9-11 Day of Service

Scouts from Troop 353 participated in Volunteer New York’s 9-11 Day Of Service at the Westchester County Center. They made super hero themed treats and cards that will be added to care packages going to troops deployed overseas.

24th Annual Food Drive for ECAP

Scouts from Troop 353 brought donations to Eastchester Community Action Partnership on Friday to stock the food pantry for Thanksgiving.

Mr. Don Brown, the Director of ECAP, thanked the scouts and told them that people in this community need help, even though that isn’t always obvious.

ECAP will distribute approximately 275 food baskets to families in our community for Thanksgiving. Much of the food distributed comes from the troop and cub pack food drives.

Troop 353 has sponsored this food drive every year since 1998.

Community Service — A Special Day for Special Kids 


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!

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


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!


Community Service — Rebuilding After Super Storm Sandy 


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.


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.


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.


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”.


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.


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 !

Eagle Scout Court of Honor – A Rare Celebration!

Eagle Scouts Thomas and Conor

It is a relatively rare event for a Boy Scout to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.  In fact, less than 4% of all scouts reach the highest rank of Eagle Scout.  I doubt if any statistics are available, but I have to believe the probability of two brothers who, along with their sister, are part of a set triplets that advance through the Scouting program to make Eagle is less than half of 1% of all scouts!!

As rare as this seems, it happened in Troop 353 not that long ago!  Conor and Thomas M. both celebrated this crowning achievement at the beautiful Generoso Pope Foundation building in Tuckahoe recently, along with a subtantial group of public officials and other important dignitaries:  Amy Paulin (NY State Congresswoman), Vito Pinto (Westchester County legislator), Tony Colavita (Eastchester Town Supervisor), Sheila Marcotte (Eastchester Council woman), John Fitzpatrick (Tuckahoe Village Mayor),  Clare Gorman & Steve Ecklond (Tuckahoe Village Trustees), Mike Yazurlo (Superintendent Tuckahoe School District), Robert Foster (VFW), Frank Morganthaler (American Legion), Mike Fix (former President of the Eastchester Historical Society and an Eagle Scout), Sandy Garufi (Tuckahoe HS Music Director) and Ms. Andrea Grimaldi (Director of HR, Westchester County American Red Cross).  Photos from the very special Eagle Court of Honor are seen here.

Like all of the boys in our troop, Thomas and Conor have achieved notable success in other endeavors.  Be it school (National Honor Society), sports (golf) or in other extracurricular activities (the World Championships of Traditional Irish Music), these young men have enjoyed truly world-class success.  It is interesting, but not entirely surprising, to note that both have chosen to study Engineering in college.

In Scouting, both have had extensive leadership responsibilities as either a Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Assistant Sr. Patrol Leader, Sr. Patrol Leader and/or a Jr. Assistant Scoutmaster.  Conor earned 26 merit badges and Thomas ended up with 27 and both attained 3 different Special Awards during their scouting tenure:  Arrow of Light, Emergency Preparedness and the World Conservation Award.  From  the time each attained the rank of 1st Class Scout, it took each boy another 3.5-to-4 years to schedule and successfully complete their Eagle Scout Boards of Review – proving that patience and persistence can pay off handsomely.

Music is an important part of the Thomas and Conor’s family life and so it was natural for Thomas to target a revamping of his high school’s music department physical space in order to allow the roll out of a new senior student mentorship program for younger aspiring musician students for his Eagle Project.  According to the Tuckahoe School’s Band Director, this was a badly needed project that is expected to yield multiple benefits in coming years.  Pictures of Thomas’s Eagle Leadership Project are found here.

Community service, synonymous with any Eagle Leadership Project, is also an integral part of these two men’s family.  For his Eagle Leadership Project, Conor decided there was more work to be done with the local American Red Cross (ARC).  Like Eagle Scout Daniel A. before him in 2007, Conor knew that one of the best ways to help the community at large was to work with the ARC at the County level.  Conor undertook special instructor training in order to develop and implement an inter-active Emergency Preparedness Program utilizing the basic concepts of the ARC’s motto (Get a kit.  Make a Plan.  Be informed.) that was held at Cottle Elementary School.  Conor’s blueprint for the first ever Tuckahoe Family Preparedness Day is an excellent working template that ARC will use throughout other Westchester County communities going forward.  Photos of Conor’s Eagle Leadership Project show that, in addition to senior executives from ARC, other community entities were involved:  Eastchester Fire Dept., Hudson Valley Bank, & the Village of Tuckahoe (with partial funding provided by The Community Fund – not pictured).

As noted earlier, Thomas and Conor have accomplished much during their seven years of Boy Scouting – but so too have ALL of the scouts in our troop!  While Troop 353 has been blessed with, on average, one Eagle Scout per year, attaining Eagle Scout is by no means the ONLY yardstick of success in our troop.  More importantly, what we try to create is a rich and varied scouting program that provides ample opportunities for ALL scouts to learn how to lead others, make strong morale and ethical decisions and to serve their community and fellow scouts with cheerfulness.  Advancement per se is not a goal of scouting.  It is along the unique scouting trail, that many, many experieces of a lifetime are created for our boys and I am quite certain that both Conor and Thomas would vouch for the truthfulness of this statement as they reflect back on the richness of their clearly special experience in Scouting!  Congratulations to both Thomas and Conor – Troop 353’s newest Eagle Scouts!