Community Service – Troop 353 Contributes +200 Grocery Bags to Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive! 

Happy Thanksgiving! From T-353 to ECAP.

One of Eastchester Troop 353’s proudest and longest-standing traditions, and one that clearly distinguishes our troop from others in our area, is contributing substantially to the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for Eastchester Community Action Program (ECAP)! In the opinion of the Scoutmaster, our troop takes its community service mandate to a higher level than the overall Council-wide food drive that occurs in fall, as our scout’s collective efforts have a very substantial and direct impact on ECAP. ECAP is the local office of the Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP)–one of 16 offices in the Westchester & Putnam County. According to the WestCOP website, it is “a private not-for-profit, multipurpose social service agency operating community programs to combat poverty and its adverse effects in Westchester and Putnam counties.

“Chartered in 1965, the organization each year receives more than 60 grants from corporations, government, foundations and individuals to sponsor numerous programs essential to the well being of the community’s residents. These programs include 30 Day Care / Head Start centers, 12 Community Action Programs (CAPs), Substance abuse, Family living program, Homeless prevention and Assistance programs, Emergency food pantries, Surplus food distribution, Energy conservation and Weatherization programs and numerous employment and training programs. WestCOP services include a variety of special projects, such as the Foster Grandparents Programs, an Emergency Homeless Men’s Shelter, Seniors in Community Services, Victims Assistance Services, Rape Crisis Services, a Rape Hotline, Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Community Services to the Elderly.

“The nucleus of the agency’s operations is its neighborhood services centers (CAPs) which act as advocates for the poor and minorities by helping their constituencies to organize for the purpose of exerting influence on the larger community’s allocation of resources and keeping their interests before local governments, and public and private agencies.
“The CAPs help the poor and the minorities to meet the needs, which they themselves identify, provide resources to neighborhood and community groups to secure professional and technical assistance and provide direct services to individuals who have no where else to turn. ”

Troop 353 is particularly proud of its 17 year tradition of contributing directly to its local community. Our troop’s efforts to collect well over 200 grocery bags throughout our neighborhood, along with other corporate donors, has a truly long-lasting impact, as ECAP is one of the few WestCOP offices to supply both its local and surrounding communities with a well-stock food bank. The food contributed during the Thanksgiving food drive, according to Charlene Lambrecht, the ECAP program director, was enough to last through the yearend holidays.

A scout is Helpful!

Winter Backpacking Along the Appalachian Trail

Green Trail to Camp Durland

November can be a tricky month to plan an outing. The two weekends around Thanksgiving are likely “forbidden”; hunting season begins in our neck of the woods and the temperature fluctuation can be substantial. Following last year’s successful hike through Fahnestock State Park along the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the highly-sought site #40 at Durland Scout Reservation, our scouts wanted to repeat the mini-trek, but take a different trail into scout camp. This year, the hike plan called for a slightly shorter journey, departing the AT after only a mile or so. Instead of heading Southeast at the trail head to Hidden Lake and the Old Mine Railroad path, our scouts headed Southwest and followed the White Trail up across the top of Bushy Ridge (about 1200 feet above sea level) where one could witness beautiful, sweeping vistas both to the East and to the West. As the White Trail descends a few hundred feet and intersects the Blue Trail, we came across the clearly visible foundations and stone walls of the historic mining town of Odletown. A short distance later and the troop had arrived mid-afternoon at our destination: site #37 at Durland Scout Reservation.

The weather outlook for that weekend was for clear skies–unlike the prior weekend (our originally scheduled camping date) which witnessed a torrential downpour all day and night. The only weather element to battle was the chilly fall air. Instead of a typical range of 30–45 degrees, we had 15–25 degrees, with 10 mph winds and gusts up to 30 mph! It was more than just “crisp”–it was really cold!! The boys were prepared and had lots of winter clothing and extra blankets and sleeping bags to keep them warm. Besides, the scouts were so busy running around trying to build bigger & bigger fires that very few suggested they were cold. There were a few scouts and scouters that opted to depart for a warmer environment after a tasty dinner and entertainment around the bonfire in the Old Goat Patrol’s campsite. After a crystal clear night, perfect for star gazing, the boys awoke to their frozen world–literally. It was so cold, that food items left in food boxes outdoors had frozen solid as had dishwashing tubs from the night before. Likewise, the propane stoves did not all function properly. So scouts learned a valuable lesson about winter camping: keep ample firewood about as cooking and cleaning definitely take longer. Perhaps bringing prepared meals that only need warming would have been the best solution of all! Following a brief Interfaith Prayer service and prior to departing Sunday morning, a crew of hearty campers eagerly embraced the opportunity to complete one hour of service project work near the Campmaster’s cabin, entitling the scouts to earn the special “Outdoorsman” patch. For look at some truly memorable photos, click here.

Special Court of Honor Night!

Scouts Pledge of Allegiance

Our fall Court of Honor this past year was indeed a special event with a huge turnout! The combination of an annual family pot luck dinner and several invited guests for the Wood Badge beading ceremony of Scoutmaster Tom McCandless resulted in the need for a new larger, locale for this venue: our local Cottle Elementary School. This Court of Honor witnessed the impressive recognition of 14 rank advances, a stunning 88 merit badges, and one special BSA award, the 1-mile Swim! This dramatic uptick in advancement completion reflected an equally impressive 50% increase in summer camp attendees! There were a record number of proud parental smiles in the audience.

Scout of the Year - 2008
Scout of the Year - 2008

The other main highlight of the evening was the announcement of the troop’s inaugural Scout of the Year award. According to the senior committee members that determined this year’s winner, the once-in-a-lifetime winner, ASPL Brad M., was honored for his high level of participation in all troop activities (including campouts), above-normal advancement (including completion of several Eagle-required merit badges), consistent leadership role and positive Scout spirit! Several adults were involved in the process and the committee had several outstanding candidates. The Scout of the Year committee expects another outstanding group of high-performing scouts during the 2009 scouting year. This “best practices” recognition award was “borrowed” from Troop 240 Riverdale and will be a great new tradition for our troop! On the walls of the Tuckahoe Community Center will be a second plaque, to match the Eagle Scout plaque, honoring all future Scout of the Year recipients. Congratulations Brad!

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Scoutmaster receives his Wood Badge Beads

Finally, after two years of hard work, Scoutmaster Tom completed the most advanced level of training available to adult Boy Scout Leaders, the completion of the Wood Badge (WB) course. Members of the Scoutmaster’s WB course & Bear Patrol were present to participate in the symbolic “beading” ceremony, which was led by mentor and Scoutmaster Joe Acquafredda of Riverdale T-240 of the Greater NY Council. Troop 240 is believed to have the largest number of Wood Badgers in the area, with about a dozen and several regarded as “3 Beaders” (WB course instructors). Mr. McCandless is only the third recipient of the Wood Badge award in Troop 353’s history, following in the footsteps of sr. Committee member Richard Schraudner and founding Scoutmaster John Callahan. For a look at a very memorable night for Troop 353, check out these photos!