A Week of Good Turns
By Carol Jones
Denver packs, troops, and crews dedicate eight days in November to helping others in many different ways.
On Nov. 8, 2003, the temperature in Denver was so cool that many homeowners turned on their furnaces.
But the doors and windows at Heidi Acker's house in the suburb of Littleton were wide open, as Boy Scouts replaced doors and screens and patched and painted surfaces. The Scouts, from Troop 2001 of the Denver Area Council's Timberline District, were helping single parent Acker keep up with important house repairs.
While Troop 2001 was performing this Good Turn for a family in need, many other packs, troops, and Venturing crews throughout the Denver area were preparing to participate in a variety of similar efforts, as part of the Denver Area Council's first annual Good Turn Week.
Focusing on service
Three years ago, council leaders noticed unit participation in the annual Scouting for Food drive beginning to wane. In response, they decided not only to promote more participation in the food drive, but also to boost enthusiasm for unit-level service projects in general.
In March 2002, after brainstorming with The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a national organization that supports service to others as a way to bring people together, staff leaders began organizing a councilwide Good Turn Week.
A Good Turn Week booklet was designed to help Scout units develop projects. The booklet included potential partner organizations to contact as well as sample project ideas.
By summer 2003, Washington Mutual had agreed to promote the event as a corporate sponsor and had assigned Financial Center manager Michael Plowman to the task.
An Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster and Venturing crew Advisor, Plowman was eager to help. Promotional materials were developed, and the event was advertised on local television and radio and in local newspapers.
Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers from 350 units in the council's six districts responded with enthusiasm. And for eight November days in 2003, they raked leaves, gathered clothing, held blood drives, painted houses, and fed the hungry.
Cub Scouts lend a hand
The Gateway District's Pack 111 sought a Good Turn Week project that would be both appropriate for Cub Scouts and would honor den leader Brenda Docheff, who died of a brain tumor earlier in the year.
"We wanted to do something in her memory," explained assistant Cubmaster Jason Pettis. "We thought working at Ronald McDonald Housewhich provides housing and meals at no charge for out-of-town families attending hospitalized childrenwas a good fit."
On Nov. 8, Bear Cub Scouts from Pack 111 worked the lunch shift, serving sandwiches, chips, veggies, cookies, and drinks to the families residing at Denver's Ronald McDonald House.
Den leader Monnie Barrett said the staff at Ronald McDonald House spoke to the boys before the project.
"They wanted the boys to understand how they were helping," she said. "As adults, the things we do that help others are sometimes too abstract for children to easily understand, but this type of helping was just right for Cub Scouts."
Brian Gebhard, 9, showed that the boys had no trouble comprehending how and whom they were helping. "People are staying here because their kids are in the hospital," he explained, "and we're fixing food so they don't have to."
David Cuellar, 8, explained in more detail: "We're trying to help. If your sister or cousin is in Children's Hospital, you can stay here. It's sort of like a motel, but you don't have to pay."
While the Bear Cub Scouts served lunch, other dens in Pack 111 were collecting food and toys for Ronald McDonald House.
Helping the less-fortunate
Trish Cooper, a committee member of the Gateway District's Troop 342, found a project idea in the Good Turn Week booklet. She contacted Mount Saint Vincent Home in Denvera 120-year-old facility that began as an orphanage before evolving into a home for emotionally disturbed children. Mount Saint Vincent needed fall yard work, and Cooper arranged for Scouts, leaders, rakes, shovels, and bags.
Troop 342's senior patrol leader, Star Scout Ian King, said Good Turn Week "got more people out doing service projects. It's a good thing to dohelping less fortunate people."
Frontier District's Venturing Crew 911 held a clothing and blanket drive for the emergency unit at Denver's Saint Anthony Central Hospital, delivering 10 large trash bags full of needed items. Gateway District's Venturing Crew 583 collected toiletries to donate to a local women's shelter.
"Service is a big part of Venturing," said Adria Howell, who serves both as president of Crew 911 and vice president of Crew 583. She believes that Good Turn Week can stimulate both crews to focus more of their efforts on service.
Promoting good health
Many Cub Scouts in Pack 586 of the Gateway District participated in the Pocket Flag Project, an activity that involved folding "pocket-size" flags and sending them with a note of appreciation to U.S. troops overseas.
But for Good Turn Week, while many Scout units were collecting items for people in need, Pack 586 decided to "collect people" into the Broomfield Senior Center, to educate them on health and safety issues.
Den leader Venus Broughton got the idea for a health and safety fair after hosting a demonstration on identification registration at a den meeting. She thought just doing ID registration would be an ideal project for Cub Scouts during Good Turn Week, but the more she talked about it with her Cub Scouts, the grander their plans became.
As a result, in addition to ID registration, the fair included a blood drive, blood-pressure station, fingerprinting station, and information booths with brochures about the dangers of smoking and drinking.
Alongside Cub Scouts were police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical techniciansall with equipment and answers to questions.
At the fair, eight adults and 30 Cub Scouts manned stations that attracted 60 to 70 people.
Connor Pearson, 7, assisted his mom, den leader Michelle Pearson, at the blood-pressure station.
"I write down the date, and my mom tells me what reading to put down for each person," Connor explained. High blood pressure can show no symptoms, "so people take their blood pressure to see if it's O.K.," he added.
At the fair's entrance, Webelos Scout Steffen Hileman handed out forms to people waiting to donate blood in the Bonfils Blood Center trailer stationed in the parking lot, while Webelos Scout Clayton Gordon escorted donors to the trailer.
With each walkie-talkie summons, he was out the door, eager to do his Good Turn by showing another donor the way.
Like the other Scouts and Venturers participating in Good Turn Week throughout the Denver Area Council, Clayton carried out his assignment with energy and enthusiasmhappy to help other people at any time, but especially during this unique week in November.
Freelance writer Carol Jones lives in Fort Collins, Colo.
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