Local Scouts Collect 10,000 Cans of Food

A Brentwood Cub Scout, from Pack 656, walks a bag and a loose can into the fire house. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

Late Saturday afternoon we called Andy Leahy on his cell phone to see how the Brentwood Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts did on their annual food drive. He sounded relaxed and satisfied.

The blue bags are a familiar sight in Brentwood for one week every November. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

“It was a good day,” he said.

Yes it was. Brentwood residents donated, and scouts picked up, more than 10,000 cans and jars of nonperishable food items on Saturday. Leahy said they filled 357 cardboard boxes. At about 30 cans/jars a box, that’s almost 11,000 items.

A few hours before the phone call, Leahy was anything but relaxed. He was in the vortex of a storm of activity at the old Brentwood fire station. He and several other scout leaders were helping coordinate the pickup, sorting and boxing of the food.

It actually began on Nov. 9, when dozens of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from Brentwood delivered a blue plastic bag to almost every door handle in the city, with a request to put nonperishable food items in the bag and set it out for pickup on Nov. 16. The initiative is called Scouting for Food.

So on Saturday morning, Leahy and several other scout leaders set up the food drop-off center at the fire house at about 9 a.m. By about 9:45, dozens of scouts began a well coordinated pickup of the blue bags. The youngsters were from Cub Scout Pack 656, sponsored by the Brentwood School District, and Troop, Crew and Pack 361, chartered by St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Parish.

Parents, scouts and scout leaders meet in the parking lot at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church before setting out to pick up the blue bags. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Kurt Odendahl (center), Scouting for Food Coordinator for pack 361, discusses logistics in the St. Mary Magdalen parking lot with a parent (right) and with Steve Walsh of Pack 361. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

The scouts rode in cars and minivans to pick up the bags, which were then taken to the fire station. Inside the station, the cans and jars were sorted by types of food, then boxed. The boxes were stacked onto pallets, secured with plastic wrap and loaded onto a truck for delivery to the St. Louis Area Food Bank, in Bridgeton. The charity, http://www.stlfoodbank.org/, supplies about 500 food pantries in eastern Missouri and southwest Illinois.

“You realize how important this is when you deliver the food to the pantry and you see people waiting for it on Monday morning,” said scout leader Tim O’Donnell.

O’Donnell and Leahy have helped organize the scouts’ annual food drive in Brentwood since it was started in St. Louis in 1985. Since then it has gone national, with 30,000 scouts now collecting more than 2 million cans a year.

“It’s the best way for kids to learn how to help one another,” said Leahy. “That’s what we’re about.”

The 357 boxes Brentwood scouts filled on Saturday is 124 more than last year. Leahy credits most of the increase to a pickup truck load of cans that was donated by a small grocery store that recently closed. Brentwood Scout leaders made the pickup on Saturday morning, just in time for processing at the fire station.

Said scout leader Dan O’Neal, with a smile, “The timing couldn’t be better.”

The first load of cans to arrive at the old fire station is from a recently closed grocery store. It’s loaded into buckets by (from left) scout leader Dan O’Neal, and scouts Sean Segasture and Matthew Segasture. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
After his parents help him load food into a shopping cart in the parking lot of the old fire station, a Cub Scout pushes the cart to the processing area. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The contents of the blue bags are dumped into boxes for sorting. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
John Segasture and his son Matthew assemble boxes before the food starts arriving. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The garage of the old fire station is where the cans are sorted and boxed. Andy Leahy stands in the small doorway awaiting the next shopping cart of food. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The collection site is easy to spot on Brentwood Boulevard. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
John Segasture loads a pallet with another box full of cans and jars. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
A Boy Scout rushes a shopping cart full of food to the processing area. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The first pallet of food boxes is loaded onto a truck. The truck is bound for the St. Louis Area Food Bank in Bridgeton. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Kurt Odendahl cooks hot dogs as a reward to the hardworking scouts. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
After the food is collected, scouts receive soda pop and hotdogs in the parking lot of the old fire station. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
A Cub Scout helps carry a food bag from a car to the processing area. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
These two bring in quite a haul. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Two Cub Scouts have lunch in the parking lot. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The food sorting area is a flurry of activity. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Two pals use teamwork to fill a box with cans. (Photo by Steve Bowman)


7 thoughts on “Local Scouts Collect 10,000 Cans of Food

  1. Steve,
    the Brentwood Cub Scouts Pack 656 would love to say a BIG THANK YOU for all the great pictures and the wonderful story you wrote!!!

    Jennifer Horton
    Assistant Cub Master
    Brentwood Pack 656


      1. Couple of corrections – the man identified in the photos as Phil Graham is actually Kurt Odendahl, Troop 361 Committee Chair and SFF coordinator for Troop 361. He’s the one cooking the hot dogs. The man pictured with him on the left in uniform in the forth photograph is Steve Walsh of Pack 361.

        Cub Scout Pack 656 is sponsored by the Brentwood School District whereas Troop, Crew, and Pack 361 are chartered by St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Parish.

        Special thanks to the Brentwood Walgreens for the temporary use of some of their shopping carts.


      2. Thanks for the corrections, David. I made the changes, except for Kurt Odendahl’s title, which he told me was cub master. And I was wondering where all those little shopping carts came from – they sure helped in getting the bags from the cars to the processing area.


      3. Kurt is definitely not the Cub Master. Phil Graham is the Cubmaster. I’ve worked with Kurt in the Boy Scout Troop for six years now as the former Scoutmaster.


      4. You can tell by the green epolets on his shoulders as opposed to the blue for the Cub Scouts 🙂

        Great article and great pictures. Thanks for the write up.


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