Raking in Good Will
By Lori Murray
During the Greater Cleveland Council's annual Yard Charge, Scouts help needy residents while showing the public a great example of Scouting's commitment to service.
Sports announcer Ronnie Duncan was firing up the crowd. “I want to wake up Cleveland, Ohio!” he bellowed from the open-air stage of the downtown Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City. The crowd of about 2,000 responded with a powerful cheer.
But this was not a sporting event. Instead, Duncan was addressing an assembly of Scouts and leaders from the Greater Cleveland Council, kicking off Yard Charge IV, the day Scouts take on the challenge of raking yards for elderly citizens in Cleveland and neighboring communities.
“Is it important to help others when others need your help?” Duncan continued. “Make some noise and say yes!”
Despite the frigid November temperatures and cold wind blowing off nearby Lake Erie, the reply was deafening. Clearly, this was more than just a day to rake leaves. As Bert Moyar, president of the council executive board, described it, this was “a day when the Scouts show Cleveland and the county what they can do as Scouts.”
The 8 a.m. rally was the gathering point for Scouts and leaders who would be raking yards within the city. Cleveland mounted police and firefighters were also present, as well as Moondog, the mascot of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team. After the cheering session and a breakfast of doughnuts, the Scouts received their assignments and headed out to various neighborhoods.
Helping those in need
For its first three years, Yard Charge was limited to Cleveland neighborhoods, but this time packs, troops, crews, and posts could rake yards in the city or in other area communities.
By the end of the day, more than 4,000 Scouts and leaders had raked 1,600 yards, collected 43 tons of leaves, and registered 16,000 service hours. Their hard work left numerous elderly homeowners happy and thankful, drew the support of city officials and agencies, and caught the attention of local news media.
Those were the results, although the Greater Cleveland Council had earlier informed leaders about the event’s primary goal in the council newsletter:
“At first glance, you may think that Yard Charge is about raking leaves. That may be the outcome, but the real purpose of Yard Charge is to teach our Scouts about giving back to the community and helping those in need.”
In the trenches
Scouts from Cleveland’s Troop 983 were scheduled to clean 15 yards during the day. “I just like helping other people; it makes me feel good inside,” declared 16-year-old Michael DeFleice, hard at work on the second yard of the day. “It’s hard work, but it’s all for a good cause.”
Not far away, Pack 983 of Cleveland was working equally as hard. “It’s fun -- and you get patches,” said 7-year-old Justin Primous. “And it will make the people happy when they see all the work we did.”
And homeowner Ida Jenkins, 79, was quite happy with Pack 983’s efforts. Although she is blind, she came to the door of her small green ranch house for a moment and said, “I am just so happy. I have been in the hospital, but I hope that next year I will be able to donate something to them.”
She couldn’t see the eight bags lined up at the edge of her property, but she knew that she had one less concern before winter arrived.
On the city’s west side, a large group of Scouts from Troop 201 and Pack 102 were arriving from suburban Olmsted Falls to help in the effort. As the boys, each equipped with a rake, filed out of several SUVs, Scoutmaster Joe Lagruth provided instruction.
As a driver for UPS, Lagruth knew the neighborhood and was familiar with many residents. Before the Scouts began to rake, the leaders checked each property for stray dogs. Then they knocked on the door to let the homeowners know the Scouts had arrived, presenting them with a card and a Yard Charge patch.
“I think it’s fun because of the raking,” said 11-year-old Webelos Scout Chris Skinner. “You have time with friends, and you are also helping other people.”
With a total of 28 yards on their day’s agenda, the Scouts from Olmsted Falls focused on finishing each job as quickly as possible, pausing only to shake the hand of each elderly homeowner before moving on.
They headed to their next house a few streets away, where a blind woman and her disabled daughter lived.
“It’s like a lifesaver,” said homeowner Betty Aponte, 69, who ventured onto her front porch in a bathrobe and slippers to thank the boys.
“You boys are setting a good example. I hear so much on the news about boys going to prison. I am so glad to know there are good boys. You are doing something good. Keep doing it.”
Then she rewarded their hard work with a bag of candy.
Chomping down his share of candy, 10-year-old Evan Moyse, a two-year Yard Charge veteran, described the experience from his perspective: “The best things about this day are free doughnuts [for breakfast], free KFC chicken [for lunch], and sometimes candy. And it’s fun helping people.”
Support from many
The spirit of Yard Charge attracted numerous corporate and civic partners for the project, such as KFC Restaurants (which provided a lunch for each participant), Dunkin’ Donuts (which supplied breakfast), Rosby Resource Recovery, Time Warner Cable Amphitheater, and Member Health.
Jane Fumich, director of the Cleveland Department of Aging, helped coordinate the event, primarily by providing the addresses of the seniors who needed assistance, but also by supplying biodegradable bags.
“We are very appreciative to have the opportunity to help so many seniors in one day,” she said.
Fifth Third Bank of Northeast Ohio was a sponsor of the event for the second year in a row. “It’s a great way to get young men involved in helping other people,” said President and CEO Todd Clossin. “It sends the right message about values and priorities and helping those who need help. That’s what sold me on it.”
Clossin also knew firsthand what the experience was like, having participated with his son. “Before the second Yard Charge, I asked my son about it, and he replied, ‘This is the event that made me feel good,’” Clossin said.
After helping eight young people rake 10 yards, Glenn Morrical, Advisor for Venturing Crew 1, said:
In addition to helping people in need, Morrical added, Yard Charge gives Scouts an opportunity to be out in the community in large numbers, showing what Scouting is all about in terms of helping other people at all times.
“These kids don’t do this because someone told them to,” he said. “They find it rewarding, and [each year] they come back and do it again.”?
Freelance writer Lori Murray lives in Columbus, Ohio.
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