Centennial Finanical Services "Good Scout" Award Honoree, Paul Haaga, Chairman, Capital Research and Management Company with Eagle Scout Erik Flores
Erik Flores delivered these remarks at the Centennial Financial Services “Good Scout” Award Dinner at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC on November 3, 2010
“Supporters of the National Capital Area Council, professional Scouters, my fellow Scouts, and distinguished guests – good evening.
My name is Erik Flores and I am happy to stand before you tonight to share a few of my thoughts about Scouting and to tell you briefly about my own experience as a Scout residing in the Washington, D.C. Area. I live in Fairfax, Virginia, and am a member of Venture Crew 1146 in the Old Dominion District sponsored by the Little River Ward, a Spanish-speaking organizational unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I have been a registered Boy Scout since I was 12 years old and, like many youth, I was a little hesitant to participate at first because I didn’t really know what I was getting into. When I was younger, I remembered seeing the older boys in these strange uniforms and heard a few things about awards called “merit badges” that they earned. And so, with a firm push from my parents, I found myself preparing to go to summer camp at Goshen Scout Reservation. The whole experience didn’t prove to be too awful…like a 12-year-old might drum up in his imagination that it could be. Quite the contrary…I found myself trying things I never thought I’d have the opportunity to try. I shot my first arrow, built my first fire and rode in a canoe for the first time. At the end of that week at camp, I found myself with my first set of four or five merit badges but, more importantly, I realized that I could accomplish things that were a little bit difficult and challenging and I discovered that just maybe I had some skills and abilities I wasn’t aware of before.
Several years have now passed since I had that first real camping experience. Since then I’ve earned dozens of additional merit badges, been part of many unique camping experiences and had a variety of wonderful opportunities for service that are valuable and precious to me.
An especially motivating and inspiring part of my Scouting experience was when my fellow Troop members voted to make me eligible to eventually become a part of the Order of the Arrow, which is the honor society of Scouting. Because of the sacredness of the society to us Arrowmen, I cannot discuss my experiences in much detail. But what I can share are my feelings about being part of a group that reveals to Scouts and Scout leaders what true service and leadership are all about and what attributes we can develop in ourselves to be effective leaders.
According to my mom, my teachers at school have often asked over the years: “What should I expect from your child?” My mom has always responded by offering her opinion about the type of leader that I can and should become. Although I was a Senior Patrol Leader at age 12, a Varsity Team Captain at 14, and a Crew President at 16, it wasn’t until my Order of the Arrow experience that I finally fully realized that I was a leader to whom people could look and that my actions as a Scout and as a person really mattered. I have come to realize even more now my solemn responsibility to exemplify the ideals of Scouting to the best of my ability. Because of that realization, I worked even harder to earn as many merit badges as I could and tried to help as many other Scouts as possible. I hope that through my actions, my friends and younger Scouts have been inspired to work just as hard so that they can, in turn, motivate others through their cheerful service and learn more about their own leadership potential in the process.
I truly love Scouting and the ways that it has inspired me personally. I am thankful for the program and the ideals it espouses through the Scout Law and the Scout Oath. I am also thankful for the practical lessons and skills that the Scouting movement has taught me, which is why I am so glad to be able to start giving back to the cause of Scouting that has helped me so much. One way I have been able to do this was through my recently completed Eagle Scout project. My project was the culmination of my Scouting experience and the last major hurdle to being advanced to the rank of Eagle, which happened for me officially just one month ago.
My proposed project was a special one to me because of the organization that I served. It is an organization that benefited my family in a very unique way. When I was 11, my family lost our home. My dad lost his job and my mom…because she had just given birth to my little sister a couple of months before…could not work. We moved from place to place for a while, trying to stay afloat, but eventually we faced the hard truth - we were homeless!
Luckily, because my mom is a resourceful and hard-working woman, she quickly found an organization called FACETS, which stands for Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services. FACETS gave us a temporary place to stay and a free dinner each night while we were put on a waiting list for the shelter. It connected us with wonderful volunteers who did our laundry for free and helped my dad find a job. Hard work on the part of both my parents then got us the shelter spot and, with more hard work, out of the shelter and into a housing program — all within weeks. FACETS also helped my mom to eventually work herself all the way through beauty school. I am no longer homeless and it’s all thanks to a wonderful organization that helped my family get back on our feet when it seemed that we had no hope.
You can see why then, when I was asked what I wanted to do for my Eagle project, I may not have known the “what” of my response But I DID always know the “who.” I wanted to share the spirit of Scouting with FACETS and its daytime drop-in center in Fairfax City called the Lamb Center. There is no other organization or cause that I can think of more deserving than the very one that served me when I needed it most.
My Eagle Project consisted of an effort that I entitled “Quest for Comfort,” a sock and underwear drive for the homeless. The Lamb Center has shared with me that this is a major need since most individuals and families who lose their homes are not as fortunate as my family. The process of getting back on one’s feet is usually much longer than it was for us, often taking months, and many people in this unfortunate circumstance must carry with them everything they own for long periods of time. The last things they sometimes wish to carry are socks and underwear. So I enlisted the help of many of our church units, fellow Scouts, their parents, and patrons at a local public library to collect these vital articles of clothing.
The thing that I will forever remember most about the project was the gratitude and sincere appreciation that the staff and patrons of the lamb center expressed to me and my fellow Scouts when we delivered the donated items. Their reactions are even more meaningful when I think about some of the rather amazing and, to me, miraculous events that occurred during the last two weeks I collected the items. Just when it seemed I didn’t have very much to donate and that project would not be as successful as I had hoped, I discovered that three adult church leaders in a neighboring unit, not my own, had made some extraordinary efforts to publicize my project and mobilize the members of the church to come up with donations. These efforts resulted in a large percentage of what I collected.
Still another amazing event was a chance meeting with a US congressman from the state of Texas with whom I was able to share my project idea. When he told me, kind of in passing, that he would like to help, I jumped at the chance and maybe a bit boldly told him that my project could perhaps use an extra monetary donation or two. To my amazement, he said that he could make a personal donation himself and that he would search for an organization that could match it.
During the next two weeks, I communicated off and on with Brenda, one of the congressman’s staff members, about the possible donation. Right as we were in the parking lot about to drive off after delivering the donations to the Lamb Center, I got a call from Brenda informing me that the check was ready to be picked up at their office on Capitol Hill. It was stunning and joyful moment for my dad, my fellow Scouts and the Lamb Center. I ran back and told Mr. Larrabee, the Director, that even more socks and underwear could now be supplied to the center with the additional funds from the congressman. He was ecstatic at the news and urged me to both thank the congressman and invite him to visit the center.
Another way to give back, of course is to help other Scouts enjoy their Scouting experience and to succeed in the program themselves, as I have. Because our Scouting units have such a great need for capable, trained adult leaders, I have already accepted an opportunity to serve for a short time as the Varsity Scout Coach for the 14 and 15 year olds in our Varsity Team. I am looking forward to this challenge of motivating other young men and helping them gain greater self-confidence and self-awareness through Scouting. I hope to see them internalize the values of Scouting that are embodied in the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan.
Thank you for investing your time and resources so that young men like me have opportunities for future success and the help we so badly need along the way. Thank you for helping to provide me and my fellow Scouts with the direction and lasting values that will sustain us throughout our lives. I will treasure my experiences in Scouting forever…and I will also treasure forever its ideals and the priorities I have made for my life because of them. These ideals are now a part of what I do and who I am. Hopefully they will always be. I will try to remember them in all I do professionally, in my church, and in my future family to bring greater happiness to those around me. May God bless you for your generosity. Thank you very much.”
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