Originally published by WAOW – The man overseeing the Haunted Sawmill in Merrill is recognized with a Jefferson Award.
Jerry Hersil started the Halloween fright fest in 2010 as a Boy Scout fundraiser.
“That first year– people thought a couple hundred people would come through,” Jerry Hersil said. “But 4,000 did.”
The fundraiser paid for scouts to attend summer camp and journey to the Boundary Waters.
“A week in the wilderness with no showers,electricity or phones tests their scouting skills,” Hersil explained.
Fellow scouting leaders say Hersil looks for ways to build a strong community.
“He realizes mentoring and involving youth in the process is how we get to that,” Kristin Woller of Merrill said.
Lack of volunteers caused the Haunted Sawmill to remain shuttered in October of 2016. But, in 2018 Hersil set up The Friends of Vincent Foundation to oversee it.
Last year, the non-profit raised $24,000. The money is used for youth programs, food pantries and college scholarships in the Merrill area.
“We have an obligation to help others and those less fortunate than ourselves,” Hersil said. ” What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? That is why I do this.”