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Swedish scouts experience local culture before event

HUNTINGTON — Bringing together roughly 45,000 scouts from about 167 countries around the world with goals of promoting peace, education, understanding, leadership and other life skills, the stage is set for the 24th World Scout Jamboree to begin today at the Summit Bechtel Reserve along the scenic New River Gorge near Beckley.

For 12 days, scouts will participate in various events and activities at the world-class training, scouting and adventure center, including scuba diving, sport shooting, canoeing, zip lining, mountaineering, biking, rock climbing and more.

Nearly 2,000 scouts from Sweden— making up the third largest contingent of scouts from any country attending the jamboree, behind only the United States and the United Kingdom — made their way to West Virginia a few days early, staying in residence halls on Marshall University's campus while soaking in as much local culture as possible before the jamboree begins Monday.

The Swedish scouts split into four different groups for two weeks of travel prior to arriving in Huntington

on Saturday evening, said Frederik Berg, a member of the planning team for the trip. The groups began their journeys in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and New York respectively, with scouts traveling to major American cities like Memphis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and several others.

While in Huntington, scouts participated in several activities on Marshall's campus, including a barbecue Sunday afternoon and a high school prom-themed event in the evening.

"Just to be able to meet with scouts from all over the world is very valuable," said Berg, who was also a unit leader at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan four years ago. "They can share experiences, values and cultures and help educate each other along the way."

David Eklund, one of the scouts staying on Marshall's campus, is a 17-year-old who studies social studies with an international focus at the International School of the Gothenburg Region in Sweden. He said the trip is his first time visiting the U.S., and he thinks he may decide to move to America when he is older.

Some of Eklund's favorite moments of the trip so far have been visiting New York City, canoeing in the Delaware River, trying cheesecake in Philadelphia and seeing the White House in Washington D.C., he said.

"My favorite thing about America so far is the landscape. When traveling between cities, it is really beautiful," Eklund said. "Everything feels so vast compared to Sweden, which is actually also quite big, but it is like an entirely different feeling here."

Eklund said he is most excited to try the climbing facility at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, which is the largest man-made climbing facility in the country.

Tove Ekroth, another of the Swedish scouts, who studies society and social sciences and would like to be a journalist when she is older, said her favorite feature of her travels so far, in addition to the endless excitement and learning opportunities, has been meeting so many new people.

"Everyone is so nice here," Ekroth said. "In Sweden, people more often keep to themselves, and you can just ask for help if you need it. But here, if you just look lost, people will come help you."

Ekroth said one of the most inspiring moments she has experienced on the trip so far was a simple moment of kindness from a group of strangers in Chicago who volunteered to help her and some friends find a place to eat after noticing they seemed lost.

"That may have been my favorite moment so far," she said. "They were just so invested in trying to help us."

The World Scout Jamboree runs through Aug. 2 at the 14,000-acre site in Fayette County, which is the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree.

Held every four years, this year's World Scout Jamboree is being jointly hosted by national scouting organizations from the United States, Canada and Mexico. This is only the second time for the event to be held in the United States; the first was in 1967 in Idaho.

Those interested in more information about the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, including additional background information, a day-to-day schedule of events and activities and how to purchase visitor passes, can visit

Group to meet for first time tonight

HUNTINGTON — The first meeting of the revived Huntington Human Relations Commission will be held tonight to elect officers and discuss any other matters.

Later that night, Huntington City Council members are expected to vote on two additional appointees, bringing the commission to a full 11 members. It will be the commission's first meeting since Mayor Steve Williams announced he was bringing it back earlier this year. Council members appointed nine members during a regular meeting last month.

According to the city's ordinance, the Huntington Human Relations Commission investigates and holds hearings on cases of alleged discrimination arising from the city's nondiscrimination ordinance. The commission may then issue subpoenas to study complaints and order fines for companies or individuals found committing discriminatory practices. The ordinance makes unlawful any discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age, blindness, disability or veteran status.

The Human Relations Commission officially disbanded in 2011 because of financial constraints, laying off an employee and dissolving an 11-member board of commissioners. The commission lost its ability to investigate complaints after Fair Housing Assistance and Community Development Block Grant funds dried up in 2009. Without funding, the commission listened to complaints and referred callers to other agencies, such as the West Virginia Human Rights Commission.

Williams said restarting the commission is in line with the city's mission of openness and fairness for all. City Council members approved a budget with money set aside to fund commission activities. Williams said he was seeking recommendations for an executive director, who has not yet been hired.

During a City Council meeting Monday night, members will vote on the approval of Ally Layman and David N. Harris to the commission, bringing its total members to 11.

Layman recently helped organize Huntington's first Pride Festival and has worked with the Mayor's LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Harris is a youth mentor in Huntington's Fairfield neighborhood and volunteers at the A.D. Lewis Community Center.

If approved, they will join already-appointed commission members Carole Boster, C. Richard Cobb, Omar D. Ahmad, Timothy Melvin, Rick Montgomery, the Rev. Timothy Dixon, Dr. Michael Stinnett, Kelli Johnson and Elisha "E.J." Hassan.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

Jim's Spaghetti to host first dementia-friendly night

HUNTINGTON — The full scope of the fond memories made and contained for thousands of individuals at Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House since 1938 is incomprehensible.

It's become more than a staple of Huntington life — it's a largely unchanged cultural touchstone relatable between generations at any age.

It's the perfect spot to coax out the precious, yet fleeting, memories for those suffering from dementia, said David Nisbet, founder of Dementia Friendly Huntington. It's also the ideal example to prove considering those special needs is a worthy endeavor.

Jim's will be the first restaurant in the Tri-State to host a dementia-friendly night on Wednesday, Aug. 7, with the event anticipated to continue on the first Wednesday of each following month. Staff will be trained to consider the needs and nuances that come with dementia, something caretakers and loved ones already know well.

The night is designed to relieve the social stress and stigma that many dementia sufferers face in a public setting, which often simply discourages them from getting out at all.

"What I love about Jim's is that it's a landmark business facilitating a landmark day," said Nisbet, whose father suffers with the cognitive disease.

"And we really need to pack the house so that other businesses will know there is a market in supporting those with dementia."

Dementia Friendly Huntington promotes an active understanding and accountability for the particular needs of those living with dementia and their caretakers — allowing them to live as independently and as dignified as possible.

Nisbet, a small-business owner himself, already has applied that mantra to his four Valvoline Express Cares across the Tri-State, and has taken his message before the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"If we don't start putting this out into the community, there's going to be a huge section of people left behind," Nisbet said.

Playing host to the first dementia-friendly night was an easy choice for the Tweel family, who has owned and operated Jim's since it opened 81 years ago. The late founders Jim and Sally Tweel both suffered from dementia later in life, said Bradley Tweel, their grandson and current Jim's co-manager.

"It's something that our family is familiar with and we've dealt with it, and we want to show people in the community that there is a safe place for that," Tweel said.

"If they feel like they can bring up some good memories by coming to Jim's, we'd love to help them out and support them."

Dementia-friendly nights at Jim's are open to those with dementia, their caretakers and family, and anyone who wishes to support the cause.

More than 5 million Americans suffer from dementia, with an estimated 70% of elderly cases caused by Alzheimer's disease, and it's projected to affect millions more as the population ages. There is currently no cure or means to treat the disease.

For more information on Dementia Friendly Huntington, visit the group's Facebook page or call Nisbet at 859-509-2367.