised on Oct. 15.

Powe and fellow scout Allison Hilliker turned in their Eagle Scout paperwork in Tumwater on Oct. 19. Now, they are waiting for Scouts BSA to schedule a board of review for each of them, which Powe expects to be by the end of this week. Powe and Hilliker will have their review on Zoom and find out if they are accepted. 

Powe joined Scouts BSA on Feb. 1, 2019, the first day girls were allowed to join in the history of the organization. If her application is accepted by the board of review, she will be part of the inaugural class of girl Eagle Scouts.

“I’m definitely proud of myself and all the other girls, too,” Powe said. “I know how much drive and energy and focus it takes to get Eagle Scout in this amount of time.

“It’s a great opportunity for any kid out there because of the values you’re taught. I learned a lot of great leadership skills. I think it’s something I’ll take with me until I die.”

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