Scouting for Food serves community for 30 years
For 30 consecutive years, area scouts have been serving the needs of the Eureka Springs community with the annual Scouting for Food event.
Scoutmaster Bruce Bieschke and troop committee leader Carole Bieschke said the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, their families and leaders of Eureka Springs spend roughly 500 hours each year on the food drive.
Carole said they start getting the fliers together a few meetings before the event. After rolling the bags with fliers and a rubber band around them, she said they sack them up in sacks of 50 each so the kids can manage them more easily. The scouts place the sacks on area residents’ doorknobs the first weekend, she said, and return the following weekend to collect the sacks of food, which are donated to Flint Street Fellowship.
“We divvy up the routes depending on how many people come to do it,” Carole said. “We have tried to learn through our past mistakes that it’s important that the person who puts the bags out is the one who picks them up. Otherwise, they miss a lot of bags if someone else picks up the route.”
She said other organizations, such as the Girl Scouts and the Eureka Springs and Holiday Island Rotary Clubs, will often help with the food drive, either by picking up a route or working at the food bank that day.
Bruce said he cannot believe the event has been going on for 30 years.
“It started up as a national thing, and they suggest that you get with your community,” he said, “and start a food drive. This was 30 years ago before there was a Flint Street Fellowship. There was this loose alliance of churches that thought it would be a good idea to have a food bank.”
Bruce continued, “So we kind of got together with them, and with the manpower of the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts we got it up and running.”
The food drive grew over the years, he said, to cover more of the surrounding area.
“It’s not just Eureka Springs. We cover the entire area,” Bruce said. “We cover Holiday Island and out at Beaver Lake, and sometimes we’re able to cover Beaver Town and Hill Speak. It depends on how many volunteers we get.”
“We do as much as we can,” Carole said, “but we don’t always have that many Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The Girl Scouts participated this year, but they haven’t the last couple years because their numbers are low.”
Over the years, Bruce said the scouts have found that November is the perfect time to do a food drive in the Eureka Springs area because that is when the need is at its highest.
“We have found that every area is different,” he said. “Eureka Springs is a tourist-oriented town, so at the end of the season that’s when the jobs disappear and people are off work. Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas is staring them in the face. That’s when the greatest need is.”
Carole said it has gotten to the point where Flint Street Fellowship often depends on the donations from Scouting for Food.
“They plan on us coming and doing the food drive,” she said. “We’ve gone into the food bank on the food drive day, and the shelves are pretty slim except for what they get from government commodity stuff. By the end, we’ve filled up the shelves.”
“Otherwise there’s not enough food,” Bruce said, “so it’s kind of a responsibility.”
Fortunately, he said, area churches and local residents have seen the need for the food bank, so more donations are made throughout the year than when the food drive first started.
“This year they ran out of places to put food,” Carole said, “which was really heartwarming.”
Pat Kasner, executive director of Flint Street Fellowship, said the donations from Scouting for Food are incredible.
“It comes at the perfect time of year when we get all the foods people want to make Thanksgiving dinner at home with,” she said, “and a variety of everything else. It helps a lot through the winter because this is when we get more people coming into the food bank, and they really need the help over the holidays and into the winter.”
The scouts said Scouting for Food is great not only because it serves the community but also because it’s a fun activity for them to undertake as a troop.
Rowan Scheunemann said this is his first year with the scouts.
“It’s been pretty fun,” he said. “I was in Eureka, and there are so many hills. I went up one that was steep the entire way.”
Tyler Walker said he has been a Boy Scout for the past five years.
“I like helping people with the food drive,” he said.
“It feels good to do something good,” Scheunemann said.
“It’s pretty fun, too,” Walker said. “It’s quite the workout. It’s fun passing the bags out with everyone.”
Kasner said the food pantry was started by a local Bible study group and was officially incorporated in 1991.
“They were praying about what they could do for the community,” she said, “and a food pantry is what they came up with that the community needed. It was very much true.”
Kasner said she has been amazed by the dedication of Bruce and his scouts.
“I’ve known he’s done it for many years, but I was shocked at how many years,” she said. “He does it every year with the same amount of energy and the same desire to get as much food as he can. He’s very dedicated to being a scoutmaster and takes good care of the boys and does good things with them.”
Kasner continued, “Bruce doesn’t get nearly the accolades that I believe he deserves. He’s been so good with this food drive and works very, very hard. I’m going to be sad the day he retires.”
Bruce and Carole said community service like Scouting for Food is part of being a scout.
“Part of scouting is to make good citizens,” Carole said. “That’s one of our goals is to build character and make them responsible citizens. If they’ve learned to do things like food drives to support the community, then as adults they’re going to continue volunteering and doing things that are beneficial to their communities.”
Bruce said one of the lessons they teach their scouts is that the world does not revolve around them.
“You wonder ‘Where do our community leaders come from?’ ” he said. “They aren’t just planted, watered and grown. They have to be guided somehow. I like to think that we’re doing a little bit of that. There are different programs in the Boy Scouts that are all about community service.”
He said he and Carole never expected Scouting for Food to continue for 30 years, but they also never expected to still be leading Boy Scout Troop 67 for this long. Usually, Bruce said, adults volunteer with the scouts when their kids are members and leave when their kids finish the program.
“Our kids were spread out,” Carole said. “Our oldest is now 40, and our youngest is 30. They’re in scouting for 10 years, so that was 20 years.”
She continued, “When our youngest got out of scouting, we had made so many friends, and the activities are the things we like to do, like hiking, canoeing, kayaking and rock climbing. We didn’t want to get old and dry up and wither and blow away.”
“I’m proudly the oldest registered climbing instructor,” Bruce said, laughing. “My Boy Scout troop has had the continuity of her and me for over 30 years. That helps a lot.”