Hundreds of local scouts stayed busy this Memorial Day weekend; youth across the Withlacoochee District took part in a variety of community projects as a kick off to Scouting’s nationwide “Summer of Service” initiative.
“It’s a great opportunity for our youth to go back out there again,” Clarissa Castillo, an executive with the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council, said. “It’s great to be getting back to giving back.”
According to the Boy Scouts of America National Council, scouts have always been a source for “positivity and goodness in their communities.” The national office has called on all scouts to renew a commitment to the tenet of cheerful service through summer projects in 2021.
Memorial Day weekend is known to attract thousands of boaters to local waterways, and those large crowds often leave behind quite a mess. In Hernando Beach, Sea Scout Ship 27 hosted a kayak cleanup of the community’s barrier islands on May 30. They were joined by Pack 71, Troop 442 and Troop 8681 along with youth from the YMCA Youth and Government program and Civil Air Patrol.
“This coastal cleanup is important to me because we can clean up the marine ecosystem,” Brendan Young, one of the cleanup’s youth organizers, said. “This also helps our local boaters and fisherman, so it’s going to boost the local economy.”
Approximately 50 volunteers took part in the kayak cleanup, with youth launching boats in Hernando Beach and paddling out to the barrier islands. From there, they disembarked and combed the islands for man made debris. They returned with trash bags filled to the brim with waste that might otherwise have harmed the local wildlife.
In addition to discarded trash, the youth found a number of boat parts left behind or lost by careless vessels. Young expressed optimism that Ship 27 could recycle some of the equipment for use on their own boats.
Other packs and troops dedicated time to honoring fallen servicemen and women over the weekend. Many units placed American flags next to headstones in local cemeteries. According to Troop 2020 volunteer Wayne Colombo, their boys were privileged to partner with American Legion Post 99 to place the flags at the Brooksville Cemetery.
Flag placements were also carried out by Troop 452 at Fero Memorial Gardens, where Troop 344 later handed out programs for the ceremony. Troop 457 placed flags at the Hills of Rest Cemetery. For some units, this is a service they have performed for decades.
The largest contingent of youth volunteers travelled to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell to take part in Flags for Fallen Vets, with representation from Packs 462, 2693 and 8681 along with Troops 370, 439, 462 and 8681 in attendance.
“This was a good opportunity for our cubs to learn about respect and gratitude for those who served and sacrificed for our liberty and freedom,” Cubmaster Earnie Olsen of Pack 2693 said.
For many Scouting units, including Troops 2020 and 8681, the holiday is even more personal, as they are chartered by veterans groups. Having already participated in flag placements and the kayak cleanup over the weekend, the youth of 8681 spent their Memorial Day with their chartering organization, VFW Post 8681 in Spring Hill. There they performed a flag ceremony and joined the veterans for a BBQ lunch.
District leaders estimated that the youth contributed “thousands of service hours collectively.” The district anticipates that the youth will continue to embrace opportunities to give back to the community throughout the Summer.
“Whether cleaning up their communities or honoring fallen heroes, we are very proud of our youth for choosing to celebrate this holiday by giving back,” Castillo said. “Our Law teaches youth that a scout is helpful, loyal and reverent. At times like these we are proud to see it’s working.”