Local Market attracts Scouts

October 12, 2011 at 5:58 am

Brad Moldofsky

Another guest post from my colleague, Mary Longe, co-conspirator at the Morton Grove Farmers’ Market. This is especially timely, given that the Girl Scouts now offer a badge for locavorism.

Managers on Scout Day at the Morton Grove Farmers Market

Managers on Scout Day at the Morton Grove Farmers Market

To attract first-time customers and highlight vendors, last spring the Morton Grove  Farmers’ Market committee dedicated nine events to different community interests; among them, Dairy Day, Senior Day, Scouting Day, Harvest/Pie Day Halloween Costume Contest Last Day. There is a rhythm to the festivals that follows the chronology of the seasons that the market spans.

Scouting day fell yesterday, I approached my volunteering like any other weekend, looking forward to the camaraderie in the Welcome Booth. It’s always good for a laugh and gossip about the town (useful for making me feel more in the know), seeing the newest harvests from the farmers (plums and mums). I checked in with Randy from Providence Farms, who usually tells a story about an animal, child or their farm, and always, the honey guy, John Bailey, whose bee keeping gives him a perspective on climate change, people, the food chain that provides contrast and perspective to my day-to-day keyboard and healthcare world.

In planning the event, I’m not sure whether the committee realized at the time that that weekend also commemorated 9/11, but the combination of Scouting and 9/11 was profound. I’m usually in the second shift of volunteers, which means the table and processes are set up, and we have a transition meeting, like nurses handing off patients, but ours usually takes forty seconds, if that. Yesterday, proved different. We had the usual drawing for a free bag of Market goodies and the hidden cow–a foot-high blow-up toy that is placed at a farm stand until a child finds it, returns it to the Welcome Booth for a prize, then re-hides it. This week, Bessie remained hidden from the last week, so yesterday we substituted a blow-up pig. We offer free use of the covered wagons to tote toddlers and we collect Food Pantry donations. We added a drawing for a commemorative 9/11 flag and offered doughnuts from Meiers Bakery and lemonade from Super Cup in exchange for Food Pantry donations. We also asked visitors to help create a banner recognizing Scouts, which will eventually be hung in the American Legion Hall. That’s where my attention focused. For me, it seemed a unique volunteer task, I didn’t realize it would be so poignant.

We asked everyone passing the Welcome Booth whether they were ever a Girl Scout, Boy Scout or Camp Fire Scout. If so, we encouraged them to add their hand print or outline their palm to a 4’ x 20’ plain white banner. Hand-size ink pads in blue and red, a selection of Sharpee pens in every color were available and an industrial-size bag of wipes stood at the ready. Directions included writing their name, troop number or place and the years when they were a Scout or leader. Word got out to the kids participating in the festivities and most stopped by the table to smear a hand over the ink pad, then blot it on the banner. Some wound up with so much ink they would be eligible to join the Blue Man Group. Outlining their hand in marker was a neater alternative and gave more variety to the artistry of the banner. In many cases, especially when two people were together, they combined the process and outlined the hand while pressing it down to create the print blot.

A dad, mom and thirteen-year-old daughter stopped their stroll through the Market to look at the banner. The dad said he had been a Scout, the mother didn’t commit and the daughter said she wasn’t. Though the dad hesitated, he eventually agreed to make a handprint, when he got his daughter to agree to help. The dad reached to the top of the banner with his left hand and his daughter traced around his fingers in Boy Scout blue. The dad reminisced about his days as a Scout, trying to remember the exact years, when the mom also engaged the daughter to outline her right hand next to the dad’s and added her years as a Scout. As the happy family left, they remarked that they would return to the Market.

A while later, three women approached and the leader and elder of the three said she’d not only been a Scout, but was the leader (and mother) to the other two. The three agreed to make prints and went whole hog. Each dipped their hands in the ink pads, and one of the others outlined the hand. The mother/leader on top, the daughters beneath. The discussion for me was like listening in at the dinner table when someone trips a memory. The girls (“in the grandmother faces”, as May Sarton said) got into bits on who was older and who got to do things that the other didn’t. The mom scolded in a joking/loving way that it must be part of their usual repartee. The three women were at the banner table for 20 minutes, entered a conversation with another seasoned leader for another 20 minutes, left, and returned to make sure that the years they wrote, (sometime in the 1960s) were accurate. They also said they’d be back to the Market.

One woman took me aside after she made her print and listed her leader years and her cookie years. In our conversation, she told me about the success she had when she was responsible for the cookies for two troops. “It was easy” she told me. And then proceeded to describe the entire book-keeping process she had created. It didn’t sound easy to me. It equaled the complex process the nurses use to track a patient’s progress and outcomes. I was impressed by her ability to handle the details, I was aware of the gift she gave the troops by enabling an important fund raising event. I was touched by how much this effort meant to her 20 years later.

My own mother was born in 1912 when the Girl Scouts were founded. She led our Girl Scout troop into getting their hospitality badges. We learned about what it takes to make someone feel welcome. My hospitality badge is the only thing I still have from those days.

And there it is–the Genesis of how I came to work the Welcome Booth–uncovered on Scouting day at the Morton Grove Farmers Market.