The Arboretum’s Boy Scout Troop 501 is alive and well and thriving — at a time when other nearby troops have ceased operation.
Scoutmaster Chuck Whitman attributes the troop’s success to “a core of dedicated leaders … who as adults get along very well together” and encourage the participation of parents and siblings. This “family-oriented troop” even includes Chuck and Lisa Whitman’s son Chris, who has returned as a young adult to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster, mentoring the boys as others did before him. An integral part of Landis, the troop serves the Arboretum at each plant sale and contributes in many other ways, at the same time reaping the benefits of the outdoor classroom that the Arboretum offers. Early this summer, the troop hosted a regional Camporee in a new primitive camping area for scouts at Landis, and will continue to use it throughout the year.
Scouting surely helps boys on their journey to become men, and nowhere is the transformation more apparent than in the attainment of Eagle Scout rank. Only about 5% of Scouts nationwide are awarded this prestigious performance-based rank.
Jake Carlson is the troop’s most recent Scout to earn this status. Jake pointed to a younger boy, new to scouting, and noted, “I was just like him, shy.” Jake admitted that “it was chaotic” in the beginning, but over the years he has appreciated “all this knowledge I’ve accumulated; I want to give back.” He sees scouting as “a very good learning opportunity.” And a place to build lasting relationships, what Jake called “life friends.” Scouting has given him valuable skill sets, self-confidence, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Now Jake is poised to begin studies at Adirondack College. His dream is to start a business in an outdoor setting with year-round activities and physical challenges. That would be a big step for the once shy boy from Mariaville whose mother Debbie asked him, “Do you want to go to something called ‘Scouts’?”
Jake’s Eagle Scout project demonstrates another kind of relationship scouting can foster for young men, a bond with their community. The Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley had land, but no secure yard to exercise the animals in its care. Enter an eager Jake Carlson, who likes dogs and who thought it was a good match, although “It was a big challenge.” He had to solicit and gather donations of materials, assemble a cadre of people to perform the work, and return to make modifications to the design of the fence. The three actual work days spent at the shelter were just a small fraction of the time spent to plan and execute this project; over 208 volunteer hours were recorded on Jake’s Eagle Scout application.
In the end, the Chuck P. Stephens Memorial Play Yard was complete, giving homeless animals a better chance to exercise and socialize before finding new homes. The project also gave a young man a tremendous life lesson in what scouting is about. It is that very same life lesson first taught by the late Scoutmaster Chuck Stephens, whose memory Jake continues to honor both at the shelter and at his Eagle Scout ceremony, naming Mr. Stephens as his mentor.
The Landis family shares the pride Jake’s family feels in what he has accomplished, and in wherever he is headed, because we know, as Jake stated so simply, “Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.”