Scouts turn up big

Scouts break records with annual food drive

by Sarah Gilbert

Members of Boy Scout Troop 112, which meets at Forest Hill Church in SouthPark, sort bags of food collected in the annual Scouting for Food drive Saturday, Feb. 3. Thousands of Mecklenburg County Scouts participated in the 2012 drive, collecting more than 251,000 pounds of food, Scouts’ leadership reported Tuesday. The food will go to Loaves & Fishes, a Charlotte nonprofit that supports 19 area food pantries.

South Charlotte Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts spent the weekend collecting thousands of pounds of food in an effort to help out Loaves & Fishes and claim victory in their annual Scouting for Food event.

“This year’s drive went amazingly well,” Del Whittaker, the 2012 Scouting for Food chairman for the Mecklenburg County Scouts, said. “We were hoping to top last year’s collection because all of the Loaves & Fishes drives this year have been down by as much as 30 percent. Last year we collected 175,000 pounds, and this year, we collected 251,435.8 … which is just a whole bunch of food.”

The Scouts launched their collection campaign by distributing grocery bags to residents of neighborhoods throughout the county. Donors filled the bags with non-perishable food items and placed them outside their homes Saturday, Feb. 4, for pick up.

“Our job is to mobilize the kids,” Whittaker said. “We have 283 troops in the Mecklenburg County Council, which is about 9,200 youth. Add in about 3,400 adult volunteers and you have a lot of people power. Some are 3-foot-6 and some are 6-foot-3, and they’re all out there working toward the same goal.”

The Scouts spent last weekend distributing bags to their adopted neighborhoods, along with instructions for participating and information about the troop leading the drive in that particular neighborhood. The Scouts returned the next week to pick up donations.

“On Scouting for Food Saturday, which is what happened this past Saturday, the kids collect the bags and bring them to one of nine locations,” Whittaker said. “There, the older youth weigh the bags and sort the food. We break it down for the units, because they like to have a little internal competition. The kids will see how much they collected and say, ‘How did I do last year? How did we as a unit do last year?’”

This year, Troop 39, based out of Matthews United Methodist Church, came out on top by collecting a record-breaking 41,680 pounds of food. Troop 118, which meets at south Charlotte’s St. Stephen United Methodist Church, came in second by collecting 23,697 pounds.

“We have troops that go all out,” Whittaker said. “We have troops that historically have always gone out and collected 20,000-plus pounds of food. They really get behind it, and it’s really great to see. We also have more and more troops joining in and making Scouting for Food a vital part of their year.”

All of the food collected will go to Loaves & Fishes, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that supports 19 area food pantries by providing people in need with enough groceries to last one week.

“Scouting for Food is the big event that kicks off our food drive, and they did an absolutely amazing job,” Beverly Howard, the executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said Monday. “They distributed more bags than ever before and had more Scouts involved than ever before. The drive was phenomenal and they surpassed any expectations.”

Trucks are still out across Charlotte to continue the Loaves & Fishes drive, which runs through Sunday, Feb. 12. Priority needs include canned meat, canned pasta, cereal, canned fruit and 100-percent fruit juice.

“The food we collect during these 10 days in February will keep us stocked for two to three months,” Howard said. “It will get us through the winter, which we couldn’t do without help from the Scouts.”

For the Scouts, the benefits of participating in the drive lie in seeing the lessons of Scouting brought to life.

“A lot of teamwork goes into a project like this,” John Crapster, the head of the Apache District of the Mecklenburg Boy Scouts, which includes much of south Charlotte, said. “We get the bags into the hands of the boys and they go out into the neighborhoods. It gets bigger every year because our guys work hard and the community is always so generous. It’s all about helping other people, and this lets the kids see that firsthand.”

Whittaker, who spearheaded the 2012 Scouting for Food event after being involved with the Boy Scouts for the past 16 years, agreed.

“Who are the real winners here?” Whittaker asked. “The people we help feed are the beneficiaries, but the winners in anything like this are the young men who are out there collecting food and distributing bags. They’re living the basic tenets of the Boy Scouts. Do your best, help others and do a good turn daily. It’s what we teach day in and day out.”

Drop off donations for Loaves & Fishes at any Mecklenburg County Harris Teeter location through Sunday, Feb. 12.  There also will be collection points at the following south Charlotte locations Saturday, Feb. 11, and -Sunday, Feb. 12:

• Arboretum shopping center,
Providence and Pineville-Matthews roads

• Sharon United Methodist Church,
4411 Sharon Road

• Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3115 Providence Road

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