FRANKLIN – For those shopping in the Franklin Borough Walmart on Monday evening, many were curious about the Boy Scouts browsing through the store with lists in their hands, a bevy of items, and determination.
Approximately 70 scouts from Boy Scout Troop 150 of Sparta, with the assistance of their parents (about 40 parents were in attendance), participated in the troop’s Adopt-a-Family program on Dec. 16, as part of a community outreach project with two local churches, and to help broaden the scouts’ citizenship skills.
“We’ve been doing it [Adopt-a-Family] for about 10 years now,” said Joe Fucito, the troop’s scoutmaster.
Fucito said that the St. Kateri Parish in Sparta and the troop’s charter partner, the Sparta United Methodist Church, have supplied the information about the families in need, that these two houses of worship have adopted.
“They supply us with the family card that has individual item requests, and we use this for shopping,” Fucito said.
Sparta Boy Scout Troop 150 shopped for 42 families, and 120 individuals in total between all of the families. This was far beyond the scouts’ goal, Joe Toscano, one of the assistant scoutmasters, said.
“We also purchased additional hats, gloves, socks, scarves, pants and shirts that the church will distribute to additional families in need of warm clothes,” Toscano added.
In order to keep their identities confidential, a number identifies each family. After the items were purchased for each family, their items were bagged, with the number written on the outside of the bag.
Each boy was required to minimally raise $15 to defray the purchases, with many scouts raising over $20 each. Factored into their fundraising efforts were donations from 44 company and family sponsorships from anonymous donors.
Toscano said with the donations received, there were adequate funds remaining to purchase 1,187 food items, which were donated to the First Presbyterian Church of Sparta’s food pantry.
“This [food] donation will help support countless families in need this Christmas season,” Toscano said.
Fucito described the act of shopping these boys, ranging from ages 10 to 18, performed, as “one of the big learning tools and teaching lessons.”
“It’s service to others and participation and citizenship,” said Fucito. “There’s no better way to teach.”
It is not an activity that helps the scouts earn a badge, or contributes to their community service requirements, but expands their personal growth and understanding.
Fucito said for some scouts, the experience has been humbling, as they learn from the lists that for some, items that most take for granted on a daily basis are some on the request list for others. One scout in a past year, he said, approached him surprised when one list had a child seeking toilet paper and paper towels.
“It has been part of the learning lesson for these boys,” said Fucito. “When we select families, we look for the deep needs for the basics.”
The scouts in Sparta Boy Scout Troop 150 further stretched out of their comfort zones while shopping for items, for example, for young girls on the list.
“They need to get creative,” Fucito said.
For some these boys, the task for shopping for a girl may be a challenge, and then some, Fucito said, recall what a sister, or another girl in the age group of the young lady they are shopping for, and begin thinking of some gift possibilities, based on what the girls they know like best.
Scouts checked back with their parents and those supervising the activity, where the group was stationed, at the Christmas shop in the rear of Walmart. The adults working with the boys, helped to ensure that the scouts remained within budget, and to assist them with any questions they might have.
“They have to interact with adults in ways they are not used to,” said Fucito. “It’s a good experience for the boys.”
“The troop exceeded its goal and all expectations, and many people will received food and the warm clothing that they desperately need,” Toscano concluded.
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