FLEMING ISLAND – What began as an idea to recognize 10 Clay County teens who reached Scouting’s highest honor during the prior year recently honored its 1,000th Eagle Scout.
The 37th Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner held by the Black Creek District at Sacred Heart Catholic Church thanked 47 young men Saturday night who completed projects and other milestones to become an Eagle Scout in 2018. Last year’s Eagle Scout projects involved more than 7,800 hours of volunteer service and had a monetary value of $46,607 spread among the 47 Eagle Scouts.
Keynote speaker Bruce Butler Jr. of Green Cove Springs said, like salt, Eagle Scouts are sprinkled throughout our culture. As a Clay County teen, Butler was honored in 1999 for having earned the Eagle Scout rank in 1998.
“You can find Eagle Scouts being carpenters, truck drivers, mechanics, police officers, firefighters, small business owners and holding elected officers and even serving in the armed forces, just to name a few,” he said. “Being an Eagle Scout can open doors for you, but it’s the application of those values the Scouting program has taught you is what will keep you there and allow you to excel in whatever field you are in.”
An officer with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Butler kept the almost 260 attendees entertained with a humorous story in which he was assisting a team of other federal officers along the U.S.-Mexico border recently. He said was traveling alone in an area that was so remote, he had no two-way radio or cell phone service, but there were strategically-placed emergency beacons along the way that he refused to stop and engage.
He used that story to encourage the teens to go out from the Feb. 2 dinner and become beacons of light to others.
“You might think that your beacon of light might not be much, but it’s a part of something greater,” Butler said. The Boy Scouts of America, your parents, community organizations, are all those beacons of light that help you to lay a solid foundation to stand on so that you can go out in our society and launch your light.”
Orange Park dentist Jerry Linder, who made Eagle Scout in 1954, helped organize the first Black Creek District Eagle Scout Dinner in February 1983. He said he is grateful to see the dinner thrive and grow over the years.
“We thought it would go for five years and then we said for 10 and here we are,” Linder said smiling.
Fellow Eagle Scout Andy Sullivan of Middleburg assisted Linder early on in making the dinner a success. He is also grateful to reach the 1,000 Eagle Scout milestone, but said Linder was instrumental in making the dinner a success.
“It means that many of the youth of Clay County have learned skills that they will take with them in their life out into the world, which will give our communities great leadership,” Sullivan said. “The very first year, I think, we were just trying to have a dinner, but the dinner has grown more and more each year.”
Black Creek Scouts presented long-time Eagle Scout Dinner Chef Al Roby with a Coup Feather, which is a symbol from Native American culture that also represents many of the character traits taught in Scouting, including trust, strength and honor. In 2018, dinner organizers awarded Linder with the inaugural Coup Feather for his leadership in establishing the dinner.