Backus Auditorium in International Falls benefits from Eagle Scout project

INTERNATIONAL FALLS – Gavin Wilson recently completed an improvement project at Backus Auditorium in an effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Wilson has been in the Boy Scouts since first grade at the age of six. Now age 15, Wilson is working towards his Eagle Scout rank.

To earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement rank in scouting, a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service and outdoor skills.

In February 2018, Wilson contacted Backus executive director, Ward Merrill, to see if there was a project he could complete. Merrill had six items on a to-do wish list, with auditorium doors being of most importance. Wilson filled out the required application paperwork and met with Merrill and his scout leaders, Frank Edwards and Steve Bruess.

When the paperwork was approved, Wilson began in August the daunting task of stripping down and refinishing six solid wood doors that enter the Backus Auditorium.

The doors needed to be removed from their special hinges, stripped down with a chemical stripper, sanded and given a clear coat of polyurethane. Wilson’s goal was to restore the doors to their original look from 1937.

The project took the time and effort of adults Frank Edwards, Steve Bruess, Bruce and June Wilson, Mike Hedtke and Eagle Scouts Nick Riley and Hunter Wilson. Younger scouts assisted; Odin Hansen, Ian Blumer, Ethan VerSteeg and Alex Robar helped to complete the 127 volunteer hours needed for door refinishing. Northern Lumber was instrumental in answering questions and supplying materials throughout the project.

In late September the doors were re-installed by Backus volunteers and staff.

Backus Community Center was saved from demolition in 2002 by a grass-roots group of local individuals. It would have cost the county in excess of $1 million to put the buildings into a landfill. Instead, over $2 million have been invested in the three-story structure which is home to many building tenants and serves as a rental venue for everything from meetings to weddings.

During 2017, almost 60,000 people used Backus Community Center in a wide variety of ways, holding true to the mission statement: “Historic Backus Community Center, the heart of International Falls, where all generations celebrate the arts, culture, recreation, wellness and life-long learning.”

For more information, contact Backus Community Center, 900 5th St., International Falls, call 218-285-7255 or visit

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