With COVID still raging through Alabama communities, it is more difficult than ever to keep things “business as usual”. Thankfully, for Scout Troops and Venture Crews throughout Alabama, and even parts of Georgia, Camp Horne staff in Cottondale, Alabama, had a few tricks up their sleeves.
Thanks to passionate camp coordinators and volunteers, Camp Horne’s 2020 Winter Camp took place from December 28-30, and it was packed with endless activities and opportunities for Scouts and Venturers to earn merit badges and complete certifications.
Of course, Winter Camp was conducted following BSA and CDC Guidelines with troops socially distant, masks up except for meal times, and nearly all activities conducted outdoors (CPR and First Aid as one of the only exceptions). Staff at Camp Horne pulled all the stops when arranging the outing and put together ATV certification courses, blacksmithing activities, and a myriad of shooting sports; not surprisingly, these were some of the most popular events.
Merit badges offered ranged from First Aid to Astronomy to Cooking, so everyone present had a variety of options to choose from when making their daily schedules. Our Troop 100 G members checked off several merit badges over the course of Winter Camp, and our Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster helped teach several of the courses themselves.
To contrast with all the hard work during the day, the afternoons consisted of games, movies, and campfires.
Needless to say, the Scouts and Venturers greatly enjoyed the rare opportunity to try new things amid COVID, and Winter Camp surely provided them with a fun way to acquire essential lifetime skills. Camp ended with the traditional Polar Plunge, tidy campsites, and heartfelt goodbyes as everyone departed to celebrate the coming of 2021 and the chance for new beginnings. Happy New Year!
ON OCTOBER 10TH, Troop 100 G Star Scouts Abbey and Isabel began a conservation project required for their rank advancements. The two of them decided, based on resources Troop 100 already possessed from a bygone Eagle Project, to create bird houses from large, hollow gourds.
They allocated about 3 hours to complete the work they needed done, and began the process of polishing up the gourds for the birds.
First, the gourds needed the be sanded. They were covered in dirt, bumps, and grime that was absolutely unsuited for the next step of the process.
After hours of sanding each gourd to perfection, followed by a cursory rinse, the gourds were ready for the next step–painting.
Of course, while brown isn’t the most glamorous color, bird houses should typically be painted to match the natural surroundings. That way, they’ll have more success in becoming potential sites for bird nests. The brown was chosen to make the gourds appear more tree-like.
After all the gourds had been painted with their first coat, they were hung up to dry for a second coat.
Once all of the gourds are dry and looking pristine, they’ll be carefully placed in the outdoors so that homes might be provided to the little animals who need them.
Through careful work with the gourds, Isabel and Abbey were able to tick off another requirment for rank advancement as well as complete a service project for the betterment of their community, or, in other words, for the birds.
Mid March everything was flipped upside down, as Scout group Troop 100 G knows very well.
They had just embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime high adventure trip at SeaBase in the Florida Keys when case numbers were starting to appear in every state. Needless to say, that was the last normal trip they had before things changed for better or worse.
While the temptation to just sit back and let everything blow over was strong, the girls didn’t want to give up on Scouting even through the quarantine that would make everything all the more difficult.
Thus began the trials and tribulations of Scouting amid COVID.
Stage 1. Virtual Everything
Initially, with social distancing requirments at their peak, there wasn’t any safe or approved way to meet up in person to conduct meetings–especially with their sponsor church closed down for the occasion. So like many other organizations, they took to virtual Zoom meetings as an alternative to face-to-face.
Luckily, the Black Warrior Council didn’t want to just give up on Scouting, either, and with the regrettable cancellation of the usual summer camp, they decided to offer virtual merit badges to Scouts as a replacement. Along with Scouts from Alabama, Scouts from all over the United States tuned into the 3 day courses and took initiative to learn. Our Troop 100 G Scouts Makayla, Isabel, and Abbey completed several merit badges this way and took advantage of the opportunities offered to them.
Stage 2. a Little Less Distant
As restrictions lifted, all of the Troop members began to feel a little more comfortable with meeting in person–as long as no one was running a fever. They started out with simple meetings at Sokol park, which quickly led to more planning and ideas for the future.
Troop 100 G even held their own socially distant Court of Honor with only Scouts and a couple family members present.
After a few more meetings at Sokol park, the Troop got permission to move their meetings to the Scoutmaster’s backyard–a far more convenient site.
With meetings every Monday and virtual meritbadges still continuing in some cases, Abbey decided to throw a campfire program in order to complete Communications.
The group gathered for short advancement speeches by Isabel and Abbey, s’mores, and a game, and succeeded in boosting a little bit of morale in a not-so-serious setting.
Stage 3. Activity Time
After months of being closed, Camp Horne finally started allowing small groups to make appointments to use the site.
Having been given permission to use the camp, Isabel and Abbey were able to complete Lifesaving merit badge in one day at the camp’s swimming pool. With the help of a couple lifeguards, the outdoors, and a few CPR dummies, the girls managed to check the merit badge off their to-do lists and take one step closer to Eagle.
In addition to the hard work of merit badge activities, Troop 100 G also wanted to incorporate some fun time into their schedules. The Troop took a trip to Shindig in Tuscaloosa to help give the girls an opportunity to relieve some stress before the start of school.
Stage 4. an Overnight Stay
While every outing brought fun, the girls really wanted to get back to camping to get the full experience out of Scouting.
With frequent health screenings prior to camping, masks, and spaced out common areas, the girls were able to accomplish just that.
Because of their success in ticking off advancements, completing conservation and service projects, and adding a new scout to their ranks, Troop 100 G considered their first camping trip post quarantine worth every minute.
Through the evolution of the COVID response and the changes in quarantine, Troop 100 G was able to stay on top of it all and make the most of the situation they found themselves in.
They never gave up on Scouting and continue to have meetings every Monday.
On September 19th, Troop 100 G was able to finally start back camping like normal–or at least as normal as could be expected while still following social distancing guidelines.
While options are limited for camping at the moment, our Scout group overcame the setbacks the Coronavirus has caused and decided to tough it out at Camp Horne, which is the base camp for most activities in the Black Warrior Council.
Joined by a new Scout who had just received her Arrow of Light, Troop 100 G wanted to focus a lot of the activities they’d be doing around rank advancement and really reinforcing those fundamental skills that all Scouts should possess, such as first aid and fire building.
To cap off a quite peaceful trip, two of the older scouts completed an essential environmental conservation project at Camp Horne to prevent erosion and pollution, and the Troop came together towards the end to clear a trail that had become overgrown during the quarantine.
They made progress in several areas this weekend which is a testament to their resilience in these trying times.
All in all, in the words from the Patrol Leader Isabel, “It was a very normal camping trip, and it was nice to get back into the swing of things.”
Service to our community of Northport, AL, is one of our top priorities as a troop. This month alone saw our boy and girl troops serving the community at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, the Northport Police Department Fall Festival, and collecting canned goods for St. Mark’s Food Pantry (Scouting for Food.) That’s more than 60 hours of time given to our friends and neighbors!
Community service projects reminds us to keep our promise to cheerfully help others, to be friendly, and to “do a good turn daily.”
As we gear up for the holidays, we like to go Scouting for Food to help replenish the food pantry at St. Mark United Methodist Church. On Monday night, the boy troop put out 153 grocery bags on various streets in Northwood Lake. Saturday morning, the girl troop met to gather the bags of donated food. We collected 137 items. I think that giant can of pork-n-beans counts as 4.