On Saturday, Boy Scouts will be dropping off plastic grocery bags at residences across the Tri-Cities to kick off the annual Scouting for Food program to benefit local emergency food pantries.
Folks are asked to fill those bags with canned goods and nonperishable food items, and the Scouts will return the following Saturday and pick them up.
However, neither Church Hill nor Mount Carmel currently has a Boy Scout troop. Surgoinsville’s Troop 84 plans to cover Church Hill, but Mount Carmel was going to be left out this year.
That is until former Mount Carmel troop leader Sue Jarrett and one of her top alumni, Eagle Scout turned Volunteer teacher Zachary Campbell, decided to team up to fill the void.
Campbell, a 2012 graduate of Volunteer, now teaches math at his alma mater and serves as assistant basketball coach.
He recruited members of the basketball team, as well as cheerleaders and some members of the soccer team, to fill in for the Scouts.
“I was part of the Boy Scouts growing up and actually earned my Eagle Scout, and as a basketball coach I’m always looking for a way to get my boys involved in the community,” Campbell told the Times-News Monday. “Last year we fed the homeless in Kingsport. This year we’re looking to do that again. We did some shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Drop — whatever way we can get some volunteer hours.
“We’re going to meet up Saturday in Mount Carmel in a central location, and we’ve devised up routes. We’re going to send cars out with a group of teenagers — parents driving — and place the bags out at each residence this coming Saturday. The following Saturday, Nov. 18, we’ll be coming through picking those bags up.”
All food collected in Mount Carmel, Church Hill and Surgoinsville and their surrounding neighborhoods will go directly to the Of One Accord ministry’s food pantry in Church Hill.
Of One Accord officials told the Times-News last week that because of the recent hurricanes, a lot of emergency food has been diverted to Florida and Texas.
The food at the ministry’s three pantries in Church Hill, Rogersville and Sneedville is going out faster than it’s coming in.
The ministry relies on the annual Scouting for Food drive to get though the holidays and winter months, when the demand for emergency food is greatest.
Jarrett, who was a longtime Scout leader, said her troop collected several thousand pounds of food in Mount Carmel every year until the program was disbanded.
“Mount Carmel has been very generous in years past,” Jarrett said. “It was really heartbreaking when our Boy Scout troop disbanded, but I’m really proud of (Campbell) for stepping up and paying it forward.”
Campbell said he hasn’t set a goal for the Mount Carmel food drive, but the plan is to fill every bag his team distributes, collect as much food as possible, weigh it and then try to top that amount in each subsequent year.
He estimates that about 30 basketball players, 18 cheerleaders and a handful of soccer players will be participating.