Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from across the nation became an army Saturday, fanning out across neighborhoods near and far to help feed the hungry.
And Surry County was well represented in that effort.
Saturday marked the day scouts nationwide collected bags of food donated by residents as part of an annual food drive that takes place each February — Scouting for Food.
During the drive, participating scouts go door-to-door the first Saturday of the month to distribute plastic bags, then collect bags that residents have filled with nonperishable food items the following Saturday.
Scouts from across the district collect the food and distribute it among multiple food banks in the area, where it is given to needy families.
Saturday, scouts from about a dozen units could be seen throughout Surry County collecting food. Despite the economic downturn in recent years, the annual Scouting for Food program continues to grow in the area.
Phillip Hart, scoutmaster of Troop 538 at First Baptist Church in Mount Airy, said, “I think it’s been an increase, with the community wanting to help out their fellow man.”
In 2012, area scouts collected about 22,550 pounds of food during the campaign. Over the past couple of decades, the total is closer to 1 million pounds.
Last year, the total food collected surpassed last year’s amount, at around 23,572 pounds.
Hart said the campaign is a great way to teach scouts a valuable lesson.
“It’s just a way of giving back to our community,” he said as he sat in a room festooned with ribbons, awards and recognitions for the Troop. “Community service is part of what the Boy Scouts are about and I think this is just an extension of that.
“The scouts enjoy it because they know the need is out there and they love to give back to their neighbors,” he said. “It’s just a rewarding thing for them to experience.”
It was a sentiment one scout echoed.
“I’ve been participating in the food drive for three years and it’s getting better and better every year,” said Johnny Dollyhigh, 14. “I do it for my community because there are people out there who don’t have food and need our help.
“That’s what the scouts do, help the needy.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.