As 2017 started to come to a close, the country was rocked by several devastating natural disasters. These disasters affected millions. There were many who faced the devastating wildfires in Northern California that destroyed over 10,000 structures and caused more than an estimated $13 billion dollars in damage. There were others who were hit by Hurricane Harvey in Texas which left 336,000 people without electricity and tens of thousands requiring rescue. More than 48,000 homes were destroyed, and many others had lost everything with the flooding that resulted. Another hurricane, Hurricane Irma, devastated Florida Sea Base so a group of Arrowmen went to help with the recovery of the base through the SeaBreak program. And then there was Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico which destroyed its power grid, leaving the island without any power. Additionally, there was the mass destruction of the island’s agriculture along with the mass flooding that was as high as waste deep in some areas. In these troubling times, Arrowmen stepped up to provide help to those who needed it. Here are just a few of those stories:

California: When the fire first started in California, it was quite shocking according to Section W-3N Chief Andrew Zucker. Very soon after the fire spread, one of Section W-3N’s lodges, Orca Lodge in Redwood Empire Council, was badly damaged. As soon as the section leadership heard of this, they knew that they needed to help. With local community support already helping clean up what remained after the fires, the section leadership decided that the best course of action was to start a GoFundMe page on behalf of Orca Lodge. They ran the GoFundMe page for a total of three months and the outcome of this resulted in over $2,000 being raised along with other donations collected at the Western Region Gathering of Officers. According to Zucker, the funds are in the process of being transferred to the Redwood Empire Council so that they can use the money as they see best. At the end of the day, looking back on what has been accomplished, he “was glad that [the] section was able to come together in a time of need to be able to provide support to [their] brothers.”

Texas: Once Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Section SR-3 was right in the hurricane’s path. Once the hurricane passed through, they realized that some of the most impacted regions were right within their section and they immediately began to think about how they could help. AJ Valverde, the Section SR-3 secretary, said that “a lot of the lodges within our section really wanted to help out and support each other in any way possible.” After some debate, they came up with the idea of doing fundraiser patches to provide support. The three who spearheaded this project were AJ Valverde, the section secretary, Nik Newman, the associate section adviser, and Grant Phifer. They came out with two different patches to help in their cause – a silver border one for $10 and a gold border one for $100. They ran these patch sales from September 20th until early January and they were able to raise more than $1200 that they were able to distribute equally amongst the four heavily impacted lodges. The four lodges (Colonneh Lodge, Hasinai Lodge, Karankawa Lodge and Wihinipa Hinsa Lodge) each received more than $300 each. These funds went to the restoration of the camps that were damaged within each of the lodges. Wewanoma Lodge was able to gather together a contingent of 80 Scouts, which was comprised of 59 Arrowmen, to send down and provide relief in an area known as Aransas Pass. This area was one of the most devastated areas according to Wewanoma Lodge Chief Ricky Zamora. Zamora said that they “went down there not really knowing what to expect” but knew “they had to help.” They went down for two weekends and provided relief by serving warm meals and giving out emergency supplies to help those who had nothing left. He said “they were so happy to see the Order of the Arrow there with a hot meal as many had been living off of cold meals for days. The entire experience was quite humbling.”

Florida: In September 2018, Hurricane Irma struck much of the state of Florida, and took a heavy toll on the Florida Keys. Florida Sea Base, one of the four national high adventure bases, was hit hard on both campuses. Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, approached the leadership of the Order of the Arrow and the Southern Region of the BSA to create a relief effort.  SeaBreak, as it was branded, was a service opportunity available to youth and adult Arrowmen from across the nation, and over 40 Arrowmen attended the event March 4-10, 2018 to provide recovery assistance to the Brinton Environmental Center and Big Munson Island at Sea Base. SeaBreak adviser Devang Desai and youth co-leads Harrison Fry and Kyle Kipple worked closely with Sea Base leadership and BSA professional Rob Hoffman to organize the event to ensure valuable service could be provided to the high adventure base. Throughout the early part of the week, Arrowmen performed repairs and renovations at the Brinton Environmental Center before camping out on Big Munson to clear storm damage and rebuild campsites for the latter portion of the event.  All in all, 1200 service hours were provided by four different work groups. One Arrowman who attended said of the event, “I was just glad to come down and give a little back to Sea Base after all it has done for Scouting. I can’t wait to come back with OA High Adventure this summer and experience the benefit of all of this.”

Puerto Rico: As Hurricane Maria passed and Section NE-5 realized the total extent of the destruction that occurred in Puerto Rico, they looked back to past events like these to see what they had done previously to provide help to the affected areas. They saw they previously had a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser patch that did extremely well and benefited the areas hit greatly. They ran with this idea again coming up with a Hurricane Maria fundraiser patch. They immediately put it up for sale and news of it spread like crazy. They were able to raise over $60,000 in relief funding for their camp that was destroyed. After these sales, they then organized an event called Arrowcorps Puerto Rico. This was a week-long event that started on March 11th where any Scouts from around the nation could come and help rebuild Camp Guajataka, the council camp in Puerto Rico. This was a major success where 100 Scouts from across the nation, some even as far away as Alaska, came to help and the results could not have been more amazing. They were able to repair more than 20 buildings that were around the camp and removed all of the debris that was scattered across the property. Area Director Jim Hans said that “not only had [they] accomplished more than [they] had set out to do, but [they] could tell [their] fellow Scouts from Puerto Rico that their beloved Camp Guajataka was now open for business. The scars of Hurricane Maria had been removed by Arrowcorps.”

Each one of these acts are astounding as they were able to provide aid to the areas that were heavily affected this past year. In the end, these are just a few of the countless acts that Arrowmen have done that truly exemplify what the Order of the Arrow and Scouting as a whole is all about.