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Lifelong Camp Wapsie volunteer helps rebuild Teepee Village

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Longtime YMCA Camp Wapsie volunteer Scott Schlegel is a jack-of-all-trades: carpenter, electrician and plumber, not to mention woodworker and earthmover.

A few years after graduating from high school, Schlegel took a job as caretaker for YMCA Camp Wapsie. Although he left the post after getting married a few years later, he has remained a constant presence at Wapsie for nearly three decades.

“Any time there was a project we needed a hand with at camp, he was great about being there,” camp director Paul Denowski said.

Schlegel, who lives in Cedar Rapids, has been involved in or directly responsible for nearly every construction, maintenance, and earth-moving project at the camp for the last 30 years.

“We try to clock our volunteer hours but he’s in and out so often I know he has hundreds of hours in the last two years,” Denowski said.

Most recently, Schlegel and other volunteers rebuilt the Camp Wapsie Teepee Village, where the youngest campers stay. The reconstructed village was unveiled at Wapsie’s June 9 Centennial Celebration.

Denowski said volunteers spent many late nights in the snow to replace the old canvas teepees with larger, permanent, waterproof structures.

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“There were probably six normal volunteers that showed up here and there the core group of volunteers, Dave Mayer and Terry [Sullivan] and the Brights [David and Heather] and Kevin [Angel] and me,” Schlegel said. “Then there was United Way Day of Caring.”

Denowski said Tim Ruhd, Char and Ellen Gunnufson, and Schlegel’s son Matt Schlegel, among others, also were integral to the project.

An electrician who volunteers at Wapsie handled the wiring for the outlets in the teepees and people from the Quaker Oats maintenance group helped with installation.

“I was having a heck of a time cutting one of the boards because it was double-angle,” Schlegel said. “And this guy just walks up from Coggon and says ‘I’m here to help.’ I said, ‘You wouldn’t happen to be a carpenter, would you?’ And he goes, ‘Well, yeah!’ I don’t even know his name — I worked with him for two afternoons.”

The Teepee Village reconstruction wasn’t Schlegel’s first major project for Camp Wapsie.

Last May, a storm took out two big oak trees in the camp.

“Within an hour [Schlegel] was here with a couple of chain saws with a skid-loader and helping us clean up,” Denowski said.

Schlegel’s father Bob Schlegel, 81, said his son owns construction equipment that he uses to do projects at Wapsie so the camp doesn’t have to rent equipment.

Scott Schlegel and his son cleaned up the wreckage, and then used the trees to make benches, a picnic table and the bell tower that can be found near Wapsie’s outdoor chapel. Schlegel also is responsible for the new Wapsie sign that can be seen coming into camp as well.

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Schlegel also built a bench in Wapsie’s ranger campground to honor the memory of Emma Redlinger, a 14-year-old Wapsie camper from Vinton who died of a gunshot to the head on Feb. 28, 2018.

“I took a walnut log and made a bench and put a plaque on it for her,” Schlegel said. “It was put together with wooden pegs, so all her friends wrote notes on the wooden pegs and pounded them in.”

Schlegel has a full-time job as facilities and maintenance manager at Central Iowa Power Cooperative,but Wapsie was and is his hobby, Bob Schlegel said.

“He would be out there in the middle of winter with his excavator when the sewer lines got frozen,” Bob Schlegel said. “All Wapsie has to do is give him a phone call and we don’t see him anymore.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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