Tattoo parlor, community support troop after tree lot theft

Josh Hughes admits he wasn’t the perfect Boy Scout. He participated in the program for only a couple of months, but his short time in Scouting made a lasting impact.

The owner of Emerald Tattoo and Piercing ensures his three California shops give back through charity drives and donations to the community.

“I wouldn’t give money to something I didn’t believe in,” he says.

He believes in Scouting.

When he saw on social media that a tip jar was stolen from Troop 59’s Christmas tree lot in Elk Grove, Calif., earlier this month, he immediately called his accountant and cut a $200 check for the Scouts (Russ McSwain, Emerald Tattoo operations manager, is pictured delivering the check). The troop shares a parking lot during its annual fundraiser with the tattoo parlor’s Elk Grove location, just south of Sacramento.

“They’re a good group of kids,” Hughes says. “They’re like local celebrities; they’re a pretty active troop.”

Celebrity Scouts

Troop 59, established in 1921, has run a Christmas tree lot for decades, raising money for summer camp and its general fund. Every one of the troop’s 63 boys chips in starting the weekend before Thanksgiving to keep the lot open every day, leading up to the big holiday.

This year, the boys were aiming to sell 670 trees. They essentially sold out. The troop only had 20 trees remaining last week, so the boys donated the rest to the local food bank, which will give the trees to families who can’t afford one this year.

“I think overall the community has been a very supportive of the boys and the program,” Scoutmaster Jonathan J. Schrader says. “The Boy Scouts of America is a legacy in the community.”

One of the oldest units in the Golden Empire Council, Troop 59 has seen 172 of its boys earn Eagle, many of whom have become “pillars in the community,” Schrader says. Some have had parks named after them and have been bestowed with the chamber of commerce’s Citizen of the Year honor.

The troop is not only known for its annual Christmas tree fundraiser and producing outstanding citizens, but the boys are often seen serving their neighbors.

“Our troop has a wonderful group of kind-hearted kids,” Schrader says.

The troop cleans up creeks; participates in Scouting for Food; serves a monthly breakfast with its chartering organization, the Lions Club, and helps out in the city’s Veterans Day parade. But, the Scouts volunteer beyond organized events. During one Veterans Day parade, the troop heard the museum needed a hand setting up decorations, so they pitched in for a half-day of work. When Emerald Tattoo held a charity drive for victims of wildfires, the Scouts (who were running a nearby pumpkin patch) came over to help.

This helpful attitude is one Scoutmaster Schrader hopes to instill in all the boys, so that they look for opportunities to do Good Turns, not to fulfill advancement requirements, but because it’s what Scouts should do.

“You should do something for the community not because you get something in return,” Schrader says. “You don’t go camping just to get the requirement done. You go to wake up and see steam coming off the ground in the morning, to see spectacular sunsets and to hear the owls hooting.”

Building a legacy

Cultivating a beloved, active unit is no small task. Schrader credits the troop’s adult committee with more than 20 members strong. He also thanks parents who stay invested in the troop after their boys have aged out of the program. Former Scoutmaster Nick Garcia, for example, stops by the Christmas tree lot every year to serve hot chocolate and apple cider.

The troop goes on about 10 outings a year, including snow camp, camporee and backpacking trips. Being around for nearly a century, the unit has seen both lean and strong membership years. To help attract new Scouts, Troop 59 hosts a couple of events, aimed at Webelos. The troop invites the older Cubs on a campout and to a gingerbread house recruitment night.

Putting forth such a positive example of what Scouting can be not only influences Cub Scouts, but also those not currently involved in Scouting.

Hughes, a father of three boys and two girls, is considering getting his children involved in Cub and Boy Scouting. He believes boys should be taught good citizenship and basic survival skills.

“The Boy Scouts help push that,” Hughes says.

The recent tip jar incident prompted Hughes to give as well as a Lions Club member and a 9-year-old girl in the community. Troop 59 committee chair Chris Joyce says it’s been “awesome” to witness the outpouring of support for the Scouts.

About Michael Freeman 15 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.


  1. Bless those who were “not the perfect boy scout.”
    That defined the career of many of my favorite scouters (and coaches, and supporters of youth programs)! I suspect those memories what put them off about the program when they were kids enabled them to be wise and compassionate toward the boys who might be easing their way out the door.
    The start can be rough as long as you finish strong!

  2. Awesome Josh! So glad to see people who back and support the Boy Scouts. This act of kindness will be something those boys will never forget. Josh didn’t need to be in Scouts forever to know to ‘do a good turn daily.’ That is really the best lesson he could have taken away. Merry Christmas to you Josh and to the boys in Troop 59 who worked so hard this season.

    • A very nuanced question deserves a laborious discussion. I learned a lot reading about tips here:

      Bottom line: Although no rule prevents accepting a tip. There ARE rules against soliciting for them.
      Your friend needs to decide if something about the fundraiser solicits tips, or if a discrete means for accepting tips needs to be provided because so many customers offer them, and it’s just not safe for someone working the fundraiser to stop what he/she’s doing to accept them.

      • We sell trees, but don’t have a tip jar or solicit tips. We do get customers that leave tips. We record all the tips along with the sale. This way the money balances out at the end of the shifts.

    • Oh, for goodness sake your friend should get involved more and see the shoe string budgets most Troops run on. Many folks are offended if you do not accept their tip and you could easily apply the tips towards the cost of donated trees if you want to balance it out.

  3. Thank you Josh Hughes and other members of our community for your support of Troop 59 after the tip-jar incident. We appreciate all you did!! Thank you!!! Troop 59 is one of the great long-standing representatives of Scouting in Elk Grove. I’m proud of them and all of their accomplishments in their 90+ years in our community. Thank you to Mr. Schrader, Mr. Garcia, Mr. Joyce, and all the other leaders and parents, current and past, who have built up an amazing culture of Scouting in Troop 59.

  4. “The troop only had 20 trees remaining last week, so the boys donated the rest to the local food bank, which will give the trees to families who can’t afford one this year.”

    As a leader of a Troop that sells trees each year, when we have ones that did not sell we try to find families that could use a tree. Checking with the local food bank is a great idea that we will pursue.

  5. Reading this article warmed my heart. Mostly just to find out that the spirit of the good turn is still alive. I was in Scouting back in the 1950s and our Scoutmaster emphasized two things, two things that I perceive are mostly missing in Scouting today – Good turns and conservation. Our troop was in a small town, one where everyone knew every one else. We didn’t have to advertise our good turns, because when we did them, it was obvious to the whole town what had happened. Our conservation efforts were not as visible, but on the other hand, it made a lasting impression on all of my fellow troop members. Our council camp was newly purchased, and we spent several years planting trees in it to make it into a forrest, and we succeded beyond our wildest imaginations. But most of our old troop members still plant at least one tree every year, just to re-kindle that memory.

    • Neither of those things are missing from scouting today. Conservation is built into the cub scout program requirements, and depending where you live, you pretty much can’t do an Eagle project that doesn’t involve conservation to some degree. Just about every camping trip involves a conservation centered service project. Every boy scout knows to do a good turn daily is part of being a scout (and part of being a decent human being). And a part of rank advancement.

  6. Such programs as the Boy Scouts are pillars of communities and an essential fabric of society as they mold the behavior of our future leaders and men in general

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