Community Service — A Special Day for Special Kids 

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It is not every day that a child with disabilities gets to have a social outing at a local swimming pool. It is also not every day that a scout gets to “earn” community service hours for playing in a water park, but both are exactly what occurred in August 2013.  Scouts from Troop 5 Bronxville and Troop 353 Eastchester participated in helping children with special needs enjoy a few hours of FUN at the local water park, Tibbetts Brook Park.  The event was sponsored by the Tommie Cares Foundation (TCF), which focuses on selected sports (selected water & snow sports) for children with special needs.  The TCF was started in 2013 by the founder of the Tommie Copper organization, a line of copper-infused compression sports clothing.  The event was exceptionally well-organized and the pre-event training for volunteers on how to understand and play with children with special needs safely and comfortably was exceptionally practical and thorough.  Even though passing thunderstorms delayed the start of the event for an hour, there was no shortage of FUN activities inside waiting for the rain to pass.  After an hour or so in the pool, a special awards ceremony recognized every child!  It was a particularly happy moment for many children and families.  Not only did the scouts have a very gratifying time, but the special needs children had the memory of a lifetime!  Here are some more great photos here!

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Community Service — Honoring a Legacy: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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The current generation of scouts has a difficult time fully appreciating the tense & tumultuous period of the 1960s in our country.  As each year passes, the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. become more and more awe-inspiring.  The fight for equal treatment of all human beings against a culture of segregation that was brutally enforced at times is an unbelievable endeavor that demands everyone’s utmost respect.  So it is with tremendous appreciation that our troop serves to perform the opening flag ceremony at the annual appreciation breakfast for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Eastchester Community Action Program.  The breakfast is attended by a wide variety of public service-oriented groups, including many politicians, to honor the legendary Dr. King.  And Troop 353 scouts proudly post the colors! More photos here!

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Community Service — Rebuilding After Super Storm Sandy 

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Soon after the Super-Storm Sandy devastated the Breezy Point Area, Troop 353  junior scouts conducted a local supply drive and raised money while senior scouts responded to the area. Recently, a few of those senior scouts returned to Breezy Point representing our troop and were recognized by members of the local community as well as by Habitat for Humanity.

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Thanks to Troop 353, a once uninhabitable structure now serves as a Learning Center for local students as well as the new Breezy Point Command Post for Habitat for Humanity. The structure was gutted by scouts and parents of our troop and rebuilt principally though the efforts of ASM Flannery and Flannery Contracting. Our troop also assisted with the collection of supplies and money. The funds raised by our scouts were matched (2x) by ASM DeKnatel’s company, Cisco Systems.  In addition, we brought several vans full of food, clothes, supplies, and raised over four thousand dollars to help the Breezy Point Community.

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At a ceremony in the New Command Post, our Scouts were acknowledged by Mr Jim Killoran, the Westchester Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity.  In honor of Troop 353, a full scale copy of Troop 353’s Patrol Flag is permanently affixed to the wall in the Command Post!! Mr Killoran said that the “Community Service” our troop flag represents will serve as an inspiration to the many other volunteers that will serve the area.

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Mr Killoran was joined by a Mrs Betsy Hendry who is the Director of this new Caffrey-Conroy Learning Center at Breezy Point. Mrs Hendry also thanked Troop 353 and became quite emotional.  She explained that her tears were from the “joy of knowing there are good people who would come to the aid of others”.

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Of course, while we were there, scouts and adult leaders alike rolled up their sleeves to do some additional community service by helping a family who’s home was still covered with debris.  We managed to spruce it up quite a bit which put huge smiles on the faces of the family that lived there!  Scouts still managed to find time for a few piggy-back relay races on the sand.

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Community Service — Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

When the troop is invited by Eastchester Community Action Program (ECAP) to help out at its events, the scouts are always eager to assist.  Notwithstanding the opening flag ceremony being led traditionally by the T353 SPL (Chris L in 2012) at the annual MLK celebration, the troop had a one of the larger contingents to assist in recent memory!  The scouts appeared sharp in their uniforms and the breadth of attendance added pagentry to the event.  The Mayor of Tuckahoe Steve Ecklond was so moved about T353’s frequent community presence that he chose to recognized T353 scouts a second time following the flag ceremony.  At one time, the opening ceremony for the ECAP-sposored MLK breakfast was shared by various local scout troops.

After the opening ceremony and invocation, the scouts are privileged to enjoy a buffett breakfast and listen to the inspirational comments of some of the more important community leaders as well as historic presentations by children from local schools.  Additionally, the scouts typically accrue 90–120 minutes of community service credit.  The T-353 leaders are very proud of our Scouts ongoing commitment to this important community event, as these photos suggest!

Community Service — Good Turn at Graymoor

Few activities in Scouting create more good feelings than community service for a good cause.  Being a NY-based scout troop, very few events resonate more in the minds of all residents than the catastrophic events of 9-11-01.  The year 2011 marked the 10-year anniversary of this tragic event and so it was with extra care and diligence that the scouts of Troop 353 Eastchester approached their annual spring cleanup of the 9-11 prayer gardens at the Graymoor Monastery.  Knowing that hundreds of people from all over the world would be prayerfully standing in the same place as our busy hands were working added an extra element of reverence to our labors.  Scouts worked sometimes in silence, at other times happily basking in the warmth of life, but at all times with great purpose.

The day was also special in that our former SM T. McCandless brought his daughter to the worksite, after having just arrived home from spending 2 months in the hospital recovering from major surgery.  “Special K” has been to many scout outings and deserves as many scout patches as most of the other boys, but that cold day in early March was a particulary memorable one as it marked the beginning of her return to a somewhat more normal resumption of daily activities, which includes a healthy dose of scouting activities!  For a look at our Scouts in action, click here!

Community Service — Extra Effort For ECAP’s Thanksgiving Food Drive


Given the difficult economic times, Troop 353 made an extra special effort in 2010 to gather more food for the Eastchester Community Action Program’s (ECAP) Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive.  First, we asked local golf pro Dave Stevenson to come share his story about being his personal calling to help Hurrican Katrina victims in Mississippi after that massive storm decimated so many communities.  Dave’s message is one of inspiration and hope to our troop families.

After our scout families hear this story, the boys then drop off empty foodbags in their neighborhood with a cover letter that indicates the Boy Scouts are helping ECAP in its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive (for the 17th year in a row!) and that the scout will pickup the filled grocery bag the following weekend.  This year, the scouts got further organized and arranged to station themselves by patrol at various local grocery stores in order to seek additional food donations–which proved to be very successful.  Then on Sunday night, scouts and parents alike descend on ECAP headquarters and begin to unload the +200 grocery bags, sort and stack in the correct shelf in the food pantry.  By the way, the ECAP food pantry often feeds other needy families beyond our town’s borders.  A Scout is Helpful, as these great photos will confirm!

Community Service — Annual Good Turn Outing: Good Tidings & Good Times at Graymoor Monastery 

For the past few years, the troop has made a pilgrimage up to the Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, NY for the annual Good Turn Outing.   A few years ago, Brother Ted Novak started our work in the 9-11 prayer garden, also known as St. Jude’s Pond & Prayer Garden.  Every year it seems like this area, frequented by thousands of reverent folks from all over the world, is in need of a major “spring cleaning” and so this is what our scouts have learned to do.   Historically, we have tied the need to accumulate troop-related service hours to attend some of our more fun events, ie white water rafting, and the Graymoor outing represents the singlest biggest opportunity (typically) to earn such community service hours.   For some scouts, it is there only opportunity to do a little yard work and these boys embrace the day enthusiastically.  At the other extreme are others that are not quite as productive.  Amazingly, the boys and the dads all work fairly steadily for the full 6 hours (excluding a lunch break) and the gardens look like new again! 

To add a little spice to the weekend, we have also had a Iron Chef breakfast cookoff competition with a required ingredient for the Sunday morning cookoff.  The required ingredient of lemon this past year made for some delightful presentations, and the Mustang Patrol was the hands-down winner!  The night before, the Scoutmaster prepared a lemon cake in 2 dutch ovens, which was quickly consumed by all as we all nestled around the bonfire to enjoy a varieyty of skits.  Brother Ted is always gracious (brave?) enough to be the tasting judge on Sunday morning, and then lead our group in a beautiful interfaith prayer service.   As always, we end the outing with the traditional “Rose, Bud, Thorn” discussion & sharing by all.  For more great pictures of this productive but fun weekend, click here click here !