Suffolk Boy Scouts, feeling pinch of shutdown, to receive six-figure grant

Boy Scouts are prepared. It’s in their motto. But not even the most well-prepared Scout could have had the vision to foresee 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a bite out of Scouting programs and fundraising efforts over the past four months. With spring camping lost to the shutdown, the sting has been felt.

“For the longest time, no meetings could happen,” said Mark Businski, vice president membership for Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts of America. “No camp could happen. No activities could happen. So, many units have tried to make headway virtually, but it’s not the same. The nail in the coffin was when it was announced in the entire state that there would be no overnight camping.”

The Suffolk County Council is getting a shot in the arm, though. The council announced July 17 that it’s the recipient of a National Coin Grant from the Boy Scouts of America National Foundation. The grant will match every dollar donated up to $125,000.

“It’s huge for us right now because it’s been a very, extremely rough year,” said Donna Lillie, the council’s vice president communications. She called the council’s financial situation “precarious.”

Council president Dave Colford said the timing of the grant was “perfect” in light of the postponement or cancellation of fundraisers. An annual golf outing was rescheduled for Sept. 21 at Nissequogue Golf Club and the Andrew McMorris Memorial Walkathon and 5K has been moved to Thanksgiving. The walkathon/5K is to raise the funds to finish a lodge being built in honor of Andrew McMorris, a young Scout who was killed by a drunk driver while hiking with his troop in Manorville in the fall of 2018.

As of Monday, the council had received $32,578 in donations, said Ms. Lillie, who figures Suffolk Scouting has lost close to $1 million in revenue that could have went toward its $2.3 million annual budget.

“That helps us tremendously,” she said of the grant. “It’s encouraging and we’re excited about it … We need the funds sooner than later.”

The non-profit council serves over 11,000 Scouts with the aid of 14 employees and over 3,500 volunteers.

How to donate:

As with pretty much everything else, life has been different for Scouting since the coronavirus crisis struck. For the first time since March 15, Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River was permitted day campers on June 26, said Scouting officials.

Camp director Jim Grimaldi said he has had about 140 campers from first-graders through high-school age on the Baiting Hollow property, which has been serving Scouting since 1926. Under pre-pandemic circumstances, he said, the camp would have about 100 more campers with people living on the property for all but four hours a week.

The Scouts have been participating in typical activities such as swimming, boating and archery. For safety reasons, though, groups have been limited to 15 Scouts, and that has caused logistical challenges for what has become a Monday-to-Friday day camp.

“It’s a scheduling nightmare in the sense that every group wants to get everything but because of group sizes of 15 or less, it’s a challenge for us to get everybody every place every day,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “The groups can’t mix and mingle.”

Ms. Lillie noted that last year marked the council’s 100th anniversary. “And then in 2020 we’re facing one of the largest challenges we’ve had,” she said. “It’s hard to believe, right? We’ve gone through world wars. We’ve gone through depressions, recessions and to have a virus … it sounds so commonplace. It’s a virus … It just kind of takes the wind out of your sails. It’s kind of mind-boggling.”

The pandemic’s affect has gone beyond financial, Mr. Businski said. “Most important is the negative affect it has had on our Scouts themselves,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing because we want to get more scouts exposed to our program. Because we just know that when more young adults are involved in our program, it just leads to better citizenship, patriotism, moral character, love for outdoors and love for the country. And Scouts are doing the right thing. They’re the role model of what we want all young adults to do.”