Like many good leaders often do, Bill Thomson credits the people around him for his success.
The organizer of the annual Boy and Girl Scouts food drive in New Lenox has led an effort to increase collections each year, with the Scouts hauling in nearly 50,000 items in 2011. Thomson was by Patch readers.
Thomson moved to New Lenox seven years ago with his wife and two sons. His kids joined the Scouts, and Thomson volunteered to help where he could.
"I thought it’d be a good program for my kids and good opportunity to spend good, quality time with them," Thomson said. "It's a good program for teaching community service and character building."
When Thomson took over the food drive, he remembers about 50 kids walking door-to-door and collecting maybe 1,500 items to go to one food pantry. He immediately saw an opportunity to expand and invited all Boy Scouts to participate as well as Girl Scouts. Now, he says friends and family members of Scouts have latched on and volunteer their time.
"On the day of the food drive, I stop briefly while we are in the midst of sorting and boxing the donated food so that I can watch everything that is going on. Each year I always get a lump in my throat as I am taken back by the generousity of the residents and businesses of New Lenox and knowing the number of people that will benefit from our event," Thomson said.
The Scouts deliver grocery bags to New Lenox homes and ask families to fill them with various food items for the pantries at , and . Then, on one day, they collect all the bags and bring it to the pantries; every year it's the biggest single donation for each pantry. There was so much food donated this year that the township pantry couldn't hold all of it, allowing some of it to be donated to other good causes.
"This year it will help all of New Lenox," Kathie Johnson of the township said of the food drive. "It's a gift that keeps on giving."
Thomson said he was cognizant of the need for community involvement as a kid, but loves that he is now able to get so many children to see the importance of service. He credits the other adult leaders in the Scouts for encouraging him to get involved, but more than anything is proud of all the hard work the kids do.
"These are kids taking action on their own and making a difference," he said. "I am amazed each year to see the hundreds of people that participate in our food drive knowing they are all working toward a common goal."