Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer
The members of Boy Scout Troop 478 say they beat the cold by running as fast as they could. While delivering bags for Scouting For Food on Saturday’s chilly afternoon, they raced up and down the streets and made sure to stop at every house along the way.
“If they’re at the house, I’m supposed to wait, but I like running because it’s so cold,” 12-year-old Josiah Neely said. “The first time I did [Scouting for Food] I was pretty bored and didn’t want to do it, but I’ve been doing it for five years, so I think I’m better at it now.”
478 was just one of the Boy Scouts of America troops that participated in Scouting For Food, a food drive that collects canned and non-perishable items for food-insecure families each year before Thanksgiving. The event is coordinated by the Heart of Virginia Council of the Boy Scouts and sponsored by Feed More food banks and Kroger.
On Saturday, Scouts dropped off paper bags at houses in the Maymont neighborhood. They plan to pick up the bags this coming Saturday after donors have filled them with food. Local participating Boy Scout troops will sort their bags and drop them off at the Faith Community Baptist Church, where they will then be taken to a local food bank.
According to data from FeedMore Inc., the nonprofit organization that serves Central Virginia, 1 in 8 people in the region is food insecure, which means they lack consistent access to enough food for a healthy life.
Scoutmaster William Hawkins is a VCU graduate who majored in music. He played trumpet in the Peppas and says that he still visits campus occasionally. He now has a full-time job as a scoutmaster for troop 478.
“478 is a pretty historic troop,” he said. “We’ve been around for 80 years; we’re one of the first African American troops in Richmond.”
Not all the Scouts participating were boys. Tia Hawkins, William Hawkins’ daughter, is a member of Troop 442, which is a BSA girl’s troop. There is only one of these in Richmond.
“They earn merit badges just like the boys do,” William Hawkins said. “They’re doing everything the boys are doing. Right now, she’s just here helping her brother’s troop.”
Malachi White, 10, said that he feels like he’s bonded with the other boys in the troop.
“Someone I thought I’d never become friends with is one of my best friends,” he said.
Malachi said he liked Scouting for Food because he could pretend he was in the video game Hello Neighbor, a popular survival horror game where the player tries to sneak into their neighbor’s house.
“I get to act like I’m the boy in Hello Neighbor, trying to get the thing under the mat without the person in the house seeing me,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.”
Cubmaster Joshua Neely said that although he knows the scouts are having fun delivering the bags, it’s important for them to think about the reasons behind it.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a way to help other people out,” Neely said. “It teaches the kids about how to help other people who are less fortunate.”