Scouts never cease to amaze me. Whenever someone needs a helping hand, Scouts are there.
The latest example: Brooklyn-based Troop 13, led by Scoutmaster Pete DiSalvo.
Superstorm Sandy spared the troop’s families, but that didn’t diminish their desire to serve others.
Over the past week, the Scouts of Troop 13 split into several groups to help fellow New Yorkers — think of it as dividing to conquer as many problems as they could. The Scouts, Scouters, and parents delivered food to hard-hit families. They shared information to people who were literally in the dark. And they helped clean out one house flooded by five feet of water.
Here’s the story, as told by DiSalvo to the members of his troop. I’ve lightly edited it and added bold for emphasis. It’s definitely worth a read:
Hi Troop 13,
During my time as a Scout in Troop 13 and as Scoutmaster for the past five years, I have never been more proud of our troop. This past week was amazing! Last week we had three crews go out and help people in Rockaway and Staten Island that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Today, we had another 29 people from our Scout family [descend] on Oakwood Beach, and we made a difference. We touched the lives of so many people in a few different ways.
First, let me explain for those of you who were not there today about Oakwood Beach. It’s a low-lying area right by Midland Beach in Staten Island, not far from the water. Oakwood was flooded with more than 10 feet of quick-moving sea water during the storm. It now looks like something out of a movie. Whole houses were swept hundreds of feet from their foundations and toppled over onto their roofs and sides. Cars were tossed around like toys; huge trees lay flat. People in this community lost everything in the storm’s path. Unless you see it with your own eyes it’s hard to appreciate. I know the people who volunteered today agree with me, especially the Scouts. It’s complete devastation. The neighborhood also lost many people who drowned. Four people died right on the block where we were working.
But in this time of heartache for so many there are rays of hope. One of those rays is Troop 13. Pam Kelter identified an organization in this areas that is doing an amazing job of helping their community. This organization is collecting much-needed supplies, feeding the hungry, and organizing house clean-outs for their residents. The houses need to be emptied of their contents and gutted. They are also getting important information out to people who need it by sending volunteers door to door with flyers. Along with us there were hundreds of people who cared, helping throughout Oakwood. Various groups were there, many of them religious groups, including Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Amish, and more. All were there lending a helping hand.
Today, Troop 13 split up into two main groups. One group went door to door and handed out food and informational flyers that would help the victims. Later, we went around and notified people that the U.S. military was giving out free gas to anyone who had a gas container. Most of the homes there still have no power and are running on generators. The Scouts told me that the people smiled when they opened the door and saw us willing to help.
Our other group was assigned to a house on Fox Beach Avenue to “help out a little.” When I walked into this couple’s house they were happy to see me. I said, “We are Boy Scout Troop 13 from Brooklyn, here to help. What do you need done?” The gentleman, Eddie, looked overwhelmed. He was there with his wife — both close to 60 — trying to clean out their house. Nothing at all was done since the storm. He said, “well if you can get this sofa and rug out of here that would be a great help.”
I looked around, and to my amazement, saw that the water line from the flood was over five feet high in his living room. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Listen, we are adopting your house, and you have us for the day.” He looked outside and saw 14 people from our group with shovels, crowbars, gloves, masks, safety goggles, etc. He was so elated that it looked like he was going to cry. I told him we needed to gut the first floor because of the mold, and he agreed. He just didn’t expect anyone to come by and do it for him, and there was no way he and his wife would have been able to accomplish it themselves.
Troop 13 went to work, and within a few hours the whole first floor was gutted and placed in the street for the sanitation trucks to remove. He couldn’t stop thanking us. We went back after lunch and continued and ripped up all his oak wood flooring. We all worked off many calories today, but it was worth it. Everyone felt great about what we had just done. He said to us that he couldn’t express how thankful he felt. We at Troop 13 made some new friends today, and we truly touched so many lives. From going around the neighborhood offering food to people, to cleaning out someone’s house, we made a difference.
Pete DiSalvo, Scoutmaster, Troop 13
Bravo, Pete and Troop 13. You’ve made us all proud.