What I’ve Learned: Nancy Bentley takes the very long view

Nancy Bentley’s father, Bob Sutherland, was an Eagle Scout, and she was destined to become a Scouting volunteer.

“My dad had three girls,” she says. “I became his only ‘son’ because he had to have one and wasn’t going to give up.”

Her dad taught her the Scout Oath and Scout Law from an early age — although she didn’t realize its source at the time — and approved of her fiancé, Brian Bentley, only because he was a fellow Eagle Scout. Before his untimely death, Sutherland’s last conversation with Bentley’s older son, Aaron, was about becoming an Eagle Scout. Aaron was not yet 5 years old at the time.

Bentley joined Cub Scouting when Aaron became a Tiger Cub and remained involved as he and younger brother, Morgan, moved into Troop 1577, joined the Order of the Arrow, became Eagle Scouts and aged out of the program. In fact, she’s been involved long enough to see many of her Scouts become successful young adults, perhaps most notably Zachary Schonfeld, the 2020 National Chief of the Order of the Arrow. Today, she and son Morgan serve together as assistant Scoutmasters.

HAS TROOP 1577 PRODUCED A LOT OF ORDER OF THE ARROW LEADERS? Yes. When I came into the troop in 2003, most of the ceremonies team came from our troop, and that actually still continues.

HOW DOES OA PARTICIPATION AFFECT TROOP ATTENDANCE? I really think we kept our older boys in the troop longer and more active because they were part of the OA, and they felt like they had a place. They were at all the fellowships, they were at all the Ordeals and they were at all the outings for the troop. Our OA boys were senior patrol leaders over and over.

EVEN SCOUTS WHO GOT DEEPLY INVOLVED IN THE OA? Yes. When Zach was senior patrol leader, he was also chapter chief for part of the time. He never missed a meeting; I think he missed one conclave.

HOW DID THE TROOP AVOID MORE SCHEDULING CONFLICTS? Zach’s mom was the outings coordinator for the committee, and she would make sure they didn’t plan outings against Ordeals or fellowships. Thank goodness for moms who really plan things out.

YOU’VE SAID OA EVENTS OFFER A WELCOME BREAK TO OLDER SCOUTS. HOW SO? They get to play cards and sit and just enjoy each other’s company, whereas when they’re on campouts with the troop, they’re working. If you get a free moment where you can just enjoy being kids, you should take it.

YOU CREATED AN ALL-YOUTH HEALTH AND SAFETY TEAM FOR YOUR DISTRICT. HOW DID THAT WORK OUT? It was just the best. They all took wilderness first aid and CPR, and we had someone at the National Institutes of Health hook them up so they could take FEMA classes and be prepped for emergency management. When Aaron got to college at the University of Virginia, he joined the rescue team and ended up being one of the key students working on a missing person search in 2014. Two Scouts went further along and became paramedics; one became a nurse.

DID OTHER SCOUTERS SUPPORT THEM? Yes. After Aaron helped someone who was having a seizure at an Ordeal, the chapter adviser at the time said, “If I get hurt, just let Aaron treat me.” I feel the same way. These kids are competent and, boy, they’d never let you die.

WHAT’S THE VALUE OF BEING INVOLVED IN SCOUTING FOR DECADES? I’ve been in long enough that I’ve seen guys go off and start their careers, and have been so impressed with what they’re capable of doing. And I knew the whole time that that’s exactly who they were going to become — maybe not as much when they were 7 or 8, but by the time they were 14.

DOES THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO STAY AROUND EVEN LONGER? Yes. You think it was just one group of kids that was amazing — something you’ll never see again. But then a new kid comes in, and you think, “I’ve got to stick around and see how this one goes. This kid is kind of impressive.”

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