Chip Sandstedt is the assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 707.
That’s 50 years of summer camp and high adventure trips; of camping each month, in rain, snow, freezing temperatures, and even good weather; of young men leading their patrols and their troop; and 50 years of scout service to our community, which is the subject of this letter.
Service that these and other scouts perform is a fundamental aspect of scouting. After all, the Scout Oath says that a scout will "help other people at all times" and you’ll find service in many of our annual activities. This takes many forms throughout the year, ranging from flag ceremonies and traffic control to recurring service like Adopt-a-Spot cleanups to larger scale construction activities such as Eagle Service Projects.
To use our troop as an illustration, we perform regular Adopt-a-Spot roadway clean-ups, volunteer at the food bank, and an assortment of other needs in the community. Service was even incorporated into the troop’s most recent high adventure trip to Redwood National Park where the guys removed invasive grasses from the local beach and performed trail maintenance during their backpacking trek in the Redwood Forest. In all they contributed over 200 hours of labor during the trip.
Another aspect of service is the Eagle Service Project that a scout leads as he works to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. An Eagle Service Project is a project that the Eagle candidate plans, organizes and leads to benefit a religious institution, a school, or the community. These are most often some variety of construction project. Eagle Service Projects are all around us in our community, and you’ve likely seen or benefitted from one.
Some recent examples at local schools include new backpack racks at Ridgeway Elementary, raised flower beds and picnic tables (both at Grant Elementary) and a large perimeter fence for the garden at the Career Center.
If you’ve recently been to the Pinnacles Youth Park I’m sure you noticed the new outdoor amphitheater, or perhaps the new fire pit — both Eagle Service Projects.
If you visit Rock Bridge State Park you may appreciate the new orienteering markers throughout the park.
If you frequent the farmer’s market at the health center on Worley, you may have noticed the new rain garden that helps absorb run-off and decreases the volume in our storm water systems.
Projects are planned or completed at three area churches including a beautiful new outdoor alter at Calvary Episcopal Church.
If birding is your passion, you may know that scouts recently completed a new trail at the Audubon Society or that a new bridge is also in the works.
Even historic sites like the Rocheport Cemetery have benefitted from recent scout projects.
In one of the more unique projects that has recently been completed, a scout retrofitted common children’s board games with braille so that blind children can enjoy the same games that others do. In each case these young men gained experience through working or through leading.
But why is all this service such an important part of Boy Scouts? Why even do service? When I think of scouting my first thoughts are of camping, adventure, outdoor fun, and of course youth leadership.
So why service? Service is woven throughout the fabric of Scouting because service to one’s community is character building, and that’s central to the vision of Scouting.
Service helps young men become responsible, participating citizens, and it builds a stronger community in the process. Each time these young men lead or serve, they gain experience, but they also learned a bit more what it means to be an active contributor to one’s community.
So while we’re often having fun camping and exploring the great outdoors of Missouri and beyond, there’s far more to it than that.
Our young men are hard at work helping improve our community. Of course the examples above are just a handful from one local troop.
Columbia is blessed with many fine troops, all helping the community in similar ways.
The next time you see us out and about in the community I hope you’ll stop and say 'Hi' or even join us. I promise you’ll meet some fine young men and you’re guaranteed to have fun in the process. As one great Scoutmaster used to say, "If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong." I hope your days are always fun, and that your life in Columbia is brighter for the good works that these young men are doing.