'To Help Other People'

By Mark Ray

Since the BSA's Good Turn for America initiative was launched in 2004, Scouts across the country have devoted more than three million hours of service to the needy—and they're not done yet.

More than 3,763,838 hours of service—and counting: That's how much time Scout units have logged in at the Good Turn for America Web site (>www.goodturnforamerica.org) since the BSA's "national call to service" was launched early in 2004.

Those hours, and the projects they represent, show that Scouts remain as committed as ever to helping other people at all times.

Service has always been a part of Scouting, but Good Turn for America, with its special focus on food, shelter, and healthy living, has generated new excitement.

In addition to making an impact in those and other areas of need, the initiative has also helped the BSA strengthen ties with chartered organizations and forge new partnerships with nonprofit groups across the country.

On these pages are accounts of just a few of the 45,582 projects Scout units and individuals have undertaken.

Food: One Special Christmas

As Christmas approached in December 2005, the members of Boy Scout Troop 225 and Venturing Crew 225 in Hillsboro, Ore., had little time to think about what gifts might await them on Christmas morning.

They were busy spending a weekend sorting, boxing, and delivering food items and toys to more than 400 needy families in their community—continuing a project that has become an annual tradition.

"We get to meet many people in the community and also see a lot of very happy children who might not otherwise get any toys or have enough food," said crew Advisor Richard Keniston.

In Glenshaw, Pa., Cub Scouts of Pack 157 contributed a day of effort to the five-day home rehabilitation and repair community service project conducted annually by employees of the FHLBank Pittsburgh.
Photograph By Alan Steiner

Hillsboro Elks Lodge 1862, the chartered organization for both units, sponsors the Christmas box project and collects the food at donation barrels around town, while local firefighters and the U.S. Marines collect toys. But Scouts and Venturers do much of the delivery work.

Elks lodge members and other volunteers drive the Scouts around to make the deliveries, sometimes in police cars, fire vehicles, and ambulances.

"The Scouts and Venturers like to ride with these volunteers—particularly in the ambulances," Keniston noted.

"It also allows members of the Elks lodge to get to meet the boys and girls in the organizations they're sponsoring, to get to know them better, and to appreciate that they're doing something positive for the community."

Shelter: Building Homes

During their day of home repairs, Pack 157 Cub Scouts combined having fun with helping others and learning skills.
Photograph By Alan Steiner

The Cub Scouts of Pack 157 in Glenshaw, Pa., spent Columbus Day 2005 with hammers in hand. They were helping repair a home damaged a year earlier when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan swept through the area. Their partner was Hosanna Industries, which builds and rehabilitates homes for low-income residents who typically survive on $14,000 or less a year.

The Cub Scouts helped fix the house's front and back porches and even learned how to attach vinyl siding, according to Chris Hyatt, now a pack committee member who then served as Cubmaster and who arranged the workday.

Safety was his No. 1 priority, Hyatt said, and Cub Scouts only did hammer and nail tasks suitable for their level of skill.

"When the siding got to a point that was too high for them to reach, we focused on getting the adults up there to take over and continue on," he said. "The kids would be moved on to something else that was safe."

Hyatt said the boys had a great experience. "Each one was engrossed in his assigned task. The kids were talking about it the next couple of pack and den meetings and were looking forward to doing it again."

Pack 157, chartered to Glenshaw's Elfinwild Presbyterian Church, worked with Hosanna Industries because Hyatt already had a relationship with the group. His employer, FHLBank Pittsburgh, donates a week of service to Hosanna Industries each year, rehabilitating houses, replacing roofs, even building houses in five-day blitzes.

"It occurred to me that it would be really great if we could get these kids involved in one of our bank programs, to invite them to work alongside of us, have some fun, help some people, and learn a skill or two," Hyatt said.

The bank agreed, even scheduling its annual week of service to coincide with the Columbus Day holiday. And Hosanna Industries was happy to work with the Cub Scouts because of Hyatt's track record with the group.

Webelos Scout Zack Reuss was interviewed by local TV reporter Trisha Pittman.
Photograph By Alan Steiner

But swinging hammers is just one way to ensure that all Americans have a safe place to live. Scouts in the W.D. Boyce Council, headquartered in Peoria, Ill., have been collecting aluminum cans—more than 3.5 million so far—to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. The $50,000 they have raised has paid for an entire house in Peoria and supported six Habitat chapters in outlying areas of the council.

[See "3.5 million cans equal new home for needy Illinois family" in News Briefs in the May-June 2006 Scouting.]

Of the Scouts who have participated in the aluminum can drive, probably none has worked harder than Tayler McGillis of Troop 727 in Wenona, Ill.

Tayler has collected cans from bins he set up at area businesses, walked farm roads in search of discarded cans, and, early on many Sunday mornings, retrieved cans littered about a local golf course.

In the process, he generated more than $7,500 for his local Habitat chapter. "To retrieve cans at the golf course, he has to get up at about 5:30 and has to be finished before the first golfers tee off at 7," Tayler's mom, Denise, said.

The money from Tayler's efforts paid for every door and every window for a new Habitat house in the town of Lacon, about 25 miles from where the McGillises live. It also allowed the house to be finished nine months ahead of schedule.

Healthy Living: Fighting Cancer

Each year, people at hundreds of locations come together across the country for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life to raise money, celebrate survival, and remember victims of cancer.

For 24 hours, members of participating teams take turns running or walking laps. At each site, luminaria (illuminated bags), displaying the names of individuals who have died from cancer or are survivors, are placed around the track.

For the past nine years, Troop 405, which is chartered to the Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown, Tex., has helped at the local relay event, labeling, lighting, and later picking up more than 2,200 luminaria bags.

Two bags have special meaning for the troop, celebrating Scoutmaster Calvin Gray's two decades as a cancer survivor and memorializing Troy Williams, an Eagle Scout from Troop 405 who died of leukemia in 1996. In fact, Georgetown's first Relay for Life was held in Troy's memory.

Troop committee chairman Cynthia Davis, this year's luminaria coordinator, said Scouts enjoy working the relay and recognize its significance. "A number of them have relatives who've had cancer," she said.

Through Good Turn for America projects, Scouts are serving communities and connecting with neighbors.

Perhaps Denise McGillis in Illinois said it best when she described the impact of a new home that resulted from her son Tayler's aluminum can collecting:

"It has been just a blessing for everyone involved."

Mark Ray writes from Louisville, Ky.

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