James Kiracofe, 11, of Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, Md., checks out a tent that he and other Boy Scouts have set up for inspection. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

Everyone knows that the key to being a Boy Scout is to be prepared. But it’s hard to be prepared for a hike without hiking boots, for a camp-out without a tent, for a troop meeting without a uniform.

And that’s why a handful of Boy Scouts from Troops 52 and 100 — two of the nation’s oldest — spent Saturday afternoon in a Silver Spring warehouse sorting, inspecting, cleaning and fixing equipment for needy fellow Scouts.

Seventeen backpacks leaned against the wall. Canteens and mess kits were arranged on a tarp. And a group of Scouts wrestled with a tent. The only way to tell whether it was usable was to put it up.

“Oh, this is a big one,” said William Kiracofe, 15, as the two-room family tent finally sproinged into shape. He and his brother James, 11, and Scouts Alex Penberthy, 11, and Daniel Snee, 11, stood back and examined their handiwork.

The District used to have one of the country’s most active Scouting scenes. At one time, there were 120 troops within the city limits.

Old uniforms such as these are among the items of clothing and equipment some D.C.-area Boy Scout troops collect for the use of needy Scouts. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

“Today there’s only eight,” said P-B Bielak, a local Boy Scouting historian and one of the organizers of HOSTING: Helping Other Scout Troops Incorporate Needed Gear.

“This new program is making a commitment that no Scout should be kept from going Scouting because of uniform or equipment needs,” P-B said.

The idea is that any local boy who wants to be a Scout but can’t afford a uniform will get one. Any Scout who wants to go on a camp-out but can’t afford a tent will get one. The same goes with the other accouterments: backpacks, boots, pocketknives.

“In this area, we’ve got a lot of people with gear sitting around collecting dust in someone’s garage, basement or attic,” said Will Stone, scoutmaster of Troop 52. Over the coming weeks, they’ll be welcoming any and all donations.

At the Silver Spring warehouse, moms Hedda Garland and Edda Zoli were examining donated uniforms, noting their size, checking for rips, removing unnecessary patches and sewing on the appropriate ones.

“One lady, she took 600 uniforms to the laundromat and got seven of the largest industrial washing machines, and she washed them all,” P-B said. “It took five hours, I think. Every uniform we donate we can say was cleaned.”

Although Scouting has taken a hit in the District — especially in poorer neighborhoods, among families where male role models would be appreciated — the larger National Capital Area Council is fairly robust. Falling under its umbrella are 78,000 Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in 1,500 troops and packs stretching from Frederick, Md., to Fredericksburg, Va. (For odd reasons, Scouts in the Virgin Islands also fall under the National Capital Area Council.)

The District’s Troop 100 was established in 1917. Troop 52, from Chevy Chase, Md., dates to 1913, and is the home troop of Pascal Tessier, who in 2014 became the first openly gay Eagle Scout. (Last summer, the Boy Scouts eliminated the national restriction on openly gay Scout leaders, though local troops can still use sexuality as a criterion when selecting adults.)

So far, more than 3,000 pieces of uniform and bits of equipment have been donated, including sleeping bags that were being unrolled and checked for dead spiders. Troop 8, from Chevy Chase, Md., and Troop 104 from Arlington, Va., are also active in the donation program.

Here’s what the Scouts are looking for: clothing (Cub Scout and Boy Scout shirts and, especially, pants in any size; usable clean coats; hiking or wool socks; hats); hiking boots in any size; camping equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear, compasses, camp saws, pocketknives and first-aid kits); and Scout gear (Pinewood Derby kits, merit badge pamphlets, Scout patches).

To arrange to drop off a donation, email scout.hosting@gmail.com or call 301-656-3600.

The Girl Scouts tell me that they also welcome uniforms and equipment, though on a more informal basis currently. If you have stuff for them, email customercare@gscnc.org or call 202-237-1670.


A few more upcoming reunions:

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High Class of 1986 — April 30. Visit www.bcc1986.com.

DuVal High Class of 1969 — June 25. “Welcome to Medicare Party.” Contact duvalreunion09

Theodore Roosevelt High Classes of 1956 and 1957 — Sept 9. Email Waltere8805

Elizabeth Seton High Class of 1966 — April 22 and 23. Visit www.setonhs.org/classof1966.

Wakefield High Class of 1966 — Oct. 14-16. Email classof1966

Washington-Lee High Class of 1966 — Sept. 16-17. Email WLHS1966@yahoo.com or visit sites.google.com/site/wlclassof1966/come_66.

Charles W. Woodward High Class of 1976 — June 11. Email Dorian Janney at dorian.janney

Yorktown High (Arlington) Class of 1966 — May 13-15. E-mail Betsy Thompson Brady at betbrady@gmail.com.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.