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St. Helena’s Boy Scout Troop One is quietly working a minor miracle at Scout Hall: Turning boys into responsible men without help from digital devices.

Troop One teaches boys character, citizenship, and personal and mental fitness. They learn about ethics, sportsmanship, outdoor survival, mentoring younger Scouts, and how to step forward when everyone else is blending in with the crowd. If these are the attributes you hope your son develops, get him into Troop One.

Scoutmaster Jon Dodge and Committee Chairman Stu Smith say Troop One has a reputation for independence within the Boy Scout community. They’ve never gotten entangled in the social controversies that have plagued the national organization, and all boys are welcome regardless of religion or sexual orientation.

But that maverick spirit is tempered by the bedrock Boy Scout values of teamwork, courage, sharing, kindness and especially character.

Membership is down from a high of 40 Scouts to about 20, seven of them joining within the last month or so. It’s been declining for the same reasons that service clubs and other community-oriented groups are struggling: a growing number of second homes with absentee residents, an aging population, a shortage of young and energetic adult volunteers, and the steady hollowing out of our community that we’ve pointed out before.

Troop One also has been affected by the loss of St. Helena’s Cub Scout troop, the rise of competitive, highly regimented youth sports, and especially the lure of technology and social media. Dodge said that when today’s Scouts gather around the campfire, he notices that they often lack the language skills that came naturally to past generations of kids. Some of today’s kids spend so little time outside that they don’t even know where the city’s parks are, he said.

That’s why Scouting is so important. Do we want a citizenry whose values, thoughts and morality are shaped by the corporations that entertain and distract them, or by the altruism and face-to-face interaction that have traditionally built character and produced good citizens?

Those seven new members are headed down the latter course, and we’re sure they’ll have a blast. The troop meets every Wednesday at Scout Hall, a storied structure that narrowly avoided being condemned in the ‘80s thanks to a renovation led by Eagle Scout and then-City Councilmember Gregory Hunter.

They’ll go on outdoor excursions about once a month, learn First Aid and survival skills, and do all kinds of fun stuff they’d never get away with at school, like building fires and safely using knives, guns, hatchets and bows and arrows.

They’ll also collect food for the food pantry, pick up discarded Christmas trees, clean up Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, and contribute to Eagle Scout projects in which an experienced Scout organizes and manages other Scouts in order to achieve a goal that benefits the whole community.

Scouts also get a chance to just goof around and be kids. Dodge said it’s always refreshing to see Scouts play together, without the pressure and self-consciousness that’s so typical of modern adolescence.

Troop One has a long tradition of producing an extraordinary number of Eagle Scouts, far higher than the national average of 4 percent. That’s a fairly select group and is always an important qualification noted on the resumes of Scouts who apply to colleges.

The troop’s annual fee is only $78, and scholarships are available for any Scout who needs help. Dodge and Smith would love to get more Scouts signed up. It’s also very important that dads and moms get involved with the troop for the sake of their sons. Scouts can join as soon as they’re out of fifth grade and stay right up until they turn 18.

In a broader culture that celebrates being a passive spectator, here’s to Troop One for teaching kids to lead, help others, have fun, and simply participate in the heady thrill of being alive.

To learn more visit or call Scoutmaster Dodge at 889-1826.

Note: Editorial board member Norma Ferriz is the Leader Support Manager for St. Helena’s Girl Scout Service Unit, which is not affiliated with Troop One. To find out more about Girl Scouts contact Ferriz, 294-8128 or