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1966 Philmont Crew (1)“I want to go back to Philmont!” Well, as anyone who has been there knows, of course I do. And this past summer, my wish came to pass. I first trekked the central country in 1966, then as an advisor in ’95, ’96 and ’01. Hmm, says I, how can I go back? Since I’m clergy, how about as a chaplain? And so I did this past summer, as well as ’04 and ’10. On each return trip, I am asked what things have changed since ’66, so here are three:

  • There were far less people – and staffed camps
  • Everyone cooked on wood fires – really – and rangers stashed Dutch ovens near first night camps, claiming they had packed them in (also: cobbler!)
  • Crew food was delivered to remote “bear boxes.” Made of logs too heavy for bears, the lid took two big guys to lift and one little guy to crawl inside for the food. Talk about a trust experience…

What remained the same? Daily bumps and bruises, occasional bruised egos, late trek blistered feet and trail devotions in God’s best cathedral. Spirits soared like a hawk on the wing wherever the four winds blew, just as they will always do.

As an Iowa native, I completed my early and Eagle Scouting in the Midwest. Prior to Philmont, I went to the 1964 Jamboree, Scouting’s flagship event, at Valley Forge, PA. I also attended a couple national Order of the Arrow gatherings, then returned to a Jamboree at the Summit in 2013.

Outside of Scouting, I served four United Methodist appointments in North Carolina spanning thirty-seven years, the last of which lasted twenty-two years. While at that church, I was approached by a brand new organization that had formed around the dream of ending hunger. They were looking for office space for their staff of three. The rest, as they say, is history. Our church building provided a home to Stop Hunger Now for over eleven years, during which time I served as board member for six and chair for three.

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency at work since 1998, coordinating the distribution of food and other life saving aid to children and families in countries all over the world. Beginning a meal packaging program in late 2005, over 150 million meals have been packaged solely by volunteers. The meals of rice, soy (protein), dehydrated vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and minerals (much like a standard trail meal) are distributed mainly to school feeding programs in developing countries. Meals in schools attract thousands of children to enroll in school, especially girls, giving them (and their communities) vastly improved opportunities for health, social and economic development.

It is my belief that the meal packaging program makes for a fine Eagle Scout project (click to view Oklahoma’s News 9 feature on now-Eagle Scout, Ray Martin’s Stop Hunger Now project). Since 2011, requirement number 5 has added an international option — which fits perfectly into Stop Hunger Now’s vision for a hunger-free world. There are abundant opportunities for learning leadership, planning, recruiting, funding, event management, learning about a major humanitarian issue and how to speak to and mobilize groups around it.

In July, I was privileged to present to Boy Scout staff and share images and impact stories from my trip last year to Uganda with Stop Hunger Now. A subsequent meeting with Mark Anderson, Philmont’s Director of Program, began the planning for a large scale meal packaging event during 2015 staff training. The plan was endorsed by the entire Philmont chaplaincy corps, which includes Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints chaplains.

Each year Philmont hires over 1,000 seasonal staff, most of whom are college students. So to me, the potential for Scouting, for Philmont, and for the college and university connections is very strong. As one the nation’s largest and most prominent youth development organizations, the Boy Scouts of America is in a powerful position to affect the global issues of our time. Together, the Scouting community can add momentum to the movement to end hunger.

Steve visits Stop Hunger Now partners in Uganda, 2013

To learn how your troop can make a hands-on impact on extreme poverty and hunger across the world, contact Steve at