Boy Scouts spread cheer — at a safe social distance

BUCHANAN — In a year continually marked with changes and precautions, Boy Scout Troop 541’s Christmas meal delivery was not untouched.

The troop gathered members outside in the garage bay of Redbud Area Ministries in Buchanan on Tuesday evening. The scouts were aiding in RAM’s Christmas meal distribution, where many meal boxes containing all the components of a special holiday meal were included, including a ham or turkey, stuffing, vegetables, fruit and more.

According to RAM’s Executive Director Jan Nowak-Walters, about half of the holiday meals are picked up prior to the Boy Scouts delivering the second half.

“The Boy Scout troop has worked with RAM for years,” Nowak-Walters said. “They coordinate dropping the meals off door to door. It’s a good experience for the scouts.”

The partnership between the Boy Scouts Troop 541 and RAM has been an enduring one.

“The Boy Scouts have been delivering these boxes for at least 35 years,” said Troop 541’s Assistant Scoutmaster David Guisbert. “I remember delivering them when I was a young scout when it was first organized at St. Anthony’s Parish.”

The scouts were instructed how this year would be different in the scouts’ drop-off procedure.

“If [the resident] happens to come out, wish them a ‘merry Christmas,’ put the articles down, and back away. Keep our masks on, try to stay socially distanced,” said Troop 541’s Scoutmaster Bill Blumka to the scouts. “If nobody is home, nobody is home. Don’t worry about that. I don’t want you interacting with people you don’t know this year.”

Around 10 scouts of different levels arrived to RAM with their parents or guardians to help deliver the meals to front porches both in the city of Buchanan and to the outskirts.

“This always helps boost my spirits,” said Bryce Placher, who is continuing to work on his Eagle Scout project. “I don’t do a lot for the holidays. My dad and I always give things out to others for the holidays. I just love doing it and giving back to the community.”

Placher said the biggest change this year will be the no-contact drop-offs.

“Normally, we knock on the doors and sometimes bring the boxes inside. We talk to the residents,” Placher said. “This year, it’s no contact at all. Just drop it and go.”

Fellow scout member working on his Eagle project, Kyle Welch, echoed some of the same sentiments.

“This is the sixth year I’ve done this,” Welch said. “I usually look forward to seeing smiles, but I don’t think I’m going to see them this year.”

Welch said the deliveries for each driver can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the number of boxes they have chosen to deliver and where they are located.

“We go wherever people are,” he said.

As schools have been closed to in-person instruction in Buchanan, and high schools across the state continue to be closed, Placher said the deliveries were keeping with guidelines to keep people who live and work around each other together.

“If you don’t have regular contact with someone, and you’re not related, we’re keeping it separate just in case,” Placher said of the vehicle assignments.

Placher’s father, Pat, is a returning Cubmaster.

“The Cubs have not met since all of this happened,” Pat said, of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have tried to meet outside off and on, but the recruitment is down or the Cubs, the first level of Boy Scouts due to the troop not being able to recruit students from the schools.

Despite the challenges, Pat is moving forward with another holiday action to give back to the community with the Boy Scouts.

The Cubmaster has organized a Christmas card campaign for local seniors, and has asked the rest of the troop to pitch in.

“The scouts will make homemade Christmas cards for the people living at Buchanan Meadows,” Pat said.

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