Jim Potjunas left an indelible mark on Troop 101 and the entire community of Warren, Ohio.
Potjunas was just 18 when he helped start the troop 42 years ago. Five years later, he became its Scoutmaster. He led the troop for 37 years, during which time he helped 148 young men become Eagle Scouts. Along the way, he mentored young men as they camped, hiked and performed service projects.
“In all my years in Scouting I have never known a better Scoutmaster than Jim Potjunas,” says Ned Gold, whose son, Gregory, became an Eagle Scout in Troop 101. “And hence the troop is the best I have ever seen.”
Potjunas died on Aug. 5, 2017, in a single-car accident. He was 60.
His legacy survives in the 148 Eagle Scouts and dozens of others progressing down the path toward Eagle. It also lives on in the Jim Potjunas Troop 101 Scout Center, which was completed about two months before Potjunas died.
The Scout center was designed, built and dedicated in honor of Potjunas. Now it stands in his memory.
Here’s the story of a special Scout building and the extraordinary man who inspired it.
More than a storage space
Gold is a 68-year Scouting veteran who serves on the executive board of the Great Trail Council, based in Akron, Ohio.
He said Troop 101’s chartered organization, the Blessed Sacrament Church, provides ample meeting space for the guys. But there’s nowhere to stow all the gear it takes to support Troop 101’s active program.
Active is probably underselling it. During Potjunas’ tenure, the troop went to summer camp every year — Camp Chickagami for the first 20 years and Camp Manatoc for the last 17. They took eight bike trips along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, 20 trips to Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada and hosted 39 spaghetti dinners to raise money to pay for it all.
The church agreed to allow the troop and its alumni association to build a troop building on the far corner of the church property. Through the generosity of Troop 101 alumni, the troop raised $225,000 to build the 2,500-square-foot building.
The building has it all: Two floors of storage space. A bay that can hold the troop trailer when it rains or snows. A cable-and-pulley system for hanging wet tents to dry. A meeting room with videoconferencing capabilities. And then there’s my favorite feature: The Troop 101 Eagle Scout wall, where framed portraits inspire future generations.
A dedicated Scoutmaster
Troop 101’s equipment building officially opened on May 28. Parents, Troop 101 alumni, church leaders and members of the community gathered to celebrate the special day.
The keynote speech came from the man himself: Jim Potjunas.
He said that when the troop started in more than four decades earlier, “I could never have imagined anything like this. Back in 1975 there were six kids and a handful of adults who just had a vision of what Scouting was supposed to be.”
Troop 101 grew and grew, eventually expanding to 70 active youth members. They outgrew four different equipment trailers, and eventually not even a trailer could store all the troop’s gear.
And so to continue its path forward, Troop 101 turned toward its past.
“The Alumni Association took up the challenge of creating this facility to store and maintain our equipment,” Potjunas said. “It only became possible through the generosity of all those families who had come through the program these past 40 years, coupled with many others who believe strongly in the Scouting program and what it has to offer.”
A troop is more than a building
Potjunas ended his remarks in May by saying that trailers, tents, canoes and buildings are great. Having them can make a troop’s program run more smoothly.
“I don’t think any of us ever dreamed we would come out of a basement to something as nice as this,” he said.
But those buildings are worthless if empty. The gear superfluous if it never leaves a stuff sack.
“For me personally, to justify all this these contributions made by so many, we need to reach out and find more of those youth who could benefit from this Scouting program,” he said. “We have the capacity, and we have the resources. Let’s now join together and see how many of the youth in Trumbull County that we can help through Scouting in the next 40 years.”
More photos of the Troop 101 building