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Amherst Boy Scouts must leave longtime home  Troop has used church for generations

  • Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 closes their meeting Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 closes their meeting Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Members of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 must leave their longtime base at Zion Church's parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Members of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 must leave their longtime base at Zion Church's parish hall in North Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tim Kosuda speaks during a meeting of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 Monday at Zion Church's parish hall.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tim Kosuda speaks during a meeting of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 Monday at Zion Church's parish hall.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  •  Zachary Ellis receives merit badges from Scoutmaster Ned Young during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Zachary Ellis receives merit badges from Scoutmaster Ned Young during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Boy Scout Ryan Dwyer plays taps during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amherst Boy Scout Ryan Dwyer plays taps during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 closes their meeting Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Members of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 must leave their longtime base at Zion Church's parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tim Kosuda speaks during a meeting of Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 Monday at Zion Church's parish hall.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  •  Zachary Ellis receives merit badges from Scoutmaster Ned Young during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amherst Boy Scout Ryan Dwyer plays taps during a meeting of Troop 504 Monday at the Zion Church parish hall in North Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

The large second floor of the parish hall at Zion Korean Church in North Amherst is bedecked with Boy Scout paraphernalia.

A large curtain featuring Boy Scout Troop 504’s emblem covers the stage. Above that, ribbons noting the troop’s accomplishments are strung together. Photos depict the Scouts’ excursions to places like the Massawepie wilderness camp in the Adirondacks and a bicycle canalway trail in Albany, N.Y. Plaques list the names of boys who have achieved the highest rank, Eagle Scout.

For generations of Boy Scouts in Troop 504, this has been Troop Hall.

That’s about to end for the Scouts, who come from Amherst, Hadley, Pelham, Leverett and Montague.

Zion Korean Church, which bought the property from the North Congregational Church of Amherst this summer, wants to begin using the room later this year. That means that for the first time in more than 80 years Troop 504 must find both a new location and a new chartering entity.

Nancy Bandman-Boyle of Hadley, the troop’s committee chairwoman, said there is strong sentiment to stay in North Amherst.

Bandman-Boyle said the troop’s first choice would be to establish a relationship with another group similar to the ties it’s had with North Church. “It’s a nice thing we’ve had with them,” she said.

Long association

Troop 504 was chartered in 1917, just seven years after the Boy Scouts of America was founded. The troop has been based at the parish hall since 1929, and has used the second floor as its home since 1948. Only a brief disconnection from the church during World War II prevents the troop from having one of the oldest charters in the United States.

“We’ve felt we were very lucky to use this space,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Lyle Denit, who noted that other area troops have had to move around.

Bandman-Boyle said it was gracious of Zion Korean Church to allow the troop to stay through December.

She said it will be difficult to come up with a new space. The troop needs to find an organization that is not only aligned with Boy Scouting’s goals about developing young men, but that understands that boys may not always be neat and tidy.

The 25 members of the troop, who range in age from 12 to 17, meet Mondays, usually at the hall but also at other sites. When they gather at the church, they plan community service projects, such as collecting food for the Survival Center, or Eagle Scout projects like the rebuilding of a trail near Puffer’s Pond. The Scouts also get lessons in skills such as first aid, and prepare for trips like next year’s excursion to Philmont, a Boy Scout ranch in New Mexico.

One recent night featured a ceremony where the Scouts’ parents gathered to see them receive merit badges for skills such as rifle shooting, wood carving and cooking. The evening also included a slide show by Ciaran Young, 14, of Amherst, who spent a week at Florida Sea Base, working on a boat and snorkeling in the Bahamas.

The Scouts and their leaders say they appreciate Troop Hall.

“We can exist anywhere, but this is where we feel we belong,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Regan of Granby.

“It’s amazing to have this place,” said Tim Kosuda, 17, of Pelham, who serves as the senior patrol leader. “The only thing we have to worry about is making it clean enough for a ballet class to come here once in a while.”

Sam Boyle, 13, of Hadley is the Scouts’ quartermaster, responsible for all items stored by the troop. “Losing this whole space will be hard,” he said. “We have so much room to do all our activities.”

He and other members have built shelves in the storage area behind the stage to keep clutter out of the main room. It is filled with camping supplies, sleds, snowshoes, books and food.

“The back room is beautiful for us,” Boyle said.

“One of the drawing cards is having the space,” Denit said of the church hall. “It’s pretty impressive to have all this stuff available and on display.”

Troop 504 played a role in one of the final functions at the North Congregational Church, the memorial service for Cowls Building Supply founder Paul Jones.

Cinda Jones, president of WD Cowls, said her father learned values like a strong work ethic during his time as a Boy Scout. She said she applauds Troop 504 for distancing itself from the national policy of prohibiting gay scouts and leaders.

The troop has a strong spirit of camaraderie, Scouts say.

“We’re working together to have fun,” said Cody Gill, 14, of Hadley. “We’re all helping each other to get to become Eagle Scouts.”

Bandman-Boyle wants to help keep that going.

“As a completely voluntary organization, we have a challenge ahead of us,” she said. “We as adults have to lead this effort to find a new home.”

The Scouts expect to endure regardless. “We’ll still have that sense of unity,” Gill said.

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