Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 26, 1999

Local scout leaders receive highest national volunteer award

By Andrea Vargo

The sparkle in her eyes belies Sharon Fertig's statement that being a volunteer for the boys is the main reason for being a scout leader.

Fertig of Waverly and Lonna Rahn of Dassel both received the highest volunteer award bestowed by the National Council, Boy Scouts of America, the Silver Beaver award, Tuesday, at the Viking Council banquet.

The look that is exchanged between Fertig and Rahn tells the tale.

They are having way too much fun, and finally admit they are doing some of the volunteering for themselves. It makes them feel good.

Rahn had a son in scouting for awhile, but even though he lost interest, she was hooked on the experience.

Fertig has two boys in scouting, and that is the main reason she started volunteering.

When her oldest son, Sheldon, joined nine years ago as a Tiger, she felt an obligation to help out.

Sheldon was a quiet boy and would have never stayed without someone he knew around, Fertig felt.

The next year, another son, Shane, became a Tiger, Sheldon advanced to Wolf, and Fertig became a den leader.

"I had no idea what it meant to be a den leader," she said.

"They give you a lot of books and ideas, but until you go to training classes, you really have no idea," Fertig explained.

During her first eight-hour training class, she got information on how to run a den meeting, craft and discipline ideas, field trip ideas, and more information on how to do paperwork than she really wanted.

Policy and procedure were explained.

This preliminary training takes place at the beginning of October. At the end of October every year is a pow-wow. This is advanced training. Why is it called pow-wow? Fertig says she doesn't have a clue.

As a volunteer with a lot of boys, there is no end of adventure.

"No matter how many times you tell the kids what to bring camping, they never have it all," stated Fertig.

Rahn said she has had her share of unusual experiences.

"One boy had no socks. He couldn't go into the woods with all the poison ivy without socks.

"So I wrapped his ankles in toilet paper to protect them. Sure it looked a little strange, but it worked," she said.

Wet weather is the worst, Fertig said. The leaders outfit a lot of kids in garbage bags, because the boys forgot their rain gear.

One weekend at Stearns Scout Camp in Annandale, the camp was hit by a very bad storm, explained Fertig.

It was night, and the boys were in make-shift tents in the woods. They were working on wilderness survival badges.

The wind was so strong, it lifted some of the tents off the ground. One tent in the campground rolled down a hill with the boys inside it.

Some boys had their tents so tight they didn't even get wet. Others lost their shelters, were soaking wet, and had to be tracked down in the dark and brought back to camp.

Fertig's son, Sheldon, slept through the whole thing.

There have been other minor problems, such as a day hike with no can opener to open the soup.

Sometimes it will rain for a whole week and nothing will dry. Always expect the unexpected, said Fertig. No matter how well you plan, something is going to go wrong.

"I've learned that it is okay for adults to have fun. In fact, the more fun we have, the more fun the kids seem to have," Fertig said.

"I've learned to read people.

"Watching the boys mature and change is great," she said.

It makes her feel good when the boys come up to her and talk to her, when they see her anywhere.

Fertig explained, "I've changed and grown. Now I can get up and talk in front of a group of people.

Being chair of a committee forced her to speak in front of crowds.

The two volunteers have gone through continuous training. Fertig has been through Wolf, Bear, and Webelos with her sons.

She has been a committee chair, trained others to be leaders, and constantly improvs her skills as a leader.

Fertig belongs to Troop 682 in Buffalo and helps with 27 boys.

How much time does she devote to her troop? Well, last week she put in 54 hours, plus.

A weekend at the Stearns Scout Camp accounted for 48 hours, but a two-hour meeting, a four-hour banquet, and several hours of preparation to do some training for other leaders added to that total.

"It was an easy week," she said.

All Feratig's hard work has paid off. Her two sons will be the first in their troop to attain the rank of Eagle. That honor will be conferred at a special banquet this summer.

In addition, four more boys are almost ready for their Eagle Scout ranking.

One final thought about being a scout leader and volunteer. When it comes time for campfire songs, "You don't have to sing good, but you have to sing loud," said Fertig.

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