Scouts from Troops 6 and 66 in Cranston waited to leap into action at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank Saturday morning, anxiously anticipating the next pickup truck or minivan that would back in waiting to be unloaded.
Meanwhile, at the fire station at the intersection of Sandy Lane and West Shore Road the scene was repeated as members of Troop 63 from St. Kevin School stood ready to unload cars that had been cross crossing the neighborhood for home pickups and pack the donations into boxes. Later in the morning, a truck from the National Guard made the collection for delivery to the Food Bank.
Hundreds participated in the 32nd annual Scouting for Food drive – which the Food Bank holds in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America Narragansett Council and WPRI. Scouts were out and about in their communities last week placing door hangers at homes reminding them they would be dropping by to collect food donations.
Saturday, all across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, they were scattered at various drop-off locations gathering supplies. Narragansett Council program and communications director Daniel Friel said the Army National Guard then picks up from those locations and delivers them to the Food Bank at 200 Niantic Ave. in Providence.
“Any units that are local to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank will bring them directly here, which you’re seeing right now take place,” Friel said. “Every year is different, so it’s a really great time especially during this hard time in the winter and the upcoming holiday seasons. This ensures that they don’t go hungry, so it’s been a great partnership.”
This year’s installment was a bit more somber, however, as it was the first year without Joe DeStefano – the former Scouting for Food chair who passed away last year – at the helm. Carl Papino is the new head of operations, and he recognized that he has big shoes to fill.
“I’ve been around myself for a long time with my own boys doing this, and it’s just a matter of sticking with the program and following the way we do things,” Papino said. “Joe left a legacy of being a true gentleman … this was his passion, to give food for the poor and collect it. He did that for 31 years in a row.”
Papino said his children took part in the drive when they were young, and that the event “makes you feel good” as the food is going to those in need, especially as the holiday season approaches.
“It’s one of the best ways we can do it, by giving them the food that they need,” Papino said. “They need food all the time, and so we try to do our part. It’s one of the largest food drives for the food bank that we do from the outside to help them get food.”
Narragansett Council COO Tiffany Bumgardner-Scheffler has 13 years of involvement in Scouting, but she said it was her first time down at the Food Bank. On her way to the event, she saw Scouts lined up at various churches placing food into trucks to be hauled off.
The unifying aspect of Scouting for Food – a program that brings together troops from across the state and beyond – resonated with Bumgardner-Scheffler.
“It’s sometimes hard to get everybody to participate in one big thing, so this is the biggest activity that we do all year. It’s really neat to see it all across the state,” Bumgardner-Scheffler said. “It’s so nice, and I hope that these kids understand, too, what this means, that not only do we get the support all year round, but especially right now with the focus. You know, families at Christmastime are going hungry.”
She also said the Scouts become very invested, and Papino pointed out that they become a little more excited when the National Guard rolls around.
“They get super into it. It’s so cool,” Bumgardner-Scheffler said. “I think that they can see that the little bit of work that they're doing, to put a door hanger and go back and pick up some food, is benefiting so many other people, but it’s kind of what we teach in Scouting is to help others and make sure you're doing your part to help them out. It’s nice to see the reactions on their faces, like when these fill up. I’m sure it will be like, ‘We did it.’”
Scout Patrick Maguire was a testament to the fun of Scouting for Food, as he and his friends would descend upon the vehicles before they even fully stopped to reap the donations and place them into designated large boxes.
He has been involved with Scouting for Food for seven years, but only involved in the unloading process for about three years. He said more Scouts end up coming every year.
“It’s always been a lot of fun,” Maguire said. “Slowly, more of my friends joined, so handing out the flyers is more fun. Me and my buddies, we straight up sprint the routes handing out flyers. We’ve basically got it down to a system. It’s fun, though.”
Ward 5 Cranston City Councilman Chris Paplauskas has been around the event for decades, dating back to his time in the Scouts and his own experiences with the initiative. He said he enjoys now being able to witness his son, who is a Scout in Troop 6, helping the community as well.
“When I was a child, I remember doing this as a Boy Scout, and I was involved and it’s great to circle back with your own son and go through the program again. Scouts has always been there for the community,” Paplauskas said. “It’s great. To circle back through and do everything you did as a child, and to know that Scouts is still there helping the community, is really huge for everybody.”