Last year, after the Illinois state president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary issued a call for toiletries and other items for active troops overseas, Cub Scouts with Pack 3930 of Bloomington, Ill., stepped up.
“The items that we take for granted were not in available supply to our brave men and women thousands of miles away. Something needed done,” says Cubmaster John Perry.
The pack set up a booth outside a grocery store and asked shoppers to pick up a few items and donate them to the Scouts on their way out. These items included toothpaste, disposable razors, soap and other hygiene products that the pack then gave to a local VFW post auxiliary. The auxiliary then shipped the items to service members. At the end of the weekend, the Scouts had collected more than 800 items, valued at nearly $5,000 — that post auxiliary had never had such a large influx of needed supplies at one time.
The need to take care of America’s veterans and active service members continues, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Lynn Rolf, VFW programs director. A supply drive for toiletries and other hygiene items is still a great idea, he says, though hosting a contactless version to abide by local guidelines and keep everyone safe is a must. During the colder months, drives for warm clothing will also be a need, Rolf says.
Both types of drives can be adjusted by adding drop-off spots instead of Scouts directly collecting from people. Take a page out of how Scouts have done Scouting for Food drives during the pandemic for ideas on how to do other service drives. Again, check the latest pandemic guidelines for where you live.
Scouts have found other ways to help veterans and the memories of our fallen heroes. For his Eagle Scout project, Lance Boicourt of Troop 43 in Urbandale, Iowa, built a brick memorial path at the state’s VFW headquarters as well as did maintenance projects, like improving the gutter drainage and refinishing the deck. In Hazlet, N.J., James Borg of Troop 137 cleaned up a forgotten family cemetery that was the resting place for a Revolutionary War veteran, two War of 1812 veterans and a Civil War veteran.
“It’s small-town American history,” he told CBS 2 News in New York. “And in a time like now I feel like we all need to feel like together as Americans.”
Outdoor service projects are a good way to still help others while remaining safe during this pandemic.
In Monument, Colo., Michael Carlson raised more than $46,000 to install a veterans memorial at the city’s cemetery. The memorial features a granite slab etched with the message, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American soldier; one died for your soul, and the other died for your freedom.” Next to the slab is a flag pole for the American and POW flags and a bronze Battlefield Cross along with a plaque thanking the memorial’s donors.
In Rutland, Mass., Michael Rotondo III of Troop 141 cleaned up a neglected World War II veterans memorial at a city sports field. He removed the rusted flag pole and pulled up overgrown vegetation, replacing it all with a new flag pole for the American flag, a brick walkway and two benches.