With silver paint smeared across his shirt and face, 7-year-old Caleb Mitchell made a serious observation.
“I think I need to wash my hands,” he said soberly, much to his father’s amusement.
The two were among more than 600 Boy Scout and Cub Scout volunteers from the Red-Tailed Hawk District who worked hard last Saturday morning to make Olathe a little more beautiful.
Dozens of Boy Scout troops cleaned up trash along trails and creeks in the city as part of the district’s annual Day of Service. The majority of the volunteers spent hours cleaning up Ensor Park and Museum.
Olathe acquired the century-old dairy farm at 18995 W. 183rd St. nearly a decade ago. The city hopes to raise enough donations to renovate the house and surrounding buildings one day. Until then, the city offered the Red-Tailed Hawk troops the opportunity to fix up the place as part of its community service day.
On the warm and sunny morning, some scouts picked up paint brushes and quickly got to work. They spent hours painting barns, cabins and a chicken coop. Others raked leaves and picked up trash.
Caleb and his fellow Cub Scouts from Pack 3434 painted 19th-century horse-drawn plows, planters and other antique farm equipment.
“It was fun helping everyone and getting messy,” the silver-smeared Briarwood second-grader said with a grin. “I’ve never seen old stuff like that before so it was pretty interesting.”
His dad, the pack’s Cub Master, was impressed by the scene.
“All of these kids are more interested in working hard than goofing around,” said Josh Mitchell. “Once you get boys focused and pointed in the right direction, they work with gusto. When that positive energy happens, it’s always fun.”
Saturday marked the district’s fifth annual community service day. It started back in 2010 as a celebration for the Boy Scouts’ centennial.
“The first Day of Service in 2010 was so successful and the response was so overwhelming, it just made sense to make it an annual event,” said Elisa Corry, district executive for the Red-Tailed Hawk district. “It’s great to see these boys so enthusiastic and making a big difference to the city of Olathe.”
In the past, the troops have mainly worked along trails and in parks. When given the opportunity to clean up a historical landmark, the district snatched it up.
“These kids are helping to preserve Olathe’s history, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Michael Samms, the Red-Tailed Hawk District activity chair. “Normally Scouts wouldn’t be allowed to wield paintbrushes anywhere near a historical site. But now, they can drive by here years later and tell people, ‘I painted that.’ ”
For the scouts, it was an opportunity not only to make an important difference, but also to learn useful skills such as painting and cleaning, which they will likely need in the future.
It was also a time to meet new friends.
“Today, the younger boys get to see the older boys in action, which is important,” said Kevin Coriden, Scout Master for Troop 315. “Seeing a 16-year-old work hard and teaching them the Boy Scout values means a lot more to these kids, rather than just hearing about it from an old man. The teenage boys are their role models.”
For Mitchell, it was a time to watch his son, Caleb and the other Cub Scouts blossom into a team.
Giving back to the community and learning from the experience is the essence of the organization, Mitchell said.
“It’s been really cool seeing so many troops work together to get this place cleaned up and ready for the public,” Mitchell said. “Scouting teaches families to be involved with each other and be connected, which is important considering how busy society is right now. It gives kids passion for outdoors and teaches them leadership skills you don’t learn in the classroom.”