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The City Journals

Taylorsville Boy Scout Troop 117 continues to thrive through challenging times

Apr 05, 2021 12:36PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville Boy Scout Troop 117 recently enjoyed one of its most successful food drives ever, at the 7000 South Redwood Road Smith’s Food and Drug. (Steve Plothow)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Utah members of the Boy Scouts of America are continuing to power through what is likely their most challenging year ever, thanks to their own determination and some resourceful leadership.

A mere 15 months ago, on Jan. 1, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially severed its affiliation with the BSA. Church troops included an estimated 400,000 boys, or roughly 18% of the entire organization. 

That announcement sent countless Utah Boy Scouts who wanted to continue with the organization, scrambling to find new troops. Some church troops secured new sponsorships, but most simply folded.

Then, just about the time Scouts got settled into their new troops—barely 10 weeks later, in mid-March a year ago—along came COVID-19. Camping trips were cancelled, Zoom gatherings replaced face-to-face troop meetings and more Utah Scouts fell by the wayside.

But in the midst of all the challenges, Taylorsville BSA Troop 117 continued marching forward. Previously, a church-sponsored BSA troop, the group had become one of a handful in the state now sponsored by the International Association of Firefighters union (Local 1696). Scoutmaster Steve Plothow led his Scouts through the transition.

“There were probably 30 to 40 Boy Scout troops in Taylorsville before the church stopped sponsoring them; now there are two,” Plothow said. “I have 41 registered scouts in my troop, and about 25 have been actively attending our Zoom meetings. I have boys from West Valley City, Taylorsville and West Jordan. The boys who remain in Scouting now want to be here. I have more quality boys who want to develop and (Boy Scout rank) advance.”

Last summer, members of Troop 117 participated in a four-day “camp” at the historic Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center (1488 West 4800 South). The Scouts didn’t sleep in tents overnight but instead showed up each morning, had their temperatures checked, filled out a coronavirus symptoms questionnaire, wore masks and set about earning merit badges. 

“We had 33 Scouts earn about 120 merit badges during the week, so it was a big success,” Plothow said at the time. His troop’s resourcefulness in the face of adversity was already being demonstrated.

More recently, earlier this year, Troop 117 members gathered at the Smith’s Food and Drug store at 7000 South Redwood Road for their “2021 Scouting for Food” donation drive.

“My Scouts were at the store from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., handing fliers (explaining the types of food the pantry needed most) to shoppers as they went in and then accepting the donated food as shoppers left,” Plothow said. “One man came out with two full shopping carts—one to take home and one for us. We ended up with about 1,800 pounds of canned food, 700 pounds of dry goods like pasta and cereal and $110 in cash donations.”

In the early afternoon, members of the Utah National Guard arrived at the store to pick up the donations to take to the Utah Food Bank. Undoubtedly some of that food made it back to the Taylorsville Food Pantry, although none of it was specifically earmarked for a particular pantry.

Then, in early March, members of Troop 117 made their way up to the BSA’s Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon for a Klondike Derby, featuring a variety of snow activities.

Next up—as, hopefully, coronavirus complications continue to recede—the troop will visit the Little Sahara Sand Dunes west of Nephi, later this month. That will be followed by a high adventure camp near Moab in June and another camp outside Ashton, Idaho, in August. 

In other words, it’s full speed ahead for a Taylorsville troop that’s had more than its share of challenges.

“I haven’t really had any Scouts quit because of COVID, but some have slowed down their participation until things get better,” Plothow said. “I have 12 Scouts now working toward their Eagle.”

Two recent additions to Plothow’s Troop 117 are brothers Helaman and Gideon Warnock. Until The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints withdrew its sponsorship, the Taylorsville brothers were members of a church-sponsored troop, where their father, Phyl Warnock, was Scoutmaster.

“I completed all of the work for my Eagle under my dad in Troop 191,” Helaman said. “But I hadn’t been a Life Scout long enough when our troop was disbanded. So, we moved to Troop 117 so I could complete my time and so Gideon could finish earning his Eagle.”

Two older brothers, Joshua and Matthias, also earned Eagle rank advancements. Gideon has one more merit badge to finish up before joining his brothers.

“I think [Plothow] does a very, very good job teaching the boys core lessons they need from Scouting,” Gideon said. “The transition was a bit weird when we moved from our other troop. But the new troop has done a great job keeping active despite COVID. We’re still having regular meetings. I like it.”

Gideon is actually taking several years longer to finish up his Eagle than his brother. Gideon will graduate high school this spring, while Helaman is in eighth grade. The youngest Warnock brother is also a big fan of his new Scoutmaster.

“[Plothow] is a really good Scoutmaster, and I plan to remain active in the troop even after earning my Eagle,” Helaman said. “I want to earn more merit badges and earn Eagle Palms.”

Eagle Scouts can earn bronze, gold and silver palms my earning an additional five, 10 or 15 merit badges beyond the 21 required to become an Eagle Scout.

“Now that COVID numbers are going down, we are just trying to get the boys rejuvenated and back into Scouting,” Plothow said. “Our troop members are well behaved and work hard. Like everyone else, they are tired of the pandemic. We’ve not had a regular, indoor face-to-face troop meeting in more than a year. But they’ve stuck with it.”