A dictionary tells us that ‘community’ is “a group of people who live in the same area.” But most of us know that a community is much more than ‘location, location, location.’ In an era saturated with wireless frequencies, the shared interests of a community appears to have traded location for the buttons of a handheld device but Olive Boy Scout Master Joesph Delessio’s Troop 163 has taken a step toward revitalizing the human ingredients of the local community.
Around 50 assorted Olive community members gathered at the Olive Free Library at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 25 for the first scout-served soup dinner to chat and enjoy each other’s company. It’s an occasion the troop plans to repeat every last Thursday evening of the month.
“We had quite a variety of people from around town,” Delessio noted afterward. “One of our former Eagle Scouts showed up with his mom to be served by our current scouts. That was a nice turnaround to see. We had some older folks who frequent the Town Board meetings. I went to a meeting with my son Henry and talked it up. We advertised it on Facebook and (Olive Town Supervisor) Sylvia (Rozzelle) sent out an email about it. A friend I work with, Nick, was there with his kids, who were, I think First Grade and Kindergarten or even younger. Even one of (Olive’s three newly appointed) Police Commissioners came. It was a good mix.”
A wide selection of ages and types of residents was an ideal Delessio was hoping for. The troop currently meets at the Olive First Aid Station, which doesn’t allow for much interaction with the public for his scouts, and one of the goals of the get-togethers is expanding the social horizons of the boys.
“Our meetings are usually Thursday nights and all of the boys need to meet the ‘community service’ requirements of scouting, so why not combine the two?” Delessio
asked. “Let them be seen in their community, giving back to it? They’re getting their community service out in the open, not hidden away, and everyone’s benefiting. Anybody can ladle soup. Anybody can make the soup. But we really need you guys out there just talking to people, mingling with the community, I told them. You might just sit and talk with someone and it could be the best thing to happen to them that day.”
Delessio said it was gratifying to see his 16 or 17 year-old scouts interacting with a married couple in their 70s or 80s that they wouldn’t commonly speak with otherwise. They all seemed to be having a really good time, he added.
“It teaches the boys to be comfortable with that. One of the things I think all kids need to develop is the ability to talk to people face-to-face and interact across generations. They’re all great on their device’ and texting back and forth with their own peer group but in life, you have to learn to talk to different people and how to present yourself.”
A longtime Olivebridge resident with his wife, AnnMarie, two daughters and a son, Delessio credited his wife with planting the seeds which grew into this idea. In the course of getting Henry involved with the Cub Scouts, “one thing led to another” and she ended up as Committee Chair for Cub Scouts and Joe became Cub Master.
The turnout on a wet, rainy night was encouraging for a first meeting and there was enough free soup for all made by scout families. The troop thanks Library Director Katie Scott Childress for her support and Bread Alone of Boiceville for donating the fresh bread.
“Our fear was that it was going to be either no one showed up or too many people came,” Delessio smiled. “We almost ran out of soup but it turned out just the right amount. I told the boys we want to start a legacy that, hopefully, the scouts will be doing when you’re 30 or 40. We’re not going to ask for money but, like any nonprofit, we’re always fundraising.”
Donations gratefully accepted at https://www.gofundme.com/troop163.