by Paul Rignell
Denny Chuba will celebrate 40 years of success this summer with his Elk River-based home improvement business. He has lived in the city 35 of those years.
As a former Boy Scout, having been active as a youth 55 years ago in Brooklyn Township (now Brooklyn Park), Chuba was a featured speaker April 26 at the annual Elk River Friends of Scouting Leadership Breakfast hosted by the Elk River American Legion.
His stories of less-than-optimal sleeping and eating conditions at Boy Scout camp would not make for a strong recruiting effort among grade-school boys, but Chuba told other adults at the breakfast that scouting strengthened his character.
Guests at the meal were encouraged to further support the Boy Scouts program for Elk River youth through financial contributions.
Chuba opened his talk with praise for Scouts who have continued with dedication through reaching the rank of Eagle. As an employer, he said he would be intrigued by any applicant who is an Eagle Scout. “It certainly is a good indication of what that person would be capable of doing,” he said.
He recalled scout camping nights in sleeping bags that smelled of “wet dog fur,” and the fussiest of eaters changed their ways not long into those trips. “I tell you, by the second day, if (your food) fell in the dirt, you scraped it off and ate it,” he said.
Scouts from Chuba’s generation raised funds for those trips, he said, through collecting used newspapers to claim recycling refunds, by hosting bean feeds (where baked beans were the entrée) and by standing as ushers at University of Minnesota football games. “Why you would have a 12-year-old usher, I don’t know. I think we were there mainly to clean up afterwards,” he said. “In the section I was in, people just ran over you and went to their seats. I was no help at all.”
Chuba said he loved to learn canoeing, though it took him some time to appreciate the activity. He told of a planned trip on the Rum River from Princeton to Cambridge, cities that are separated by only 17 miles border to border while the bending river covers closer to 30 miles, he said. A day and one night into their trip, the Scouts woke from their campsite to a light mist, which became a light rain and later a heavy rain by the time they were paddling. “I’ve hardly been more miserable in my life that I can recall,” Chuba said.
Another Scout broke down crying and demanded to go to shore. Once there, the emotional Scout exited his craft and disappeared into the trees. After an hour’s wait, Chuba and the other Scouts walked from shore for about an eighth of a mile to find a farmhouse, where inside they found their defector holding a cup of hot chocolate.
“It’s really good to get out into nature,” Chuba said. “I wish at times I had been a better Scout, but I still enjoy the outdoors today. I think scouting really teaches great things for young boys.”
Toward the end of his talk, he recited the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
Chuba concluded: “What more guidelines do you need for character building?”
‘It has defined who I am’
“It is something that sets people apart,” said Central Minnesota Council executive board member Joe Mayne, a past leader of Elk River area Troop 111, on the advantages of scouting. “It’s people of character, men of character that you’re going to look for to run (our) companies and our governments.”
Mayne had earned the Eagle rank with Troop 141 in North Branch. “It’s defined who I am,” he told the Star News after this week’s event. “I think it does for all boys in one way or another.” One of Mayne’s two sons, Connor, reached Eagle with Troop 111 in 2011.
“Scouting in Elk River continues to be very strong,” said Nate Peterfeso, a senior district executive with the Central Minnesota Council. It is his responsibility to track troop activities in Sherburne, Benton, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties out of the council’s 12-county area.
Peterfeso, an Eagle Scout from Troop 191 in Cottage Grove, noted there are more than 5,000 Scouts in different council programs, supported by more than 1,600 adult leaders. Approximately 4 percent of all Scouts will reach the rank of Eagle, at an average age just over 17 years, he said. He cited a Baylor University “Merits Beyond the Badge” study, from 2010, that found Eagle Scouts are 58 percent more likely than other adult men to take 30 minutes of daily exercise, 60 percent more likely to volunteer outside any employer programs, and 90 percent more likely to maintain CPR certifications. “I think that’s good to know. A Scout is prepared,” Peterfeso said.