South Whidbey Scouts turn Earth Day into workdays

— Created May 5, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It may seem like just another community cleanup project, but this past Earth Day brought out one very hard-working group of Boy Scouts.

The members of Troop 57 came together to help clean up a vacant lot in Langley, but the one-day project quickly turned into a two-day cleanup marathon.

“I invited them to do this cleanup for Earth Day,” said Coyla Shepard, founder of Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ (THINC), whose property borders the vacant lot, which is across from the Langley Community Center. “They use this lot for parking cars during the fair and it is a good money maker for them. In exchange, the owner of this lot asks them to mow it and maintain it. There has been a pile of downed branches accumulating and we agreed that Earth Day would be an opportune time to remove it.”

Troop 57 Scoutmaster, Jeremy McKnight, said they were a little surprised at just how much attention the lot needed.

“There were more branches and debris than we anticipated,” he said. “We had a small team of scouts and adults come out [on Earth Day] and took away a trailer load of material, and that is when we realized we needed more help. [The following Monday] 12 scouts and four adults worked on the property. We had a wood chipper, a weed machine and two trucks to haul away the larger branches.”

The members of Troop 57 are no strangers to community service projects. Despite the pandemic, the troop has been able to meet via Zoom as well as hold some outdoor, in-person meetings with COVID safety protocols in place. They’ve also been able to complete a few other projects.

“Painting the D’Jango mural on the bus barn building with Langley Creates – that took three events for us to finish,” described McKnight. “Filling planter boxes in front of the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center and general cleanup, and we did beach cleanup at Double Bluff , removing garbage and litter from the beach.

“Every time we do something like this, I am surprised at how quickly the scouts jump right into every task,” he continued. “We do make it fun, and usually reward with food (boys 11-17 respond well to food as a reward). For this event, we had ice cream sandwiches that one of the parents provided. We have a great group of adult leaders who also jump right in and provide positive role models for the scouts – leadership by example.”

Shepard said the community is lucky to have such a willing team of volunteers.

“The Boy Scouts are an asset to our community, involved in making a difference,” she said. “We applaud them!  This parking lot is used many times over for those going to the Langley Community Center. Also, I see our residents enjoying the park-like environment on their daily walk.

“It would be a great gift to our community if someone would purchase that lot for Langley for a community park and save it from becoming another commercial building site,” Shepard continued.

McKnight said the Boy Scouts will be able to continue to use the lot as a fundraiser by parking cars for the Island County Fair the next time it rolls around. He said the Troop appreciates being able to find service projects that improve the community.

“One effect of the pandemic is that many organizations are just closed to kids coming and helping, so we have had to work harder to find projects for the scouts. Our goal is to have at least one community service project each month,” he said. “I hope for an overall positive reaction from the community, just knowing that Troop 57 is here and taking on community service projects.”

 “A great big THANK YOU goes to these Boy Scouts,” Shepard said. “Our community and THINC are grateful for these youthful volunteers and their parents. Great job, Scouts!”