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Taylorsville Journal

Resourceful Boy Scouts, their leaders gather for merit badge training and fun in midst of coronavirus

Sep 29, 2020 02:12PM ● By Carl Fauver

Boy Scouts from Taylorsville, Kearns and Magna earned more than 100 merit badges. (Susan Yadeskie)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Our now half-year-plus coronavirus pandemic has ground activity at the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center (1488 West 4800 South) to a virtual standstill. The historic Jones Dairy home that normally hosts community tours 10 hours each week has been reduced to just two hours (Saturdays 2 to 4 p.m.). 

But the site was brought back to life for four days this summer, as Boy Scouts and their leaders from Taylorsville, Kearns and Magna made the best of the COVID-19 situation.

“We had 33 Scouts earn about 120 merit badges during the week, so it was a big success,” said Troop 117 Scoutmaster Steve Plothow. “The Scouts did not camp overnight. Instead they showed up each morning, in masks. We made it work.”

Taylorsville Boy Scout Troop 117 is one of the oldest troops in Utah, though it recently underwent a number and sponsorship change, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chose to discontinue sponsoring the BSA. Plothow has been scoutmaster, through the sponsorship transition, since 2012.

All three of the troops that participated in the heritage museum camp are now sponsored by the Unified Fire Authority’s Firefighter Union.

“Each morning all of the Scouts were temperature-checked and asked a series of questions to determine whether they had been exposed to the virus,” Plothow said. “We had two boys sustain heatstroke during the week, because they were not drinking enough liquids. But we did not have any COVID cases. We were very careful because we knew if we came up with even one positive case, we would have to end the camp and quarantine everyone.” 

The Scouts earned a dozen different merit badges during the four-day camp, including Archery, Communication, Emergency Preparedness, Engineering, Family Life, Geocaching, Personal Fitness, Photography, Programming, Radio, Weather and Wood Carving.

“This was the first time we ever hosted an event like this, and I think it went very well,” said Taylorsville Historic Preservation Committee Chairwoman Susan Yadeskie. “The boys performed service projects for the museum and seemed to have a great time.”

Troop 117 has a long-standing relationship with the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Museum. It was holding its regular troop meetings in the dairy store just west of the historic home until the virus put an end to that. Paying “rent” for the meeting space involved completing service projects.

“During the four-day camp, we restored an antique horse-drawn plow and also made some repairs and sanded the picket fence around the old school house,” Plothow said. “And one day we filled nearly an entire dumpster with garbage from around the site. The boys understood this was another important reason for us to be there.”

A couple of other highlights during the camp included a visit from Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson. The Scouts also performed a ceremony to retire a United States flag that had become tattered flying over Calvin Smith Elementary School.

“The boys were excited the mayor took time to visit and she sat with a bunch of them during lunch, asking them about Scouting,” Plothow said. “As for the flag retiring ceremony, that is a somber event where we explain the meaning of the flag. Then four Scouts carry the flag to a fire pit. The boys hold their scout salute until the flag is completely burned.”

The camp ended with a special court of honor where merit badges were bestowed and rank advancements recognized.

“The camp was a great success because the boys had fun and enjoyed each other, which was my goal,” Plothow said. “They all made some new friends, because different troops were involved. I was excited how it came together.”

Up next for the troops this month is a planned encampment at the Utah Fire Museum in Tooele County, where the Scouts will wash fire trucks and perform a number of other service projects, to express appreciation to the firefighters’ union that sponsors them.

As for the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Museum, Yadeskie says they still hope to host the annual “Saturday with Santa Claus” event on Dec. 5.

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