After hanging some 1,000 donation bags on front doors around the Stratford Landing neighborhood on Monday, 12 members of Boy Scout Troop 1509 returned to Scoutmaster Linwood Jongema’s home for chili and brownies. Residents are asked to fill the bags with nonperishable food donations for the local food pantries that serve the needy and to leave them out next Saturday, when members of Cub Scout Troop 1509 will collect them.
"It was really fun," said Russell Bradley, 13, although he noted that the work had taken two hours longer than expected. "We thought the area was smaller, I guess."
Nonetheless, they made sure all the bags were distributed. Connor Chilton, 15, noted that in last year’s drive, the troop had covered an extra neighborhood because there had been bags left over. "It just doesn’t feel right to me to just do half the box," he said.
Their effort last year was part of a food drive that gathered more than 52,000 pounds of food throughout the Boy Scouts’ Colonial District, which comprises about 12 troops, said Jongema. All four of the district’s food pantries, he said, were "filled to capacity." Scouting for Food is a nationwide annual initiative and the scouts’ major service project for the year, although Jongema noted that his troop volunteers itself for a variety of other projects.
He explained how the food drive applies to the three central themes of scouting – character, citizenship and fitness. The hours of walking provide exercise, while working to feed the hungry is an act of citizenship. The project also builds character by requiring the older boys to lead the work, developing a plan and directing the younger scouts, said Jongema. For example, he said, the fact that this distribution run took longer than planned would provide a learning experience with minimal consequences. "It’s a soft fall for a young leader."
In the past, small groups of scouts have been driven by parents to various locations to distribute the bags, said Michael Fijalka, 17, adding that the walk made him wish he had his driver’s license. The boys agreed that the old strategy, or something similar involving vehicular transport, ought to be employed next year.
Max Perconti, 11, had participated in earlier food drives, but only as a Cub Scout. He said his legs hurt. Perconti, however, had shown resourcefulness in obtaining water for his troopmates by asking the driver of a Deer Park Water truck for a friendly donation. The driver had obliged, pulling over and passing out bottles from the back of his truck.
"That’s when Max Perconti became our hero for the day," said Fijalka.
Jongema’s son, Zach, 15, suggested that the leadership might want to hand out flyers and send e-mails internally to increase participation within the 90-member troop.
Fijalka offered a time-saving tip: "Who put a bag on my door? You could’ve just given it to me."