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After 90 years, Boy Scout troop relocates over decision on gays


Published:   |   Updated: December 13, 2013 at 06:32 AM

TAMPA — After 90 years, Boy Scouts Troop 4 is leaving its home at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church.

The South Tampa troop will gather one last time at the “Scout Hut” on the church grounds Saturday, when members, leaders and alumni of the decades-old group will officially decommission their old meeting spot. They will return Sunday to start emptying the little cinder block building of benches, photos and other memorabilia the troop has collected over the years.

The move comes a few weeks ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline Troop 4 was given when Holy Trinity asked the group to relocate because of a change in a Boy Scouts national policy that lifted the organization’s ban on openly gay members.

“I think it was disappointing,” said Greta Brooks, committee chairperson for the cub scout pack. “But it’s better for us to go somewhere where people are accepting of what we’re doing.”

The group, which has more than 100 members between the Boy Scouts troop and the younger Cub Scouts pack, will make its new home at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church on San Jose Street.

“They have just welcomed us with open arms and been so generous,” Brooks said about the troop’s new sponsor.

Over the next few days, the members have to clear the Scout Hut, which the troop built in the 1960s, of all the maps, snakeskins, cattle skulls and awards that adorn the walls of the building. They’ll take all of those things with them to the new church, which has offered them storage space, Brooks said.

“It’s just loaded with pictures from trips and banners and everything they’ve done over the years,” Brooks said. “It’s truly the ultimate boy’s dream.”

The plan, troop leaders say, is to raise $100,000 to build a new hut at the new church using paneling from the old building. They created a website, Friendsof4.com, to collect donations.

“I’m extremely disappointed that we’re losing the hut, but I’m grateful that Palma Ceia Presbyterian has offered us a new home,” said Lee Bentley, the troop’s committee chair.

Troop 4 is not the only group forced to relocate after the Boy Scouts organization announced the policy change in May. Other troops across the country announced they also would have to move.

After members of Troop 4 were informed in August by Holy Trinity that they would have to leave, the Tampa community responded, said Chris Givens, an assistant Cub Scout pack master and a member of the troop’s relocation committee. He said the committee heard from so many different groups willing to sponsor Troop 4 that it had to whittle the choices down to a list of eight potential locations before making a decision.

“It was a tough choice because there were so many great options for us,” Givens said.

In the end, Palma Ceia Presbyterian seemed like a good fit.

“We’re excited about the new beginning,” Givens said.

His son, who is in the second-grade cub scout pack, was too young to talk about the specifics of the why Troop 4 had to move, but some parents, like Brooks, explained the reason.

Her sons, ages 9 and 11, were old enough to know the truth, Brooks said. And the Boy Scouts is all about teaching young men to be individual thinkers and moral leaders, she said. Her sons aren’t happy about the move, but they understand why they the troop has to leave.

“I think it’s a great civics lesson,” Brooks said.

Her son Garrett, 9, said the move will be a good thing for the troop because the scouts will have more space at their new location. Spencer, 11, agreed with him.

“I am disappointed that they have interpreted God’s scriptures that way,” he said about Holy Trinity’s decision to stop sponsoring the troop. “But I think going to Palma Ceia Presbyterian will be very nice.”

Ebehrman@Tampatrib.com

(813)259-7691

Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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