By Karen Blackledge
The Daily Item
DANVILLE — From choir robes to giving up birthday presents for homeless animals to Eagle Scout projects, many area youngsters put helping others first.
Danville Middle School student Calla Reeder didn’t want birthday gifts. Instead, she collected articles from fellow students and others, including food, bedding, toys and grooming supplies, for the Danville Adoption Center of the Pennsylvania SPCA. She delivered the gifts before Christmas.
Rainey Oldfield, 10, of Riverside, organized a project at Hoffman’s Sewing in Danville for girls to make 40 children’s choir robes for Haiti. A group from her church — First Baptist Church of Danville — delivered the robes recently. She got the idea after hearing a report in November 2011 by the church’s short-term mission team which had traveled to help out in Haiti.
Scout Executive Paul Knox said Columbia-Montour Boy Scout Council has 5 to 6 percent of its scouts receive Eagle Scout awards each year. The national average ranges from 2 to 4 percent.
“We are 1 to 2 percent higher than the national average,” he said. “We have anywhere between 20 to 30 Eagle Scouts a year. In the local community not only are there service hours but long-time residual benefits to the community and a project enjoyed many years to come.”
Traditionally, an Eagle Scout project takes at least 100 to 150 community service hours. “We have people who have served in the armed services who say scouting really prepared them to be a leader among other people in the service,” he said.
The 2012 Eagle class from Montour County included Joseph Baker, Brett Bergerstock, Steven Burke, Cody Creveling, Benjamin Fait, Jeffery Hauck, Ryan Powers, Benjamin Pegg, Andrew Pursel, Craig Rinaldi, Shane Rudloff, Shaun Weiss and Brent Zerby.
Also an Eagle Scout, Knox grew up in Vermont and served three two-year terms in the Vermont House of Representatives right after graduating from college. He has also worked in scouting in Albany, N.Y., and in Vermont.
Danville Area Community Center Executive Director Jean Knouse said the center has had its share of Eagle Scout projects. Knouse said Danville’s soccer park was the beneficiary of the most recent project. Jeff Hauck constructed a pavilion at the park.
“The very best way for children to learn generosity and give back to the community is through the example of their parents. I think the Eagle Scout is the most perfect example of that,” she said.
The center occasionally has groups of kids who want to do a school-based activity there. “We try to participate in as many of those projects as we are going forward in a strong community,” she said.
Danville District Curriculum Director Dawn Brookhart believes students who feel connected to the school and the community are more likely to be involved in community projects. “Our staff and club advisers further motivate them to get involved. They provide the inspiration and pathway,” she said.
She credited the staff for providing future community-minded adults.
The high school Key Club does an amazing job of supporting community projects, she said.
The FFA at the high school collects food for the Ronald McDonald House in Danville. Nonperishable foods were accepted the week of Feb. 11 at Danville schools and also collected at the high school boys’ basketball game Feb. 13.
P.L.A.N.E.T. at the high school promotes recycling and a green mentality with students collecting recyclables at school, Brookhart said.
Last year, the group collected slightly more than 11 tons of materials and turned them over to JAWS Recycling, of Danville, to sell. The Danville Primary school began recycling office paper for JAWS last year.
“I am continually amazed at how the group of students who I work with cares about their community and school,” said Mike Mast, P.L.A.N.E.T. adviser.
“There is a core group that is dedicated to each activity that we do, whether it is recycling or Adopt-A-Highway. I think of kids like Sarah Finn, Tristan Beiter, Cody Griffin, Maya Shenoy. ... Each of them has concern for the issue of our environment but also is willing to serve in an area where it is not likely that they will get a lot of attention.
“It’s not like being the leading rusher on the football team. The service goes under the radar for the most part, and frankly, they are not really looking for the recognition. Personally, I haven’t really ‘figured’ these kids out yet,” Mast said.
Key Club Adviser Marsha Kouf said when she polls her students they respond by saying they enjoy the “feel-good, warm, fuzzy” feeling of helping someone in need, to wanting to be part of something bigger to repaying the kindness shown to them previously in life. She has served as adviser for 14 years.
Key Club member Carissa Boudreau got involved because she gets to meet inspiring people — both Key Club members and others who need assistance.
“I love to volunteer because I am a people person,” Boudreau said. “I love to learn new ways to help. Key Club is a way to feel like I can help the community in so many different ways. I have become really close with children at babysitting, young parents at the diaper bank, teens my age at district convention and tons of other individuals.
“I have also made great progress on getting hours for a college or for my future. I truly feel like all the opportunities I have had will lead me somewhere great. And I am also thrilled that I can tell people Key Club is not about making keys,” she said.
Member Breezy Hendrickson tried Key Club because she knew it was devoted to community service.
“At the time, I had no idea how much the club would impact my life and how it would change me as a person. You couldn’t pay me to quit Key Club even on hard, bad days because there is not another single high school organization that would fill the gap that Key Club occupies,” she said.
Former club member Amanda Ferster got involved because she wanted to give back to the community “and in the process it changed my outlook on life forever. Volunteer work for some is just a resume builder, but for me that is the last thing on my mind. It creates a sense of pride and accomplishment. It allows you to realize just how much you actually have to be grateful for. A good quote that I think does a very good job at explaining why I volunteer is ‘you have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.’ That is the best feeling in the world.”