What if a powerful tool to stop the spread of COVID-19 has been hanging from our necks this whole time?

That was the simple-yet-brilliant thought that sparked Jacob Finch to act in service to others.

Jacob, a Life Scout from Troop 1 of Ballston Spa, N.Y. (Twin Rivers Council), led an effort to collect neckerchiefs to use as cloth face coverings.

At Jacob’s request, the BSA national organization sent 35,000 new and unused neckerchiefs to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in New York and New Jersey.

Jacob originally hoped to turn the effort into his Eagle Scout service project, but it takes a few days or more to get a project proposal written, submitted and approved. Jacob didn’t want to wait.

“I didn’t want to put my service to my community on hold to wait for formal approval,” he says. “So I was unable to format the service project as an Eagle project. I hope to be able to tie my Eagle project into COVID-19 response and support in my community.”

A Scout neckerchief can be made into a simple, no-sew face covering. For a handy guide, Boys’ Life has you covered.

It’s worth noting that these are face coverings, not medical-grade masks. The CDC has guidelines for wearing cloth face coverings in public, including a reminder to wash them after each use.

‘Bigger than us’

Knowing that these neckerchiefs could be used by people outside of his own council, Jacob contacted his Scout Executive, Mark Switzer.

Switzer then called the national organization and Scout Executives at neighboring councils. All said yes.

“Mark called me and said, ‘This idea’s bigger than us. There’s more people suffering in New York City than here,’” says Ethan Draddy, Scout Executive of the Greater New York Councils. “He said, ‘Could you guys help?’”

Westchester-Putnam Council Scout Executive Becca Fields and Northern New Jersey Council Scout Executive Rich Stockton acted quickly, too.

In New York City, Draddy and his team delivered boxes of neckerchiefs to borough leaders who could distribute them safely to the areas of greatest need.

“We wanted to get these in the hand of New Yorkers in need as soon as possible,” Draddy says. “What a wonderful idea from a wonderful young man.”

Some 17,000 neckerchiefs were distributed across New York City to those in need, including essential workers riding public transit. Another 10,000 went to the Northern New Jersey Council, and thousands more went to the Westchester-Putnam Council.

This means more medical-grade masks will end up in the hands of health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

More about Jacob

Jacob’s efforts were inspired by his father, Dr. Douglas Finch, who is leading the battle against COVID-19 at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y.

“Through watching the news and listening to him come home every day, I’m aware of all the shortages that are going on,” Jacob told the CBS affiliate in Albany. “I wanted to use Scouting to its fullest potential.”

Longtime Bryan on Scouting readers might remember Jacob’s name. He’s the same friendly, courteous and kind young man who donated his bar mitzvah money to his troop.

Now he’s proving that Scouting kindness can help others in unexpected ways.

“I love the ingenuity of a young man who came up with this on his own,” Draddy says. “That’s awesome.”

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