A Cub Scout wearing a hat much too big for him hands a yellow bag to a woman walking into Smith’s, hoping she’ll bring it back with at least one can.
A few seconds later, an older man drops off a few cans in a yellow bag the boy handed him 10 minutes before.
“Thank you, sir,” the man says to the Scout. “You’re a good salesman. I only came here for a cup of coffee, ya know.”
More than 8,000 Boy Scouts and Scout leaders handed out 425,000 bags and worked 27,000 man hours over the past week for the 25th-annual Scouting for Food Drive.
In the Smith’s parking lot Saturday, nearly 100 Boy Scouts from Troop 99 unloaded yellow bags and rearranged cans and cereals into cardboard boxes that will feed 55,000 people for three months.
With unemployment payments being reduced and an economy still recovering, the Salvation Army’s food pantry has been frequented by more people this year. Two weeks ago, it was bare, and the Salvation Army was forced to use its cash donations to keep it stocked.
“We collected 200 tons of food last year and we expect to surpass that this year,” said Boy Scout Activities Director Brandon Dervishian. “Seeing the Scouts take ownership of their community and helping others is remarkable.”
“You learn a lot about yourself but you also learn a lot about each other,” said Eagle Scout Harrison Malburg. “It feels good knowing that all the homeless in Las Vegas and Henderson will have food for Thanksgiving.
As he watched the Scouts filling up what eventually will be 7,300 cardboard boxes filled with food, volunteer Andy Belanger reminisced about his time as a Boy Scout 25 years ago.
“It’s really gratifying,” he said. “This community has given a lot to the Scouts and it’s nice seeing the Scouts give back.”
The first Boy Scouts from Troop 99 gathered in the Smith’s parking lot on Lake Mead and Rampart boulevards around 7 a.m. Saturday. They spent nine hours loading boxes of food into trucks.
Scout leaders have met once a month since August to plan their biggest food drive of the year, enough food to fill eight 53-foot-long trucks.
“I think it’s incredible to see our young children caring for others,” said Maj. Robert Lloyd, Clark County coordinator for the Salvation Army, whose pantry will receive all of the items collected. “Las Vegas really is one of the most generous cities there is.”
The 220 tons of donated food is enough to feed between 200 and 220 families once a day for 100 days, according to Leslee Rogers of the Salvation Army.
Dervishian said some Scouts even went as far out as Mesquite to collect canned goods and other non-perishable items.
Eleven-year-old Eagle Scout Jacob Johnson smiled as he gathered cans and organized them into boxes. It’s his first year loading trucks. The younger Scouts pass out bags to shoppers. Regardless of where he is, Johnson just wants to help.
“It makes me feel good inside being able to help others out,” he said.
Contact reporter Steven Slivka at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.