The COVID-19 pandemic forced many youth organizations to close their doors, but according to members of the Boy Scouts of America Greater Tampa Bay Area Council, Scouting is as active as ever during the outbreak.
“Our district is persevering,” District Executive Clarissa Castillo said. “The program is needed for the youth to stay engaged, socialize in a safe environment and to provide emotional stability.”
While campgrounds and properties were closed to the public, volunteers and staff members worked to ensure program opportunities are still accessible in the Scouts’ Timucua District, which is made up of the southern half of Hillsborough County. Tasked with serving over 2,000 youth, the district has shifted its focus to meetings and community outreach compliant with national guidelines.
Timucua District initially faced the same challenges as other nonprofits serving young people during the pandemic, but most units have now switched over to virtual meetings, according to District Commissioner Donna Williams. Platforms like Zoom and Skype have been utilized, and, even at the district level, committees plan for the future.
Many leaders have come up with creative activities to keep youth engaged in the meantime. Jill Migone, a parent of three Cub Scouts, created the #campathome contest, which encouraged families to go camping in their backyards and living rooms throughout the month of April and post the photographs to social media.
The Kilcomons family of Pack 107 took the grand prize, a Go Time Gear Life Tent and a bag of camping games.
“Service projects are being done with family support, and advancement continues,” Williams said. “We have even promoted several Eagle Scouts. Scouting is alive and well.”
Cub Scout Pack 61 and Troop 61 in Valrico performed two such service projects in April and May. Both hosted separate no-contact food drives in collaboration with ECHO (Emergency Care Help Organization) and Seeds of Hope at Bloomingdale Presbyterian.
“It made my heart happy to help people in need,” Lion Scout Olivia Campo said.
COVID-19 could result in an estimated additional 17.1 million people experiencing food insecurity, and many food banks are strained to keep up with demand, according to Feeding America. However, the pack alone brought in over 400 pounds of food for ECHO.
“They saw that they could do something without going out,” Cub Master Eric Brown said. “It was very simple, and it made a huge impact on the community. There are families out there in need right now.”
Troop 61 provided 2,500 pounds of nonperishable food items for Seeds of Hope. After the donations were collected and dropped off, First Class Scout Troy Gilmore sorted the collection to assist with distribution to more than 350 families that week.
“While we are not able to gather for a campout in the woods or fellowship over the finest of Dutch oven cuisines, our core values remain the same,” Sharrod McCree, field director for the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council, said. “Our Scouts continue to live the mission and remember the oath and law. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Scouting movement today.”
Interested in Scouting? Visit https://join.scouting.org/ to find a local unit in your area or call the Tampa Service Center at 872-2691.