Boy Scouts Were Unprepared for U.S. Shutdown : Food drive: A good deed is almost undone when National Guard trucks don’t come through, but chairman saves the day with last-minute effort worthy of a merit badge.


It was not what they wanted to hear--not with half a million pounds of food for the poor waiting on doorsteps throughout Orange County this morning for pickup by the Boy Scouts.

But on Thursday, the Food Distribution Center, which receives the annual haul from the Boy Scout drive, got the word: National Guard troops would not be trucking the food there this year because of federal furloughs.

The first thing that crossed food drive chairman Jeff Christensen’s mind when he learned about the National Guard’s pullout was “disaster.”

“There was a momentary panic,” said Christensen, division vice president for Denny’s Restaurants, the main corporate sponsor of the seventh annual “Scouting for Food” project. “Then it was, ‘All right, what are the options?’ ”


The Scouts had left bags ready to be filled with food on 660,000 doorknobs. Their goal was half a million pounds of peanut butter, pasta, canned goods and other non-perishables, enough for 1 million meals.

More than 6,000 Scouts would collect it today and bring it to 24 Churches of Latter-day Saints throughout Orange County. But how it was to get from there to the Food Distribution Center in Orange was suddenly a mystery.

It wasn’t that the whole National Guard had been furloughed, public affairs officer Col. Robert Logan said. But “the whole point of this [government shutdown] is that we are not to spend federal dollars.” The state’s 23,000 National Guard troops are available in the event of a major emergency, Logan said, “but I think it would be very difficult to consider [the Boy Scout food drive] as an essential task for the Guard, considering the furlough conditions we’re working under.”

So Ron Blake, director of the Food Distribution Center who was now short the 20 or so trucks the guard had been expected to send, hit the phones.

Blake said he called companies or organizations that, one, had helped the center before, and, two, had trucks. And they responded, with drivers, trucks and even food for everyone working on the collection today.

The Society of St. Vincent De Paul sent trucks, The Times Orange County sent trucks, and California Food Link, another food bank, sent trucks. And Blake rented a few.

By late Friday afternoon, Blake was able to announce, “We do have it covered. We just put our people to work and we got the help. The volunteer effort has been very satisfying.”

Scouts spokesman Devon Dougherty said it “looks like we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

The food collected today will go to the Salvation Army, soup kitchens, religious organizations and other groups that help the poor.

Anyone who did not receive a donation bag may bring canned goods directly to the Food Distribution Center at 426A W. Almond St. Donations also will be accepted at Denny’s restaurants in Orange County from Sunday through Nov. 26.

“In spite of the transportation problems, we hope everybody in Orange County will take part in the food drive,” Dougherty said. “We’re trying to reach 660,000 households, which is a monumental undertaking in and of itself.”

Dougherty added, however, that the Boy Scouts could have done without this particular challenge posed by the federal government.

“It was one surprise we did not need,” he said.