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For Boy Scouts, a door closes, another opens

When the Boy Scouts of America made a controversial decision this year to admit openly gay members, let's just say fallout was not unexpected.

This was a monumental move when it comes to progress versus tradition, a clear message that in an organization about building character in boys, inclusion matters, too.

Sure, some hoped the decision would go further and allow openly gay Scout leaders, as well. Still, this summer's change was a big step.

One that echoed with the sound of certain wallets snapping shut in disapproval.

As the Times' Waveney Ann Moore recently reported, the Scouts' Gulf Ridge Council — covering eight counties, including Hillsborough, east Pasco and Polk — reported that contributions to the Friends of Scouting Campaign were down 15 percent, or about $150,000. The West Central Florida Council serving Pinellas and west Pasco took a hit too, needing about $75,000 to balance this year's budget.

You could call it the pain of progress.

In Tampa came a loss both historic and personal. A beautiful red brick church that has been home to Boy Scout Troop 4 for 90 years, a place where boys grew up and then watched their sons and grandsons similarly become Scouts, gave the troop the boot.

The old First Christian Church at the edge of downtown changed hands to become Holy Trinity Presbyterian, a congregation that could not abide the Scouts' recent decision.

After nearly a century of tradition at the church by the water, the Scouts were out.

So, what's that saying about a door closing — literally, in this case — and another opening?

Since then, no fewer than nine venues, mostly other churches, have offered to continue the legacy.

"They weren't just reaching out to Troop 4," says Scout leader and Scout dad Sam Corson, once a member of the troop himself. "They were reaching out to Scouting."

So it's official: Troop 4's new home is Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church. Pastor John DeBevoise told me he's proud of a community that stepped up to offer all those places.

"Fifty years from now," says Brian FitzGerald, former scoutmaster, "we'll talk about how long we've been at Palma Ceia Presbyterian."

And a postscript on those closed wallets: Just after the financial woes made news, Gulf Ridge got two checks, one for $500, one for $200. Doors close, doors open, even small ones.

Still, there is a sadness to leaving the old church in Hyde Park where the boys of Troop 4 first met in the church attic.

They built their own Scout Hut on the property in 1963, and for decades that's where they held their meetings and made their plans and stored their canoes for their next adventure.

At a ceremony starting at 3 p.m. today at 350 S Hyde Park Ave., Troop 4, leaders, parents and friends will officially decommission the Scout Hut and say goodbye. They will fold their tents, so to speak, one last time. At sunset, they will play taps, forlorn-sounding military music that begins, "Day is done." That seems right. A day is passing.

So maybe there should be a merit badge you could earn for progress, one with lessons about how moving forward is not always painless.

But you'd also learn about how progress can have a way of revealing something remarkable about who is in the world around you.

For Boy Scouts, a door closes, another opens 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 8:12pm]
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