Wednesday, August 05, 2020

White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach (left) and Westchester Legislature Chairman Benjamin Boykin (right) greet newest Eagle Scouts, (l-r) O’Neill, Powers and Harper. (Credit: Marc J Berger)

Chairman Boykin presenting County Legislature Proclamations to Eagle Scouts. (Credit: Marc J Berger)

Eagle Scout Reuben O’Neill receiving his Eagle Scout Badge from his mother, as his father, Scoutmaster Robert O’Neill, looks on. (Credit: Marc J Berger)

On Sunday June 23, White Plains’ Orthodox Boy Scout Troop 613 held an Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony at the Hebrew Institute of White Plains. Three scouts, Reuben O’Neill, Joshua Harper and Asher Powers have earned this prestigious rank. Many scoutmasters, troop leaders, and current and former scouts joined Thomas Roach, Mayor of White Plains; Ken Jenkins, Westchester Deputy County Executive; and Benjamin Boykin, Chairman of Westchester County’s Board of Legislators in saluting these young men.

In introductory remarks, Brent Powers, Troop Advancement Chairman, explained that it is rare to award three Eagle Scouts at the same time. “The Eagle is quite a rare award,” explained Brent. “Since the first Eagle Scout was awarded in 1912, there have been between 100 and 110 million boys in the cub scouts. Only two percent have become Eagles. 21% of astronauts, 10-15% of Military Cadets, 12% of the US Senate but only 5% of the House of Representatives are Eagles.” After Eagle candidates earn 21 merit badges and serve 16 months in a leadership position of a troop, the scout has to plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to a religious institution, a school or another community organization.

The Eagle Scouts’ projects were quite varied. Reuben O’Neill’s project was removing an invasive species of reed from wetlands in Audobon Greenwich’s Fairfield Wildflower Garden. Joshua Harper’s project created a path for Germonds Park in Clarksville, NY to expand an area with several miles of walking trails in the forest. Harper’s team cleared leaves, fallen branches, rocks, small trees and shrubs, and then marked out the trail with large branches and logs. Asher Power’s project helped the New Rochelle Humane Society. When the Powers family adopted their cat (Scout) from the Humane Society, Powers thought that the rooms where families were introduced to their kittens were a little drab. To make the rooms nicer and brighter, his team of scouts built colorfully painted open-faced boxes to give the kittens a place to hide and play, and give clients a place to sit and relax.

White Plains Mayor Roach indicated, “All three of you chose very worthy projects that will benefit the community for years to come, and that is well appreciated. What I think is most impressive, at this time when kids have so many demands on them and they are getting ready for college, they have all these different things they need to do to stay focused on the Eagle process.” 

Representing County Executive George Latimer, Ken Jenkins acknowledged, “Troop 613 is developing an outstanding reputation in scouting here in the region by always bringing forth multiple Eagle Scout participants. The projects [that you did] are going to have an everlasting and long-term effect for the people here in Westchester County.”

Parents of the Eagle Scouts recounted their experiences watching their sons mature and develop by being involved with the scouts. Robin Powers, mother of Asher, revealed that in the seven years her son has been involved, this is only the third scouting event she has attended. Seven years ago, she wanted to attend the scouts’ kinnus family event. “We got to the camp site about two hours before Shabbos and I saw the decrepit cabins. I saw the latrine; I got back in the car. People say there were tears, so my chivalrous husband said that I promise that as soon as Shabbos is over I will take you home. So for 30 hours, I didn’t change my clothes, I never used the facilities, and as promised, as soon as Shabbos was over and the boys were settled, he took me home.” 

Robin continued, “Just because I haven’t participated in the activities, doesn’t mean that I am not truly aware of how Asher’s hard work and the people who have mentored him have taken him from a chubby 10 year old ‘WeBeLo’ to the 17 year old fit, mature kid that he is today.”

Each candidate spoke of his scouting experiences and thanked their mentors. “When someone asked me why scouting?” explained Asher, “One makes a list of what you would want a young man to be if you guide him and put in the effort, scouting can make him into that young man.”

By Judy Berger


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