ELLSWORTH, Maine – Boy and girl scouts swear an oath to help people at all times, and to teens Robert and Madeline Springer, that means those who have lost jobs or effectively been rendered housebound by coronavirus restrictions.
The members of Ellsworth’s Boy Scouts of America Troops 86 and 86G – as in girls – are among a flock of volunteers that includes Hancock County sheriff deputies and Friends in Action volunteer group members who are delivering food and medical supplies to county residents in need.
Since last week, the pandemic has increased the client list at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, one of the volunteer groups’ food suppliers, by 30 percent. The number of families handled per week has climbed from 60 to 90, said Andy Matthews, president of the pantry’s board of directors.
“In other terms, on a typical Wednesday, we’re open for five hours in the morning and 2 ½ hours in the evening. We are now staying open for 10 hours,” Matthews said Friday.
But due to the virus, people are stepping up like never before to help their neighbors, said Jo Cooper, executive director of Friends in Action, a nonprofit charity group in Ellsworth that serves the county. About 30 new people have volunteered to help, she said.
“It is really uplifting,” Cooper said.
This week, the six scouts participating in the deliveries have made five deliveries, while FIA, which has about 150 members, has made 25 deliveries.
The volunteers wear masks and rubber gloves or frequently wash their hands when handling foodstuffs. When they deliver food to clients or accept donations, the volunteers avoid all personal contact with outsiders. Deliveries are left on porches at client homes or in carts at the pantry that volunteers clean as often as possible.
Robert Springer, who is 15, and Madeline, a 13-year-old, handle the deliveries with a mix of trepidation and pride. They know the deliveries increase their risk of catching COVID-19, but enjoy helping others and contributing to their community. They said the work helps them cope with the anxiety the pandemic creates.
“It is scary, kind of nerve-wracking, because you can’t go to school to talk to the people you normally talk to. I sometimes worry about our grandparents or the grandparents of friends of mine. If they catch the coronavirus, they risk losing those people. It is hard to think of losing my friends,” Robert Springer said.
The clients “were very appreciative. They more or less were just happy to know that they didn’t have to expose themselves to anything and were still able to get a good supply of food,” Madeline Springer said.
Michael Springer, father of the Springer siblings and a scouting volunteer, said that so long as they keep taking precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the volunteers should not fall prey to COVID-19.
He said he loves seeing scouts live up to their oath.
“Instead of just simply going to a meeting and reciting the words, they actually get to put those words in action,” Michael Springer said. “And according to the CDC, the teenagers have the best percentage of fighting this pandemic off. They have the best immune system going. So they are young adults and are in the perfect demographic to go out and provide this service to the people who shouldn’t go out.”
The scout troops, which serve Ellsworth, Surry, Hancock, Lamoine and Trenton, will deliver to those areas, plus consider making deliveries to Mount Desert Island, Michael Springer said. The Friends group, which is working with the sheriffs, will deliver county-wide, Cooper said.
Anyone who seeks deliveries can seek the groups on Facebook or the Internet or call Cooper at 207-266-6434 or Michael Springer at 207-479-7948.