The Army With Shovels

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt armed millions of unemployed boys with shovels. They became known as the tree army. And few realize how that Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, saved our country from collapse.

"It was such a good program. It made such a profound impact on American families and American conservation," says Joan Sharpe, president of the Camp Roosevelt CCC Legacy Foundation.

She calls the CCC boys "quiet American heroes" and wants to recognize them for shaping the nation, as we know it today.

"The CCC boys did what America does best, they overcame the odds," says Sharpe. They revived the American economy and the American landscape.

"We did do a whole lot that was particularly important at that time," says Reverend Carl Corwin, Director Emeritus of the CCC Legacy Foundation.

Corwin was seventeen when he joined the CCC as a blacksmith. Boys like him built bridges, stocked forests with deer and streams with fish and planted three billion trees. That hard work put five dollars in their pockets a month and fed their families.

"It meant food on the table,": says Corwin.
"It made a major difference in how America developed," added Sharpe.

To pass on that legacy, Sharpe is negotiating with Congressman Goodlatte to build a CCC museum near the forest where it all began.

Camp Roosevelt was the first CCC camp out of nearly 2000 in the U.S. built by "Roosevelt's boys." And it's right in the heart of the George Washington National forest.

But at that wooded place between Edinburg and Fort Valley, only ruins remind visitors of a turning point in American history. And as CCC boys like Corwin grow older, Sharpe says a museum is vital for keeping the past alive.

"When we see Reverend Corwin, then we remember why we're doing this," she says.

Also, to raise awareness of the CCC, the foundation is also working with Delgate Allen Louderback to create specialty license plates.

To learn more, contact the Camp Roosevelt CCC Legacy Foundation at (540) 984-8735.


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