MILLINOCKET – In small but heartfelt and pragmatic ways, the hundreds of hours of planning and labor of Scoutmaster Bruce Rioux’s ever-growing nest of Eagle Scouts are making Millinocket a better place to live.
His Eagle Scouts have built new park benches for a school yard, painted church walls, created walking and hiking trails at the town recreation complex, and constructed an access ramp for disabled residents, among other projects.
A Cub and Eagle Scoutmaster since 1995, Rioux has had seven town teens – Nick Cyr, Marcus Ingerson, Jeff Mason, brothers Bryce and Logan Morrison, Rioux’s son Michael, and Mark Rucci – become Eagle Scouts since 2000. Cyr and Bryce Morrison are in college now, but most projects were completed over the last year.
With only 2 percent of all Scouts nationwide ever achieving Eagle rank, Rioux’s success stories, which arise from a pool of about 100 scouts, are impressive, but the 51-year-old town man, a nurse anesthetist at Millinocket Regional Hospital, speaks of it modestly. Without the support he gets from parents and assistant Scoutmasters, he said, the number of Scouts who make Eagle rank would be much less.
Plus he admires the Scouts to whom he is taskmaster, father confessor, coach and problem-solver.
“I don’t know how they find the time to do these things,” Rioux said Wednesday. “They really have to want to do this [become Eagle Scouts] or it doesn’t happen. Yeah, I can help them, but I can’t do it for them. They are really solid citizens.”
The Scouts themselves say they love meeting the challenge of assembling the large community-aid projects that Eagle Scouting merit badges require. For the Eagles, each project represents 120 to 200 hours of labor, $500 to $1,500 in fundraising, and the oversight of six to 20 other volunteers.
“It gets you on TV,” said Mason, 16, who built a large flower garden and painted church window frames at I Care Ministries. “People in town really appreciate it.”
“It’s the highest rank there is,” said Ingerson, 17, who built trails at Stearns High School. “It’s something you really strive for, and it definitely helps that you’re getting stuff done that might not otherwise get done.”
“Within Scouting, it gets you a lot of recognition,” said Rucci, 16, who built benches, painted two rectory rooms and made a job box for unofficial mail at St. Martin of Tours Church. “People outside of it appreciate it, but they have no idea how much hard work it is. People in Scouting know.”
“You want to make something that is big enough to stand out and make a difference,” said Logan Morrison, 17, who built a ramp for disabled residents at First Congregational Church of Millinocket.
“One of the biggest challenges is finding the time to do it,” said Michael Rioux, 17, who built four playground benches at Granite Street School.
The Scouts’ involvement with their projects outlasts their completion, especially if problems develop upon completion. Rioux had to add concrete bases to his benches at Granite Street to keep vandals from stealing them, he said.
The Town Council makes a point of awarding Eagle Scouts with recognition during its regionally televised meetings whenever it can, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said, and it always recognizes Rioux as well.
“A good part of this success is attributable to him,” Conlogue said. “You need a truly intelligent leader who imparts to these kids the kind of leadership that he does to have such an effective program.”