After 33 years of dedicated service to the Boy Scouts of America, Mike and Nina Joe Jones are retiring as scoutmasters of Troop 4039 in Winona. For their many years of service, the Joneses have been awarded the Silver Beaver Award, which is the highest honor that can be given to a volunteer leader in the Boy Scouts. They are also both members of the Order of the Arrow, a National Boy Scouts Honor Society dedicated to the promotion of camping.
However, for the Joneses, it is not the accolades that are important, but the positive impact the scouting program has had on their students over the years.
The Joneses first got involved with the scouts after their son wanted to join the Cub Scouts. Shortly after their son joined, a friend of Mike Jones asked him to join the Cub Scout committee to which he agreed.
“Even though I agreed to join the committee, I told him that I wouldn’t be about to make the next meeting because of work,” he said. “I went to talk to him a few days later and he said that we could only agree on one thing, we want you to be scoutmaster.”
Nina Joe Jones officially got involved after the Boy Scout committee was short-handed on members.
Since then, both have been crucial in improving the outreach of the local scouting program and making sure that the kids enjoy their experience with the scouts.
Mike Jones said, “Ever since our daughter was around six months old, she was involved with the outdoor activities that we did with the Boy Scouts. When she came of age, she persuaded my wife and I to set up a Venturing Camp so that she could enjoy the outdoor experience.”
The Boy Scouts of America Venturing Camp is a Co-Ed outdoor program for ages 14-20 that allows teenagers to experience the beauty of nature and instill the value of fellowship.
In total, the Joneses have mentored about 300 kids -- 12 of whom went on to become Eagle Scouts.
“Our goal was to make sure the kids had fun,” Mike Jones said. “But we also tried to teach them important life skills such as how to cook and fish and the Boy Scout belief of giving back to the community.”
They noted that the success of the Winona troop of scouts was in no small part due to the participation of the parents.
“I was very privileged to have parents that helped,” Mike Jones said.
Nina Joe Jones added, “He has been called the scoutmaster with the most moms.”
Of all the stories they told about their adventures during the interview, the one about a group of mischievous skunks comes to mind.
“One time the Boy Scout troop was out camping and Mike had told them to put their food up because there was a family of skunks living under wooden pallets at the campsite,” Nina Joe said. “One of our scouts, Corey, had fallen asleep in his tent eating a bag of chips. During the night he woke up, and there was a skunk on his chest eating out of the bag of chips. He had remembered what my husband had told him to do in a situation like this which was to stay calm and still. So he stayed still and eventually the skunk grabbed the bag and ran off. At the time, my husband didn’t believe the story.”
Mike Jones added, “ On a camping trip after that I was awoken by something poking me. Me thinking it was my wife, I kept telling her to stop. Eventually, I rolled to see what it was. When I did, I saw that it was a skunk. Once I looked it in the eyes, it ran away.”
After asking them what their favorite part about leading the scout programs after all these years the Joneses said that mentoring the scouts has been like being the mom and dad of one big family.
Nina Joe Jones said, “We have had a lot of fun going on adventures with the kids over the years. They are our boys. They are like our children. If we could start all over and do it again we would.”