Troop 146 was once one of six like it in the mile-square city, but today it is the only one left standing. Lenny Luizzi, who used to be the head of the library’s historical association and has served as the city’s historian, said that he started the troop because of political tension in the city.
“I wanted there to be a place where kids could go where they’d be judged equally on their own merits,” he said. “I didn’t think kids should pay for what their parents said.”
The troop was originally composed of mainly white kids from middle class families until Luizzi and his wife diversified it by recruiting new members in the city’s low-income housing projects. Now, it’s one of the most diverse troops in the county.
“Our last Eagle Scout was a Muslim, our troop leader is Jewish, we’re sponsored by the Catholic church and we hold our ceremonies in a hall owned by the Lutherans,” said Luizzi. “If that’s not bringing people together I don’t know what is.”
Norman Kasser, the troop’s Scoutmaster, said that diversity isn’t the only important lesson Boy Scouts learn as part of Troop 146. Each of the requirements listed in the scout’s oath – that a scout be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent – helps turn boys into men.
“When they’re kids, saying the words is just that, saying a bunch of words,” Kasser said. “But as they get bigger, around 12 or 13, you really start to see them understanding what each of the things means and incorporating them into their lives, and that’s a special thing to see.”