Scout troops had to think outside the box to safely collect 8,345 pounds of food for Helping Harvest amid a pandemic.

Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs from 521, 529, 543, 595, and 597 collected food from Amity, Monocacy, Birdsboro, Robeson, Gibraltar, and Morgantown areas at the Gibraltar collection site for Hawk Mountain Council's Scouting for Food program in November.

“Troop 529 has been participating with Scouting for Food since 1987, and has been coordinating the Gibraltar collection location for over 20 years,” said Eric Silva, District Commissioner and Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 529 in a release. “It has become a tradition of the Troop and four generations of Troop Scoutmasters still continue to participate in the efforts each year.”

Silva said that the Troop has developed a system of mapping out Robeson Township and surrounding areas to ensure all neighborhoods are visited and collected each year. The Troop refreshes its maps every couple of years as neighborhoods expand. For the past seven years Troops 529 and 543 have been working together to cover the entirety of Robeson Township, Morgantown and eastern Caernarvon Township, and the Flying Hills community in Cumru Township.

Troops 521, 595 and 597 work together to collect donations from Douglassville and Birdsboro covering the homes of the Daniel Boone School District.

“Scouting for Food is so very important and a major part of what we do, helping to feed the less fortunate and those in need,” said George Gajewski, Bear Den Leader of Pack 521. “It’s an honor for me as a Den Leader to teach the skills and fundamentals Scouts need on their journey to becoming honorable and productive adults one day!”

Troop 595 Senior Patrol Leader Jon Schnaubelt, 15, of Birdsboro, described the food collection process.

“We all gather at our church (St. Paul’s UCC Birdsboro), and split up into a few groups to put door hangers on every door to tell people about Scouting for Food. Then, we go out usually during that weekend and pick up whatever food people were kind enough to donate, and we give it to the organization that runs the event. They distribute it from there to those in need.”

The younger members of the pack help with the collection of food.

“It puts a lot of responsibility on us, and it’s really cool to see the younger Scouts looking up to us, and to see them learn new skills and grow as people,” said Schnaubelt. “I get to learn leadership skills, life skills and many other things.”

Scouts continued the tradition of walking around their neighborhoods to collect food donations while adhering to social distancing and other safety guidelines.

“We had to think outside of the box this year. Trying to do any event during the pandemic has been tricky. We made a video to post online so we could safely encourage people to donate,” said Webelo Scout Jacob Derer, 10 of Birdsboro Pack 595.

For the first time Troop 597 of Amityville tried a drive-thru donation drop off at St. Paul’s U.C.C. in Douglassville.

Kaden Schiel, 13, a 1st Class Boy Scout of Troop 597 Douglassville, has been participating with Scouting for Food for six years. In the past, Schiel collected food door-to-door and handed out door hangers. This year, he volunteered at the drop-off location.

“This year was definitely a lot different than previous years, but I’m very happy that we were still able to collect the donations to help our community out,” said Schiel.

“I am happy that I helped collect food today,” said Xander Gajewski, 8, a Bear Cub of Pack 521, “so families won’t go hungry. I like Scouting because I get to help people, and learn new things!”

Hawk Mountain Council, which serves Berks, Schuylkill, and Carbon counties, partners with Helping Harvest each year for Scouting for Food.

Hawk Mountain Council units all over Berks and Schuylkill counties collected 49,923 pounds of food this year, which is 13,000 pounds more than in 2019. In addition, Helping Harvest received more than $7,700 in monetary donations which can purchase an additional 92,000 pounds of food.

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