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The Troops Go Scouting Up Food for Needy

Times Staff Writer

Boy Scouts in Irvine marveled Saturday at the canned hams, soups, puddings and cake mixes they had just collected from residents to feed the county’s needy during the holidays.

“Hey, anchovies! Has anybody else seen any anchovies yet?” one scout asked as he sorted through tuna, chili, and macaroni and cheese.

“No, but there have been a lot of sardines,” said Linda Rusmisel, Boy Scouts program director for the Newport Beach, Irvine and Costa Mesa area.

Boy Scouts of America officials said Orange County residents were being extremely generous Saturday. At least half a million cans of food were collected in the food drive, part of a nationwide Boy Scouts project to feed the poor.

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About 20,000 Cub and Boy Scouts went door to door, returning to the neighborhoods where last Saturday they had left nearly 500,000 plastic bags for residents to fill with non-perishable items.

35 Collection Points

The Scouts took the food to 35 stations throughout the county, where Explorer and Sea Scouts transferred it to boxes and hoisted them onto National Guard trucks. The goods were then driven to the county Food Distribution Center in Orange.

Scouts finished collecting about 3 p.m., but boxes were still being dropped off at the distribution center Saturday evening.

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“From what we heard on the ham radio, most stations were running out of boxes,” Rusmisel said. “I think it’s been more successful than anyone expected.”

Although many items still had not been counted, officials estimated that 430,000 items had been collected, Orange County spokesman Devon Dougherty said.

“There are 430,000 cans. That’s half a million pounds, and growing,” he said.

Lt. John Kohus of the Army National Guard, who manned the Food Distribution Center on Saturday evening, said: “They’ve got lots of food out there, much more than we anticipated. They expected one can from each family or so. Instead, people were filling the boxes.

“In fact, we’re still counting it all. It’s probably going to be an all-nighter.”

The Scouts’ goal was 500,000 cans of food. “We’ll be close to that projection,” Dougherty said.

Workers at the Food Distribution Center will sort through the goods to make sure they are safe to eat. The food will then be packaged and distributed to 218 social and church groups in the county.

“I see many of my favorite dishes out there,” Kohus said. “There are a lot of gourmet foods. . . . They go down the whole supermarket chain--I’ve seen vanilla pudding cups, cake mixes, all that good stuff.”

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Individual troops and districts have undertaken food drives in the past, but this is the first time the Boy Scouts of America have taken on a nationwide project to help the needy, Dougherty said.

A similar food drive was held in St. Louis last year, where Boy Scouts collected more than 1 million cans--enough food to help the needy in that area for 6 months, Dougherty said.

“We hope to collect 100 million cans nationally,” he said. The Scouts won’t know until Monday, he said, how much actually was collected nationwide.


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