EAST GREENWICH — The Rev. Elmer West, along with seven men, put together a new Boy Scout troop that would meet at his congregation, First Baptist Church, in the hopes that the young boys would become leaders within their community back in 1922.
Little did Rev. West realize how much his troop would thrive in the following decades and better communities not only within East Greenwich, but around the world.
On Sunday, within the walls inside Fireman’s Hall and the smell of clam cakes and chowder swirling around inside, Boy Scout Troop 2 celebrated 90 years of service and adventure, learning the various ways of helping others in need and improving their own lives through traditional values.
“To be in such a historical troop, we have a lot of values of scouting that the modern troops may not necessarily have,” said Matt Santos, the senior patrol leader of Troop 2. “It’s a great thing to learn a lot of new things.”
“It is pretty amazing,” added Troop 2 scoutmaster Jim Essex. “We are going strong.”
Through the early years, along with doing the traditional hiking and camping expeditions, Troop 2 focused primarily on serving the community, whether it’s distributing clothing, creating food baskets or repairing toys to donate to the needy children during the holidays.
When the Great Hurricane of 1938 hit, Troop 2 was at the forefront in assisting the Red Cross and during World War II, the troop served its country not on the battlefield, but by collecting aluminum cans, newspapers and magazines for the war effort.
In 1956, Troop 2 made its first trip to Camp Yawgoog in Exeter and it’s a tradition that continues today.
Over the years, Troop 2 became heavily involved with the scout exchange program, joining up with other scouts from around the world and understanding the different cultures they’re a part of. Back in 1971, Troop 2 exchanged with some scouts from Toronto and made another visit to Canada a decade later, exchanging with a troop from Thornhill, Ontario.
In 1999, Essex took 18 scouts and eight adults for a two-week exchange trip to Leicestershire, England to understand how scouting is in Europe. Then in 2000, that same troop from Leicestershire visited the Ocean State, spending a week at Camp Yawgoog learning the ways of scouting within the United States.
Recently, Santos was part of an exchange program that went to the Dominican Republic through the Narragansett Council and learned how scouting is different in that country, things such as that there are no separate scouting organizations for both boys and girls like how they are in the United States.
“It was a great experience,” Santos said. “I stayed with families all around the Dominican Republic and interacted with all of the different scouts. That showed what scouting can do.”
“They do things quite differently than what we do,” added Essex. “They have girls in their units, which is what we don’t have. Most countries now have girls within the Boy Scout program. They just call it ‘scouting.’”
Essex, who has been the scoutmaster for Troop 2 since 1965 – more than half of Troop 2’s existence – said that the biggest reason the troop is still going strong is because of the heavy involvement the parents of the scouts have in their activities, creating new ideas to make the troop more attractive to join year after year.
“If you don’t have the program and something that appeals to the kids, the kids aren’t going to come,” Essex said. “That’s also critical of the program. We’ve done some pretty exciting things over the years. When I started in 1965, there wasn’t anywhere near the competition that there is today, not just with scouting but much more broadly. There was Little League, but it wasn’t as big as it is now. There are soccer programs and all other programs that have kids interested.”
One of the biggest elements that Troop 2 takes great pride in is the exceptionally high number of scouts that rose to the rank of Eagle. Earlier this year, Ben Capuano became the 184th scout from Troop 2 to earn the most coveted honor in all of the Boy Scouts, an impressive mark considering that East Greenwich is one of the smaller communities in the state, geographic-wise.
“It’s become part of our culture within the troop to have boys get that desire to be Eagle Scout,” Essex said. “I’d like to think that part of it has to do with our attempt to showcase our Eagle Scouts in a nice Court of Honor ceremony when they earn it. We feel very fortunate that there’s interest on the part of a decent amount of boys.”