By Amy Wenk
Boy Scout Troop 370 has thrived for more than 50 years at St. James United Methodist Church on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.
Each Wednesday night in north Buckhead, a stone’s throw from both Sandy Springs and Brookhaven, is a chaotic scene of green neckerchiefs, khaki shirts and merit badges. The activities building at the church buzzes with boys ages 12 to 18 and the many parents who volunteer to help.
With about 125 registered Scouts and 68 adult leaders, the troop is the largest in the North Atlanta District, which serves some 13 troops between downtown Atlanta and the northern city limits. Troop 370 is known for its high achievers, community commitment and adventuresome opportunities.
“We are in a good area for families, and therefore we have a bunch of good boys,” said Ed Hackney, a former Boy Scout who joined the troop 19 years ago when his son, John, was 11. At the time, the troop had 20 to 30 Scouts.
Hackney now serves as Life to Eagle director, inspiring and assisting boys to strive for the ultimate rank, Eagle Scout.
While nationally only about 3 percent of Scouts earn that honor, Troop 370 has produced 105 Eagles since its formation.
“Each boy has a different reason for going at it,” said Harry Evans, the troop’s Scout master the past 10 years. “I think if you put on a great program and really have the kid involved in what we do, the Eagle is not a byproduct. It is something that is going to happen.”
Four new Eagle Scouts were honored at an April 19 ceremony, and the troop expects to award four or five more in the next month.
“It was a big achievement for me,” said one recipient, Harrison Laird, 18, a senior at St. Pius X Catholic High School. “I just loved doing it and wanted to see the experience through.”
He credits the adult leaders of Troop 370, including Evans and his father and seven-year troop leader, Chris Laird, for his achieving the rank.
“We have a very good support group,” Harrison said. “I don’t think I could have done it the same way and as easily as I did in another troop because we just have a wonderful group of guys over there.”
To merit the Eagle rank, a boy must earn 21 merit badges and complete a community service project before his 18th birthday.
“To make the center outside as beautiful as it is inside,” Harrison refurbished outdoor play equipment at the Elaine Clarke Center in Chamblee, which caters to children with developmental disabilities and their siblings.
“We have chosen to be a neighborhood-focused troop,” Evans said. Scouting is “a laboratory for them to learn leadership, and then we want them to go out into the community to their schools, their church, their sports team, and put that in action. We are training them and building them to go out” to places like Chastain Park and the Blue Heron Nature Preserve.
“We have got these relationships that we have built, so we have really woven ourselves into the fabric of the community,” Evans said.
Troop 370 is known for its many adventures.
“It’s a really great troop,” said Luke Proffitt, 14, a freshman at Riverwood International Charter School. “I think we have one of the best in the country. You get more opportunities here than any troop in the world.”
The boys camp out every month and recently returned from an event at Lake Allatoona, where “there are many great things to do,” said Tyler Ball, 12, a sixth-grader at Sutton Middle School.
He mentioned a visit with Steven “Snow Bear” Taylor of North Carolina, who has attended six to eight campouts. Adopted by Cherokees, Snow Bear lived in a teepee for three years and teaches children such nature skills as primitive cooking and fire by friction.
“I like it a lot. I’ve been on almost every campout,” said Tyler, who is in his second year with the troop but noted “this is just the beginning for me.” He wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was an Eagle Scout and member of the honor society Order of the Arrow.
Older Scouts in Troop 370 also have the opportunity to attend annual high adventures.
“These guys get to go to lots of different places,” Hackney said, including New Mexico, Canada and the Florida Keys.
The boys enjoy canoeing, backpacking, caving, visiting the beach, scuba diving, rappelling and archery.
“A lot of kids prefer to stay indoors,” said Luke, who will attend an eight-day sailing trip in the Keys this summer. “The point of camping is to expand your boundaries and try new things, to enjoy life, not technology.”
The boys are taught to respect the land during their extended adventures.
“You have to be a steward,” Hackney said. “Unless you are steward, the folks that come after you are not going to have anything. So your goal is to leave things better than you found them.”
All in all, Troop 370 is “a good place for a kid to learn how to live a successful life,” he said.