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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

‘Accident’ Saves Scout Plaque from Church Fire

By James Lomuscio

Call it providence, happenstance or just plain luck, the “most prized possession” of Westport Boy Scouts Troop 36—a 60-year-old plaque listing all the troop’s Eagle Scouts—escaped the ravages of the fire that swept through Saugatuck Congregational Church Nov. 20.

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Troop 36 Scoutmaster Jack Berry poses with some of his Scouts at Thursday’s Thanksgiving Feast at Christ & Holy Trinity Church where they helped out. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com

“Our most prized possession by accident wasn’t there,” said Jack Berry, Troop 36 scoutmaster since 1984. “It’s an Eagle Scout plaque that has the names of 113 Eagle Scouts going back 60 years.

“And it’s all because I made an error when I put the last couple of names and dates on it, and I sent it back to the trophy shop where it was being corrected,” he added. “I was supposed to pick it up two weeks ago, but I just didn’t get there.”

Berry was not too confident, however, about the condition of other items in the troop’s storage room under the front steps of the church’s sanctuary. He said he expects to get a damage assessment today from a salvage company hired by the church.

Troop 36 has been using the Saugatuck Congregational since 1948 for meetings in the back room, Hoskins Hall, and for storage in the front basement room it shares with the Y’s Men..

Having toured the storage area with Betsy Gillespie, a church trustee in charge of the property, Berry called the smoke and water damage extensive. He expects ruined items to include a scout merit badge library with more than 200 books, 20 tents, outdoor dining tarps, 100 tee-shirts for summer camp, flags, paper goods and merit badges.

“They’re telling me metal things can be salvaged,” said Berry. “But the smoke and water damage in there is significant. It’s an acrid smoke, and you can’t ionize the smoke out.

“And our four flags look like they’ve been in a war zone,” he added.

Berry said while replacement costs are not yet known, 17 of the tents today retail for about $399 each, and the other three, $500 each.

Still, he remains happy that the plaque had been out of harm’s way.

“That particular item out of everything we own is the most important and the most irreplaceable of everything,” he said.

Berry said he was also pleased with the quick way others in town responded when they had learned Troop 36 was without a home.

“I have had several offers to house our troop, the first from St. Luke’s, but we couldn’t get it for Monday night when we hold our meetings,” he said. “Then, Temple Israel offered us a tremendous room, and this will be our second night there.

“That fire happened on a Sunday night, and we had a home on Monday night,” he added. “That’s how fast people responded to us.”

He noted that the scouts also responded by donating the $500 they had raised for the troop via popcorn sales to the church.

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Posted 11/29/11 at 05:30 AM  Permalink



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