By Jack Gibbs
Like most organizations, the onslaught of the pandemic brought numerous challenges for Troop 71, as the pandemic hindered the troop’s abilities to hold its normal activities.
COVID guidelines were too restrictive to allow the troop to camp as a group and do many of the other fun activities typical of a boy scout troop.
However, the leaders and scouts of the Troop rose to the challenge, and through creative planning, the troop was able to come together for some much-needed human contact during the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and found innovative ways to eventually get together as a group in person to conduct important community service projects and outdoor group activities in a safe and fun way.
Following the lock-down caused by the pandemic, Troop 71 was quickly back in action with virtual weekly meetings conducted over Zoom, including meetings teaching car maintenance and fire safety.
During the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, the Troop got together for outdoor meetings at the Science Museum of Long Island, where they used the museum’s outdoor space to exert energy with physical challenges and complete the Personal Fitness badge.
During the winter, the Troop moved to the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, and the Troop is thankful to be able to return this year to its regular meeting place at the Plandome Village Hall.
In February 2021, the Troop said goodbye to its Scoutmaster, Marijan Bernic, who had been tirelessly serving the scouts for two years and through-out the challenges of the pandemic.
The pandemic did not stop the scouts from continuing its long history of conducting Eagle Scout projects benefitting the community. Scott Smith cleared and added markers and a map to the trails at the Science Museum and created an outdoor classroom.
At the Shoreline Trail, Michael Phelps installed a recycled plastic bench and mile markers and performed needed trail maintenance, and Alex Katsoulis cleared brush and created a seating area.
Alex Boutzalis extended and revamped a stone pathway to the Sands-Willets House in Port Washington. Chris Biniaris cleared a portion of the Hempstead Harbor trail and installed wildlife signs. Daniel Cataldo built steps and installed a walkway at Udall’s Cove and the Troop’s latest Eagle candidate Jack Gibbs renovated the technology room at the Adventures in Learning.
On June 20, 2021, Troop 71 held a long-awaited Eagle Court of Honor at the Plandome Village Green, recognizing the achievements of Christopher Biniaris, Daniel Cataldo, Scott Smith, Michael Phelps, Alexander Boutzalis, John Palmadessa, Gabriel Stewart, Ryan Connors and John C. Reilly.
In addition to the Eagle projects, the Troop came together for additional community service opportunities, cleaning up the Manhasset Bay shoreline and the grounds at the Onderdonk House. The Troop was also able to come together for camping and hiking trips.
The Troop held its first ever “virtual” backyard camping trip, where the scouts set up campsites in their backyards, cooked meals and lit fires together with their families while checking in with the troop over Zoom during the evening.
The Troop enjoyed long hiking trips together before finally being able to return to overnight camping in April 2021 at Alpine Scout Reservation and then for a fun weekend of camping and whitewater rafting in the Lehigh River, PA.
All in all, the leaders and scouts of Troop 71 met the challenges posed by the pandemic head on.
While many boy and girl scout troops suffered a loss of members during the pandemic, all of the hard work of the Troop resulted in a huge new class of scouts being admitted in 2021!
In the end, the scouts can look back at the troop as a stable unit that didn’t pack up and go home while facing a seemingly impossible situation but rather found ways to keep the scouts together and provide a sorely needed place for social interaction and fun during a chaotic period. For more information on Troop 71, email [email protected].