by Chuck Mahaleris
Covid-19 has changed the way society has operated this year. Governments and businesses have altered operating practices and new rules have been put in place to keep everyone safe. The same is true for the programs of Scouting.
“The Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’,” said Kennebec Valley District Chair Kelly Pillsbury. “Scouts are prepared for hiking in bad weather. Scouts are prepared to treat someone in need of first aid. Scouts are prepared to teach others to protect nature. And Scouts are prepared to continue the programs of Scouting during a global pandemic.” Local Scout Troops and Packs have followed guidance from the State of Maine, the Center for Disease Control and from the National BSA to ensure they are doing all they can to keep Scouts and Scouters safe while delivering the values-based activities of Scouting.
“When our programs can meet indoors, we do so following the rules on masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing,” Pillsbury said. “When we can’t meet indoors, we meet outdoors and follow the Covid-19 procedures. When we can’t do either, our Scouting Packs and Troops and leaders meet virtually. The generations before us overcame a lot and we will overcome this too,” she said. Scouts have stepped up to show that they don’t quit even during national emergencies.
For example, important ceremonies look a little different but continue to be held like Augusta’s Michael J. Fortin who was awarded his Eagle Scout rank during a socially-distanced ceremony in July and Cub Scout Christopher Smith of Pack #585 who, along with his parents, wore a mask when he received his Arrow of Light award, in Farmington.
At camping trips, hikes, meetings and other events, Scout leaders communicate with parents and Scouts to be sure each participates in the most appropriate and comfortable way possible. For some it is in person, for others it may be virtual. For any in-person event, Scouts, parents and leaders should be screened for any signs or symptoms of Covid-19 including coughing, shortness of breath, chills, etc. “We’ve gotten good at finding ways to make things work,” Pillsbury said. “Some of our Scouting units have met at schools but when schools are closed, no Scout meetings happen there, so we have learned to find alternative meeting sites.
When that isn’t possible, they have developed virtual meeting plans to help Scouting leaders keep their Scouting program going. It has become so important to our youth that things remain as close to normal as possible. I have been very impressed. Not only are the Scouts continuing to meet and camp and hike but they are finding ways to help others. Scouts are collecting food for food pantries, doing neighborhood cleanups, and sending emails and video messages to residents of nursing homes to encourage them.
In Jackman, the Scouts have asked for food donations for the needy and people can leave it on their step, let them know and a Scout will pick it up. The same is true in Camden and Rockport where Pack #200 Cubs put out fliers to area homes seeking food for the needy and then collecting on November 22. All while being safe and keeping those donating safe. Some of our Scouts, like Cubs in China Pack #479, have been selling masks to help others while helping support their programs. We want all of our Scouts, during this crisis and when things return to normal, to do a good deed every day. We all want this pandemic to be over soon, but until it is, Scouting will be there just as it has been for more than 100 years.”