Retired Scouter group uses talents to create Pinewood Derby cars for kids

Scouting doesn’t stop, even after you move on from a unit.

In 1988, a group of Scouters whose sons were no longer part of Troop 172 of Westfield, N.J., wanted to stay involved in the program that had shaped their families’ lives. So, they began working in a two-car garage at Winnebago Scout Reservation in New Jersey. They used their talents and some old donated equipment to do maintenance at the camp, replace signs at other Patriots’ Path Council camps, and construct new buildings and a waterfront.

This group of 27 retired Scouters call themselves “The Flintlocks.” Their spouses jokingly call them “The Flintstones” because of their age. Everyone is retired with the average age of 75; the oldest, Joe Schott, is 98. They have varied backgrounds; some are retired electricians and plumbers, others were police officers, small business owners, dentists and teachers.

One-third of the group is Eagle Scouts; more than half of them have been awarded the Silver Beaver Award, and about 40% are active in their grandchildren’s units. On average, they volunteer 5,000 hours cumulatively every year.

Last year, these men volunteered their time and talents to help a council program in trouble.

Shop stars

The Patriots’ Path Council offers an outreach program to bring Scouting to special-needs schools, inner city children and fatherless families. Usually, the council buys hundreds of Pinewood Derby cars and delivers them to the Flintlocks to design, cut, sand and repackage. The council then provides these cars to youth, so they can experience the excitement of a Pinewood Derby race.

This past year, however, the council was unable to continue this program due to financial reasons. So, the Flintlocks decided to help.

The group approached an area service league that provided them a $500 grant. The Flintlocks used the funds, along with some of their own money, to buy five cases of wooden cars — enough for three local special-needs schools.

Over the years, the group had expanded the camp garage, doubling its size. However, it burned down in 2013.

“We turned lemons into lemonade,” says Michael Hart. “We constructed a brand new 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art wood shop.”

The shop features many new machines and a suction system to remove sawdust. One-third of the shop building is where the men work on big projects, like tent platforms and picnic tables. Last year, they made 110 platforms, 60 tables and 32 benches. Another third of the building is devoted to crafts. The men build craft kits — birdhouses, stools, tool boxes, bat houses — all to be sold in Scout shops. The rest of the building is a place for meetings or to hang out; the camp also uses this space for summer camp registration and other programs.

In the craft section of the shop, the men got to work on the 240 Pinewood Derby cars. They donated the finished products to the schools for the kids to paint and decorate while the teachers installed the wheels. A council professional then visited the schools and set up a track for the students to race their cars. One school social worker told the Flintlocks that the race was “the highlight of the year for the students.”

This year, the Flintlocks have stayed out of their shop because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once things normalize though, they’re ready to continue serving Scouts in northern New Jersey.

About Michael Freeman 204 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.