BOARDMAN — Byron and Beth Harnishfeger are on a mission to help young members of society experience all that Scouting has to offer.
The spouses are both members of Troop 9060 based out of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Byron serves as scoutmaster of Troop 9060, and Beth is a district commissioner for the newly formed Stambaugh District, which is one of four districts in the Great Trail Council.
Both Beth and Byron enjoy their involvement with Scouting and treat it more like a hobby. They said it is an important part of a child’s growth.
“There are times when a youth’s education needs the supplement of common sense, moral compass and the art of societal interaction,” Beth said. “Education has taken a very technological turn and Scouting encourages a more personal element that young people need to become well-adjusted and productive members on the world stage.”
Through 2020, Byron said being a Scout or Scoutmaster had a new set of challenges.
“We were learning how to do everything on the computer, from virtual meetings to virtual campouts,” he said.
He said it took a toll on being a hands-on program, which Scouting is all about. While the virtual meetings made it possible to meet, it “short-circuited” the fellowship and in-person bonding, the camaraderie, and what Beth calls “the individual ‘atta boys.’”
“Leadership has had to get really creative to keep scouts engaged,” she said. “It was a lot of change that may become the ‘new norm.’ Some of our charter organizations have been closed down, so finding a facility to host a meeting has been a hurdle.”
Byron began his youth in Struthers and later in Canfield. He graduated from Canfield High School in 1972 and attended Kent State University in Salem where he earned his civil engineering degree.
In his youth, Byron was involved with Cub Scout Pack 101 out of St. Nicholas Church in Struthers, then joined Boy Scout Troop 25 in Canfield, and was among the first members of Boy Scout Troop 115 out of St. Michael Church in Canfield.
Beth grew up in Lordstown and graduated from Lordstown High School in 1975. She went on to attend the Wilma Boyd Career Center in 1975-76 for the travel industry. She ended up working for Bauman Land Title Agency where she met Byron, who was a surveyor with a company that worked with Bauman. The couple married and began a life that would take them deep into the world of scouting.
Byron, whose father Bub Harnishfeger was a scoutmaster, joined Troop 9060 in November 2004 when his son Karl crossed over from Cub Scout to Boy Scout. He started as an assistant scoutmaster, then in June 2007 advanced to scoutmaster.
Beth joined scouting two decades ago and has served a wide variety of adult positions before accepting her district role.
“I have been involved in Scouting for 20 years,” she said. “I have been a den leader, advancement chair for a pack, membership chairperson (10 years), Cub Scout summer resident camp program director (10 years), campmaster at Camp Stambaugh (six years) and served in various capacities at adult training opportunities.”
Bryon has three children from a previous marriage: Jennifer, 44, Byron, 43, and Adele, deceased in 1994. Beth had one child when they married, who was later adopted — Josey is now 41. Then the couple had Karl, now 26 and Kelsie, 22. Karl is an Eagle Scout in Troop 60 and now a committee member. They also have a grandson, Nathan, who is in Troop 60.
As a district commissoner, Beth oversees a corps of unit commissioners. A unit commissioner is a liaison between the individual unit (Cub, Scout or Venturer) and the local council. They are tasked with assessing the health of the scouting unit, and they provide an extra set of eyes with a different perspective than the unit leaders.
“They give guidance where there may be a stumbling block to presenting to the youth a quality program,” Beth said. “Commissioners are in place to be a help mate to units so they may provide quality programming and experiences to the organization’s youth.”
She said Scouts are collecting and distributing food and taking part in other essentials, helping with deliveries and checking on members of their community. It is the joining together as a troop the youth are missing right now.
“COVID has slowed us down but we have a tremendous resource in leadership that believes in scouting aims and goals,” Beth said. “We are determined to give youth the opportunity to learn, grow and flourish. The new Stambaugh District is working hard to develop our team to overcome current obstacles and promote the much needed Scouts BSA program for all young people. We may be dealing with a “new normal” but Scouts BSA values and guidance will persevere and be relevant for years to come.”
Byron said about the future: “I see a program that continues to offer important values to local youth.”
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox
— to www.vindy.com