The northeaster that swept through the area Saturday, Nov. 16, dumped a couple of inches of rain, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the Springfield Boy Scouts on their annual holiday food drive.
Cars backed up onto Old Keene Mill Drive as people dropped load after load of food for ECHO's (Ecumenical Community Helping Others) food shelves. Nate Frank, 11, from Troop 859, had his rain gear on as he carried bag after bag of canned goods and nonperishables.
"This is a bunch of troops from the Springfield area. I actually thought it was going to be canceled, but Scouts can do anything. We go camping in the rain. We're trying to beat five tons."
Fellow Scout Jeff Morrow looked at the growing pile inside. He was surprised that needy families of Springfield needed this much food.
"They bring in the food, and we sort it out," he said.
Ned Lundquist was the troop coordinator for ECHO. He and his wife, Laura, worked alongside their children Tommy, 15, and Barbara, 12. Although it was a family event for them, Lundquist looked at the whole room full of activity.
"One family could donate a bag of food and feel good about it, but no one family could do what we're doing. There's quite a few families here," he said.
Lundquist looked at the mission of scouting.
"Part of the Scout oath is to help people at all times. It's part of the fundamental part of scouting. Last year, we did about 20,000 pounds, but this year we want to do more," he said.
THE FOOD DRIVE resembled a military operation at times. Bags full of food piled up inside the door, with an assembly line moving the bags onto separate tables where the sorting took place. Then the sorted food was carried to the back room, where it was put on shelves. Orders were barked out throughout the morning.
"Keep the aisle open."
"Anyone done with your vehicle, please move them."
"Clear the side, guys."
"One of you guys pick up the empty bags for a while, while we regroup."
"Start putting the stuff on this end of the pile."
Lundquist was in the Navy and noted the military demographics among the Springfield parents.
"Planning and executing something like this requires a little planning beforehand," he said.
Diane Gawalt started helping at 9:30 a.m. with her son John, a Cub Scout from Troop 1545. They picked up bags of food from the Keene Mill Station/Rolling Valley area. She noticed a trend this year, possibly triggered by the rain.
"Not a whole lot of people put bags out, but those who did, gave a lot. We filled up a van and a pickup truck. We've done it in the rain before," she said.
Lundquist noted the importance of the Scout food drive to ECHO.
"This particular food drive is very important to ECHO. This year the food they're giving out is at an all-time high, and their food stock is at an all-time low," he said.
The rain changed the Lancer Dancer plans, as well. It is a cheering squad from Lee High School, which was supposed to perform at an afternoon football game but didn't because of the rain. Ten members from the varsity dancing team helped out in the morning, and the junior varsity squad was taking over in the afternoon. Lee senior Julia Cochran was at their table.
"We've been really bombarded," she said, noting how they got involved. "One of the scoutmasters, his daughter is on the team."
The girls get community service points for their participation, which is a school requirement.
On Monday morning, the volunteer staff at ECHO was still sorting the food, but executive director Pat Gauthier praised the effort.
"We think it went at least what we had last year. It was a success in spite of the rain," she said.
Their estimates were somewhere around 22,000 pounds of food. Gauthier credited the scouting effort.
"Rain doesn't slow down Boy Scouts," she said.