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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Three people nominated Robert “Bob” McHale of Brookeville for the Greater Olney Civic Association’s Howard. J. Garber Citizen of the Year award.
Scoutmaster Bob McHale (lower left) and Assistant Scoutmaster Scot Morris are pictured with some members of Boy Scout Troop 89 (left to right) Scout Vincent McHale, Star Scout Michael McHale, Eagle Scout Jack Morris, Life Scout Patrick Morris and Star Scout Luke Kowalski. McHale is the Greater Olney Civic Association’s Howard J. Garber Citizen of the Year.
All of the nominations paid the volunteer Scoutmaster high praise, but one paid him what is arguably the highest compliment: “He’s the best person I know … I want to try to be like him … He’s a really good person.”
That nomination is from one of the Boy Scouts from his troop.
The Greater Olney Civic Association handed out its annual awards March 19, giving McHale its highest honor.
The Howard. J. Garber award is named for a previous GOCA vice president who exemplified community participation that results in a significant contribution.
Among Garber’s many accomplishments before his untimely death in 1989 was leading the effort to eliminate a dangerous S-curve on Georgia Avenue near Greenwood Park, north of Route 108. In addition to being a father of eight children and a safety/training manager for Roberts Oxygen, McHale, 49, is a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church choir, a School of Religion teacher and a volunteer with the Tanterra Swim Team. Perhaps his most significant contribution to the Olney community, however, comes from his role as the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 89, sponsored by St. Peter’s. Under McHale’s leadership, the troop grew from being almost defunct to having nearly 40 members. It functions as an “old fashioned” troop, meaning it is completely run by the boys. “It would probably go a lot easier if I made the decisions, but this is actually the classic way to run a troop and the way that my father taught me,” McHale said. “Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouting, said the troop should be boy-led. Through their experiences, the boys learn to accomplish tasks, to overcome obstacles, teamwork and self-sacrifice. They truly begin their walk into manhood, and that is the way it is supposed to be.” He said the boys in the troop are well trained, welcome others and adhere to Boy Scouting ideals both in and out of uniform. He has inspired and directed seven boys to become Eagle Scouts.
Barbara Falcigno, co-chair of the GOCA Awards program, said that working with youths takes special talent and lots of patience. “Bob knows just how to inspire everyone around him,” she said. It appears those who nominated him agree.
“One may think the blessing of knowing Bob comes from his encyclopedic knowledge of outdoors skills, especially anything having to do with rope or fire, but Bob understands the boys’ unique brand of humor and transforms their every activity into a thrill,” read one nomination form. “He gives his scouts just enough space to try leading the group themselves and just enough support for them to learn to do it well.”
Another reads, “Their adventures can be clunky since teens are making the choices and decisions, but the leadership training that they receive will catapult them to be leaders for the rest of their lives.”
McHale has been involved in Boy Scouting since he was 10 years old. He was a Boy Scout until age 18 and then became an adult leader, founding an inner-city troop in Minneapolis. In 2010, a priest at St. Peter’s approached him about reviving the troop. His sons were in another local troop at the time, but he spoke with former St. Peter’s troop leaders and resurrected the troop with just five boys. “I learned my Scoutcraft from my father, Robert M. McHale,” he said. “The best scout I ever served with was my brother, Col. Matthew M. McHale USA. The best scouts I ever served as an adult leader are the Scouts of the great Troop 89.”
McHale is humble and grateful for the recognition. “Such an award is a testament to the boys, past and present, of Troop 89,” he said. “I accept this on all of their behalves.” He also credits his wife for allowing him to devote his time to scouting and his other volunteer endeavors. “Without the support, love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, wisdom, encouragement and joy of my beautiful bride, Carol Ann McHale, I would not be receiving this award,” he said. “She is the center of my family’s world, my gift from God.”
Other GOCA Award winners — Chris Centineo and Phil Wilk, Contribution to the Community; Maya Wolf, Youth Contribution to the Community; Kathy Curtis, GOCA Worker of the Year; and Marilyn Simonds and Matt Zaborsky, Ronald Berger Memorial Heritage Award — were recognized at GOCA’s 39th annual Awards Ceremony on March 19 at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. The event was held after The Greater Olney News press time.
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