CLAY COUNTY — In India, National Youth Day is Jan. 12. In places such as Cameroon, it’s Feb. 11 and in Venezuela, Feb. 12. Here in the U.S., it is Jan. 12. Whenever the day is honored, the day is designed to honor young people, their service to the community and the issues that affect them.
For Liberty Boy Scout Troop 320, which meets at Liberty Christian Church, community service is about more than one day’s recognition and efforts. The chance to step up during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a golden opportunity.
On Nov. 21, the troop sorted and began delivering personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to Clay County early childhood educational providers. The troop then did a second organizing, sorting and distribution event the weekend before Christmas.
The assistance from the troop began after a bi-weekly Community Organizations Active in Disasters virtual meeting. Those on the call know Clay County Public Health Center’s staff is decisively engaged in testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution planning, meaning volunteers were the only solution to help get PPE in the hands of workers who need it most.
After a flurry of texts, emails and phone calls, the Liberty Boy Scout Troop 320 scoutmaster had enough information to present the “mission” to the troop: “to protect our essential child care workers and the babies of our essential workers in our community.”
Ten scouts with two Eagle Scouts and nine parents and guardians, all practicing COVID-19 safety procedures, met in the public health center’s warehouse and began sorting PPE and cleaning supplies donated by Heart to Heart International and the Ford Motor Co. Deliveries were contactless, with the scouts and parents delivering to storage spaces or to child care workers’ garages or vehicles.
“Taking out the items, there was relief on people’s faces,” said Heath Miller, assistant scoutmaster. “For me, I never had the opportunity to do something like this. To me, this is what scouting is for, … to serve our community.”
Miller’s son, Kaleb Miller, a Liberty Middle School student and a second-class scout, said he was glad to help fill a gap.
“Being able to support the community is important,” he said. “I know it helps financially with the donations, too.”
Before the scouts’ efforts to distribute PPE, Heath said he heard stories from child care providers that they were paying for PPE out of their own pockets.
“I believe these child care and child development centers are essential,” he said. “These are people who get in early so that others heading to work can drop their children off for care. They don’t have the time to get these resources. It’s important for the scouts to be aware of these needs.”
Among the requests from child care providers were hand sanitizer, gloves, digital thermometers, face shields, cleaning wipes and diapers.
Eagle Scout Carson Foster, a recent Winnetonka graduate, helped in the distribution effort.
“When I was a younger scout, I liked when older scouts, including those Eagle Scouts, would be part of meetings,” he said. “It’s important to be a role model. Being part of this project, it’s a chance to help the community be better.”
As Boy Scout Troop 320 is the groundbreaker for the project, they have set up a four-week request and delivery cycle to help with needs. The group also worked on Dec. 19.
“Kaleb, Dan Reece, his son and I looked at the logistics to map out the needs and the appropriate cycle to handle the requests,” Heath said. “The need is not going away so if another scout troop, Girl Scouts, sports team — … they can pick up the efforts, too. It’s really rewarding. They are learning how to give back and I am proud of them. We hope others will step up as well.”
Reece, whose sons are part of the troop, is a volunteer with Clay County Emergency Management. He presented a slide presentation to the scouts with details provided from the Family Conservancy, Heart to Heart International and the Clay County Public Health Center that explained the needs of child care facilities and workers.
Under their mission, scouts have been able to work on their emergency preparedness and citizenship merit badges.
“Being part of the emergency preparedness group, we have been relying on volunteers to help fill in those extra needs,” Reece explained. “The public health center is swamped, but this opportunity has been a blessing.”
Reece said the experience has been an eye-opener.
“The boys clean the area for sorting,” he said. “They then learn to divide up supplies and be as fair as they can be with the requests.”