'Adult scouts' improve East County together
What happens when a group of former Eagle Scouts and troop leaders have too much time on their hands?
In East Multnomah County, they form a service club that meets socially and ventures out on service projects to uplift neighbors.
Glenn White had a spark of inspiration one Christmas eight years ago. He had been meeting with a group for what they called “Beer Wednesdays,” where they would catch up, share stories, and have a good time. But White, born and raised in Gresham and now living in Boring, had an idea for something more.
“I thought our beer group could turn into something a bit more,” White said, who had led now-defunct Scout Troop 544.
The idea was to help those who could not help themselves, informed by the beliefs instilled as Scouts. After enthusiastic replies from his fellow beer drinkers, Friends Helping Neighbors (formerly Neighbors Helping Neighbors) was born.
Their first project in 2015 was in response to a “nastygram” received by a resident living in the neighborhood across from Gresham High School, White’s alma mater. The city code enforcement was set to crack down, so the team went to fix all the violations.
Since then, they have done a bevy of projects, including yard work, repairing fences, reroofing carports, installing wheelchair ramps, and placing American flags along Main Avenue in downtown Gresham for holidays.
“For me, this is something to do,” White said. “You have to stay busy in life, and giving back is so important.”
“And continuing to meet every week in person lets me goof off and have a good time,” he added. “It fills my giggle bucket.”
The work of the group, and White, spurred many in the community to nominate him as a 2023 Amazing Neighbor.
“That is humbling — I don’t actually know how I feel about that,” he said. “I grew up in this city, so I just wanted to do something for it.”
White quickly shunts praise toward his fellow founding members — his wife Kristin, Neil and Ava Riewer, Dennis and Karen Baker, Barry and Kerry LeVon, Paul Riewer, Darla Pierce, and Bobby Pierce, who passed away. Doug and Dana Duval, Art Abbott, Rick and Patty Stubblefield, and Gloria Wrede round out the group.
“I know a little about a lot of things, that master of none,” White said with a laugh. “But together, this group covers a lot of skills and knowledge.”
All live locally, and most of the founders are Boy Scout alums. All, except for White, who owns Oregon Insurance Agency, are retired. And they share a passion for giving back.
“It’s about giving back while keeping that social aspect,” White said. “We concentrate on people who can’t afford these things on their own.”
The service is done through word of mouth. People will hear from a friend of a friend about someone in need. Then during one of the weekly gatherings — those beer Wednesdays never died — the group will vote on potential projects.
“We are a ‘hit and run’ group,” White said with a smile. “It is small projects, done on a Saturday afternoon kind of thing.”
There was a total bathroom remodel in which the team replaced rotting floorboards. During that project, a few were able to tinker with and fix his broken reclining medical chair. Another time they went out to redo a deck at a mobile home, making safety upgrades the day after the resident fell and hurt her face because of the unstable surface.
The group also donates to nonprofit organizations, like My Father’s House and SnowCap. There are also scholarships for Boy Scouts.
Most recently, that was helping a woman move from Gresham to a new home in Estacada. That woman, like all those Friends Helping Neighbors supports, was touched. So much so that during a weekly gathering in late July, held at Skyland Pub in Troutdale, she bought the first round, sparking cheers from the group.
“I just enjoy helping people — that is my calling,” White said with a smile.