How Scouting families in one district are teaming up to make 41,000 face coverings

A family from Troop 599 works together to assemble face coverings
A family from Troop 599 works together to assemble face coverings.

When Ryan Spellecy heard about the need for face coverings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in Milwaukee, he knew just what to do.

Spellecy, who is commissioner of the Southern Shores District in the Milwaukee-based Three Harbors Council, had heard about a company that was working to create 3.5 million face coverings for people in Wisconsin’s largest city. But the company, Rebel Converting, wasn’t doing it all themselves. They were hoping to crowdsource it.

Inspired, Spellecy opened up his computer and got to work.

“We realized there was a huge group of Scouts out there that would probably love to help us,” Spellecy says. “We created a sign-up sheet, and the response was amazing.”

Spellecy distributed kits for making the face coverings to the front porches of participating Scoutmasters and Cubmasters in his district. Each unit leader was then responsible for safely distributing those materials to families in their pack or troop. Spellecy also returned to pick up the finished face coverings and deliver them in bulk to the collection center.

Spellecy steered the boat, but Scouting families did the paddling. Working at kitchen tables and on living room floors, they went to work. Using the process outlined here, they’re well on the way to their goal of making more than 41,000 face coverings.

It’s here I’d like to remind you that face coverings like these are not medical-grade masks. They shouldn’t be used as a substitute for social distancing.

A stack of assembled face coverings
A stack of assembled face coverings.

“To see members of the Scouting family — youth and adults — find an impactful purpose through this tragedy is a gift,” says Lucia Cronin, assistant commissioner of the Central Region and a Three Harbors Council Executive Board member. “A generation from now, I expect today’s Scouts to be telling stories of making COVID-19 face coverings to the next generation.”

Once each batch is complete, these handmade face coverings are delivered to health centers, clinics, food pantries and police departments across southeast Wisconsin. These groups can then get the face coverings to people in the community who need them most.

Great job to Scouts in Troops 108, 208, 218, 252, 316, 501, 531, 539 and 599, as well as Packs 205, 235, 251, 582, 586 and 1532! You’re truly making a difference.

“This is an amazing response from our Scouting families,” says Andrew Hardin, Scout Executive of the Three Harbors Council. “The Scouts in the Southern Shores District are truly taking their daily Good Turn to the next level.”

To learn more, I talked to some leaders of these service-minded packs and troops. Here’s a bit of what they said.

Mark Schadler

Scoutmaster of Troop 531

Schadler’s troop includes families with members who work in front-line roles, so this particular project was a good fit. An assistant Scoutmaster is a Milwaukee police officer, and another active parent is a captain with the Milwaukee Fire Department.

“I can’t take much of the credit,” Schadler says. “It really belongs with all the Scouting families of Troop 531 and Ryan Spellecy for organizing this for our district. I am just one of the many active adults in our troop that make it what it is.”

Scouts from Troop 218G, Troop 218B and Pack 251
Scouts from Troop 218G, Troop 218B and Pack 251 worked within their families to assemble the face coverings.

Heather Kosloske

Lion den leader of Pack 251, Committee member of Troop 218G

The Kosloske house built an assembly line of sorts.

Dad folded the material, Mom attached the rubber band earpieces and Gabe (a Lion Scout) manned the stapler.

“Gabe liked his job and enjoyed dancing to music during it,” Kosloske says.

The family worked for an hour a night until completing 700 face coverings.

“This was the perfect opportunity to serve others and stay safe at the same time,” she says. “Many of us were overwhelmed with all the changes COVID-19 brought: working from home, teaching our children, Scouts missing their friends, school trips canceled, Scout meetings canceled and even finding toilet paper. Service is a great way to focus on something positive when life really is quite hard and difficult.”

Stephen Meer

Scoutmaster of Troop 108 and Webelos den leader in Pack 57

For Meer, this was a household effort involving his wife and four kids.

Everyone pitched in, from his 7-year-old Wolf to his 14-year-old Life Scout.

“We were happy to feel like we were helping others during this time of isolation,” he says.

Rich Rognsvoog

Scoutmaster of Troop 599

Rognsvoog shared the service project idea with his Scouts during one of their online meetings.

“And I heard my wife yell, ‘We can do that!’ from the other room,” he says.

The kits contained enough material for 700 face coverings, which Rognsvoog initially thought was way out of reach. But his wife and two sons believed otherwise.

“I was glad to be able to help out COVID-19 patients in a way I would not have suspected,” says Vaughn, a 15-year-old Life Scout.

“It was long, but it was very good, helpful and useful,” adds Cooper, a 13-year-old Star Scout.

“All I would really add to that,” says Rich Rognsvoog, “is it’s great that whatever is happening in the world, Scouts always figure out a way they can help.”

About Bryan Wendell 3041 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.