While scouting might appear passé and old hat to some these days, often being eclipsed by the advent of multiple technologies, the Scouts of America are very much alive and well in Bay Ridge.
In fact, when it comes to an authority on scouting, it doesn’t get any more genuine and official than Jim Clark – a man who has dedicated 75 of his 84 years on this earth to it.
“I’ve been in scouting since I was nine,” Clark told the Brooklyn Eagle. “My parents put me in, and I loved it. In fact, I still do.”
Clark, who has lived in Bay Ridge his whole life, is a member of Troop 23, which was first chartered in 1910, and has continued to serve the Bay Ridge area for more than 110 years.
“The Scouts are absolutely still relevant, without question, especially here in Bay Ridge,” he said, though noting there is a lot more competition for people’s time these days.
“Facebook, computers, phones, and COVID have made things a bit more challenging,” Clark pointed out. “But there is still a great interest in the Scouts.”
Incidentally, a recent “Breakfast for Scouting” eventraised more than $22,000, and drew hundreds of people from throughout the community. It took place on June 14 at the Bay Ridge Manor, where the honorees included Deacon Kevin McCormack, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn; Dawn Demenagas, advancement chair and troop committee member of Troop 715 in Bay Ridge; Demetra Voulgaris Sinopoulos of Troop and Pack 715 in Bay Ridge; and Vincent Tepedino, general manager of Bay Ridge Toyota.
Longtime banker Zoe Koutsoupakis, a former member of the Third Avenue Merchants, Fifth Avenue Board of Trade, and the Bay Ridge Development Corp., has co-chaired the Brooklyn Scouts of America fundraisers at the Bay Ridge Manor, together with her mentor, Bay Ridge local Basil Capetanakis, for more than 20 years.
“We had the most successful fundraisers held at the Bay Ridge Manor,” Koutsoupakis said. “Scouting taught me a lot about leadership and character building. It taught me self-reliance, confidence in the face of adversity, and the ability to lead others. I learned teamwork, time management, initiative, planning, communication, self-motivation, cultural awareness and commitment.”
Koutsoupakis has since stepped down from fundraising, although Capetanakis still plays a significant role.
“I’m here to help Jim [Clark] arrange money for the scouting event at the Bay Ridge Manor every year,” he said. “It’s about assisting the kids, which is my favorite part about being involved.”
Capetanakis pointed out that six of his nine grandchildren are Eagle Scouts.
“I’m very proud of my grandkids — the way they conduct themselves. My youngest is 17, and became an Eagle Scout most recently, and it’s like he’s a different person,” he said.
“The Scouts shape your youth,” Clark said, adding that core values children learn as scouts — discipline, respect, faith, tradition, family values and morals — better prepare them for adulthood.
“Kids at that young age are very impressionable,” he said. “And it’s very important to make the right impression.”