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Lake Elsinore scouts exchange Tootsie Rolls for charity


Last updated 11/17/2006 at Noon

Standing outside the exit of Albertson’s in Lake Elsinore on a Sunday afternoon as bright as the yellow vests they were wearing, the Boy and Cub Scouts of Troop 99 and Pack 99 were patiently collecting castoff coins and dollars from shoppers to help 100 developmentally disabled adults stay on the road to independence. The scouts’ sponsor, the Knights of Columbus Council #7809, was also busy trading Tootsie Rolls for cash at a Stater Bros in Lake Elsinore during the national organization’s annual candy drive to help the adults with special needs.

Peppermint Ridge is a nonprofit residential housing network in Corona for adults with mental disabilities. The youngest current tenant is 19; the oldest is in his 70s. According to Director of Development Tracy Mauser, the average resident spends about 17 years under the care of Peppermint Ridge’s staff.

Ninety clients live in nine separate communal residences depending upon the severity of their disabilities. Daily challenges range from an inability to feed and dress oneself to training for the Special Olympics. About 10 participants are able to live independently in apartments with guidance from counselors for life skills such as grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Donations from the Knights’ Tootsie Roll sales and other contributions help supplement state assistance for developmentally disabled individuals living in California. For example, state funds only allow residents to leave the facilities twice a month.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Mauser. “We really want them to have the kind of life you and I have.” With the extra help, residents can enjoy excursions to Disneyland or SeaWorld or maintain off-site jobs for adults with special needs.

Each coin or dollar dropped in the cans eventually added up to $1,070 collected by the scouts and members of the Knights during the weekend candy drive.

There was no need to mention the good deed he was performing by sacrificing his weekend possibilities. Fifteen-year-old Ben Romero didn’t hesitate to point out the bottom line. “That’s what Boy Scouts is all about,” the Lakeside High School freshman said. “It’s about helping people.”

Seventeen-year-old Steve Anthony shared sage advice to his younger companions earned during his 13 years of scouting. “Sometimes, in order to get a donation, you have to go the extra mile,” said the California Lutheran High School junior. Anthony recalls helping a mother load two pumpkins into her car last year in return for a donation. He has gotten as much as a $10 donation but is hoping for the day someone hands over a $100 bill, which is rumored to have happened to other scouts.

After he finished his shopping, Ron Warren of Lake Elsinore took a moment to make a donation. Once he saw the scouting uniforms, he knew his money was in good hands. “I can see kids standing out here all day,” he said. “You know it’s going to be a good cause.”

The drive to support the mentally disabled adults has been a core project for the Lake Elsinore Knights Council #7809 for the past 10 to 12 years, according to the council’s financial secretary, George Rack. “When you deliver the check, you can really see what it’s all about,” Rack said. “When you’re standing out in the October heat, you remember what it’s for and you think to yourself, ‘I can tolerate another few hours [for them].’”

Echoes 12-year-old Canyon Lake Middle School student Giuliano McDonald, “It’s a great way to say how much you care about other people.”


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