By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Sleepy-eyed, a little chilly but nonetheless ready for duty, members of Westport’s Boy Scout Troop 39 went out and about early Saturday morning to conduct their second annual Christmas tree pick-up. Besides teaching team cooperation, the effort raised funds for troop activities while providing a source of mulch for the town.
Coordinated by Eric Montgomery, the group, which included about 20 kids ages 11 to 17, Scout leaders and parents, gathered at 7 a.m. in the Imperial Avenue parking lot behind the Westport Woman’s Club. There, participants fueled up on bagels and coffee, donned reflective safety vests and received maps and tree pick-up addresses. Westporters had been instructed to leave their trees curbside and tape a suggested donation of $15 to their front doors for the service. Over 400 households had registered, twice the number as last year.
“In our first year, we did 200 tree pick-ups, netting about $2,500 after expenses,” said Montgomery, onsite with his son Luke. He said the idea was inspired by a friend, Mike Connolly of Troop 116 in Ridgefield, who has been running the program there for the past seven years.
As to how collected money is used, Montgomery said, “Funds go to camping gear – lanterns, tents, cooking equipment – and also high adventure trips, like scuba diving to the Florida Keys, which we did this past summer. It costs a lot to run the troop every year.”
Two large box trucks were provided by Scoutmaster Mark Wisniewski. Another large dump truck was provided by general contractor Tom Kowalsky, of Kowalsky Brothers, who also contributed his time for the day. Two additional pickups were borrowed from friends of the Troop.
“Nothing bad comes out of scouting,” said Kowalsky. “You’re teaching good skills and morals, and they have good fun.”
Assistant Scoutmaster Kathy Thopsey added that the fundraiser “teaches community service and how to get along with each other, especially at an early hour of the day after being up late playing video games.”
The Troop’s treasurer Robert Arvanitis offered, “The Scouts is about resilience, and events like this teach kids how to handle themselves.”
The group, assigned to the respective vehicles, divided up into teams, and began their curbside collections, returning trees to the Imperial Avenue Lot to be fed into a commercial chipper. Montgomery predicted there would be a 25-foot high pile of wood chips by day’s end, about 3:30 p.m.