FREMONT—Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5 and 6, St. Ann’s Boy Scout Troop 339 packed a tractor-trailer full of newspapers to be recycled for the last time in the downtown church parking lot.
“There aren’t enough papers,” Scout leader Denny Setzler said of why scouts won’t be recycling papers anymore.
“Otherwise we would go strong,” he said. “We could see it coming.”
Not only are newspapers dwindling in number, with many readers switching to digital subscriptions, but more and more news companies are printing fewer issues per week and others have just closed in recent years.
“The size of the newspapers and the thickness of the papers make a big difference,” Setzler said.
Scouts and their followers put away newspapers for an entire year in preparation for the November paper drive.
“We could see that this will not be enough to continue,” added the scout leader.
In 43 years, Troop 339 Scouts have recycled 8.1 million pounds of paper
Setzler said his Boy Scout troop asked him to start the paper collection project 43 years ago. Over those many years, Scouts have recycled approximately 8.1 million pounds of paper. In November 1979, when the Scout members suggested having a paper drive, there were many paper drives in the community and many newspapers available to make it a successful fundraiser. Setzler also noted that at the time, people were just beginning to learn the value of recycling to conserve natural resources.
On Saturday, the troop, which has 22 members, received help from former scouts and parents to fill the semi-trailer parked behind the church.
Joe Rich, 21, who was an Eagle Scout with Troop 339, came to help. “I heard they needed help, so I came.”
The former scout said through his club that he was able to take a special reconnaissance trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch High Adventure in New Mexico.
Setzler said the thousands of dollars raised through the paper recycling project have helped the club make trips like Philmont affordable for troupe members over the four decades.
A current Eagle Scout who was also working on Saturday, Matthew Higgins, 17, said he always joked that he was never happy doing paper readers.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” he said of the final race on Saturday.
“The paper drive encapsulates what our troop means to the community,” Higgins said.
Setzler said when paper drives started for the troupe, they spread them out over four months a year, year after year. He noted that cars were being turned away from the St. Ann’s parking lot on Baker Street at the corner of Rawson Avenue.
He said his scouts had learned the effort of loading 50,000 pounds of paper at a time into a tractor-trailer. One year, there was a mix-up and the tractor-trailer never failed to show up at the drive-thru, yet everyone showed up with their bags of papers. Scouts had to pile all the papers against the outside wall of the parish garage and cover them with plastic sheeting on a windy, cold day. The troop returned later one weeknight to load the tractor-trailer when it finally arrived.
The scout leader said paper drives in Fremont have taken place in all weathers and scouts have proven themselves – from working in a hot box trailer stacking newspaper to enduring freezing weather.
“On February 6, 2010 there was a Level 3 snow emergency. Some of the Scout Leaders and older Scouts shoveled Baker Street by hand so the cars could take a narrow path to the semi once the snow emergency fell to level 2,” Setzler recalled.
St. Ann’s Pathfinders have also collected newspapers in the past as a community service when the price of recycled newsprint crashed and newspapers were virtually worthless. When the city of Fremont started curbside recycling in the late 1980s, as was the trend, the value of recycled newsprint hit an all-time low, the scout leader said.
“Scouts collected nearly 58,000 pounds of paper during their May 4-5, 1991 paper drive, knowing they would not receive a single penny for the newspapers,” Setzler added. The troupe counted on the fact that the value of the newsprint would eventually rise again and they did.
“This has allowed the troop to continue to subsidize its camping programs, including High Adventures trips to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico’s Sangre De Cristo Mountains, and wilderness canoe trips in bordering waters. between northern Minnesota and Canada. He also provided money for all Scout advancement awards, troop gear, and special events,” according to the Scout Leader.
Paper collection funds have also helped Food For The Poor
Setzler said that in 2004, the troupe began sharing funds raised through paper drives with Food For The Poor Inc. – a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of the poor in Latin American countries. The troupe has continued this gift ever since.
Over the past decade, the OSS Solid Waste District has launched its recycling program, and it has provided another opportunity for people to recycle their newspapers. Although this affected the Scout’s paper collection, the troop later added its own recycling container for newspapers and magazines in Ballville Township. It was more work for the scouts, but it helped the troop achieve their driving goals.
Setzler said the newspaper recycling project started 43 years ago because St. Ann’s troupe needed tents and kids suggested collecting paper as a viable fundraiser.
In subsequent years and more recent years, the project has raised an average of $5,000 to $6,000 for the troupe. After the last paper drive, Troop 339 will need to find a new fundraiser to continue its High Adventure sponsorships, cover many member expenses and continue donating to Food For The Poor, Setzler said.
“The benefit of collecting paper, you could do it year after year,” he said, adding that the troupe is open to ideas for new fundraising.