My name is Nicholas Flanigan and I am a Life Scout from Troop 160, located in Chantilly, VA. Soon after the war started, I mobilized our Troop and community to help meet overwhelming needs in medical supplies, baby items, and food for Ukraine.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February 0f 2022, one of my close friends shared concerns about his family in Kyiv, Ukraine, and the hardship they had to face to survive from Russian bombing of their homes and neighborhood. I started thinking about how I might be able to help. My research led to a local nonprofit organization, United Help Ukraine (UHU). This charitable organization receives and distributes donations, food, and medical supplies to people of Ukraine affected by Russia’s invasion and families of those wounded or killed for freedom and independence of Ukraine.
I reached out to the Board members of this organization in March of 2022, inquiring how I could help. After a month of conversations and successful presentations to over 20 Board members of UHU, District Eagle Advisor, and Troop 160 Board, my project was approved for planning and execution. My Eagle Advisor recommended I develop a website that allowed me to promote my project within the local community. Website presence helped me to distribute messages about my project via email, in social channels, and local blogs. Because of the valuable advice from my Eagle Advisor I looked into online presence rather than going down the path of distributing many printed flyers, which allowed me to save total costs.
In my research, I discovered that many tech companies like Google, Microsoft/Bing, and Facebook offer opportunities for people supporting nonprofit-related initiatives to receive credits to run free advertising. I took advantage of those free advertising credits to run ads on these digital networks to get my project known throughout the community. I also used local blogs and platforms, Patch.com and NextDoor, to inform my neighbors about this effort.
My project took many months to plan. I spent over 300 hours developing the site, made digital ads, wrote articles, and reached out to many local organizations and nearby Troops for help. I partnered with a local church, Fairfax Church of Christ, to use their building and parking lot for my donation drive. I also led my Troop to distribute printed flyers in adjacent neighborhoods to amplify my online efforts. Just under 100 people helped me to make this project a success.
My project was completed on 2 weekends. On June 4th, many scouts, volunteers from the church, and parents helped to pack supplies previously donated to the church to support this effort. They packed and loaded over 100 boxes to a truck ready to take everything to an airport in Delaware for air shipment to Ukraine. We packed almost 80 boxes of food, baby items and medical supplies, and collected 70 boxes of diapers. On the same day, almost 20 scout volunteers from Troup 160 distributed over 3,000 flyers to neighborhood houses. On June 11th, we collected donated medical supplies, baby items, and food essentials from the same houses. My goal to collect and pack an additional 40 boxes was exceeded with a total of 55 additional boxes, despite poor weather conditions and heavy rain at collection time.
I am very proud of the work my Troop and I did because of its impact and because it helped to save lives. I want people to know about the work that takes place to support Ukraine and other countries in the same circumstances around the world.
I received many compliments and recognition for our efforts from my Troop, local leaders, the media, and UHU. My project was featured in the National Morning in America episode on May 27th as one of the top feel-good stories across the U.S. and covered in the local Fairfax Times newspaper and by Patch.com.
As a result of my efforts, I received a personalized letter from Chairman McKay from Fairfax County Government. In his letter, Chairman McKey congratulated me on the tremendous success of my project and how impressed he was with my commitment to helping others. He recognized my leadership skills for being able to gather dozens of fellow scouts, friends, and neighbors to help accomplish this goal. Of course it was easier with a helpful Troup backing me up!
“It is true that we all do far better when we work together”, stated Chairman McKay in his letter. “I am encouraged about the future of Fairfax County and our nation when I read what young people like you are doing to heal the breaches in our society.”
I hope to receive my Eagle Rank in October after completing the last Eagle-required merit badge, Scoutmaster conference, and the Eagle Scout Board of Review. I will continue my role in scouting as an ASPL, giving back to my Troop by helping and leading others. I am a proud member of the Order of the Arrow BSA Honor society and participated in 3 high adventure camps. Throughout my scouting career, I earned 77 merit badges, and seven distinguished scout awards. I also volunteered as a Counselor in Training this past summer at Camp Snyder, a BSA camp in Haymarket, VA, and will return to the camp as their trained Counselor next summer.