From scouting to Santa Claus, Dave Cronin has spent 40 years giving to this community and the 1st Erin Scouts.
For many, many years, Cronin was the face of Erin Scouting.
But it all began quite simply.
When Cronin was registering his own son to take part the group was short on leaders.
“That is how most parents get involved,” he said.
“I found it interesting and enjoyed working with the children very much.”
Cronin noted that in some areas, without involvement of parents there is often a question whether scouting programs will continue.
In his own experience, there were times when he and one other gentlemen were looking after 52 kids.
“They were a good group of kids,” he added.
With four decades of memories, Cronin has volumes from which to choose.
One incident still vividly recalled by Cronin and those at a recent farewell barbecue in his honour occurred a number of years back while a group was camping at the Fergus Fairgrounds during a bit of nasty weather that week.
With the group scheduled to have soup and sandwiches, long-time friend Fred Hoag volunteered to make tomato soup.
“When it was served, we all noticed quite a few black flecks. Apparently the soup was scorched on the bottom. We still joke about it after all these years,” said Cronin, who “definitely” recommends taking part in the scouting organization.
“It’s very rewarding and the kids can bring a lot to the table. You learn so much from them.”
Cronin fondly remembers weekly meetings and weekend outings to places such as Fort York to learn about military life, various historic sites and the Guelph Arboretum to go stargazing.
Asked whether scouting has changed over the years, Cronin quickly agreed that the organization has changed with the times.
One example is that scouts can earn badges for computer skills – “That was not possible 40 years ago.”
He added, “When I first started, we taught them how to use hand tools, now it is power tools.”
Cronin encouraged parents and people who enjoy working with children to take part in scouts.
“Take a chance … to find out what scouting is all about.”
Cronin added, “at a time where there are so many one-parent families, it is good to have a positive male figure in a child’s life.”
He stressed the time involved in volunteering with scouting is not overwhelming.
“You will get so much out of it,” he said.
Even after moving to New Hamburg, Cronin spent five years commuting to Erin to help out with the group.
“It’s something that is very hard to give up when it is a very important part of your life,” he said.
And it wasn’t just the kids who made the experience a good one for Cronin.
“There were so many other friendships built, not only in Erin but throughout Wellington County.”
Shawn Jones, commissioner for Wellington Area Scouts explained Cronin was involved in Scouting for four decades working with the 1st Erin Scouts – as a commissioner for most of that time.
Jones described Cronin as a “soft spoken guy” and lauded the dedication involved in driving back and forth to Erin from his current home in New Hamburg.
When Jones became area commissioner a few years ago, he endeavored to strengthen the scouting movement in the area. He found that Erin was one of the furthest locations to get to, but Cronin didn’t really need his help anyway.
Cronin retired last summer to focus on his health and his family.
Jones noted that at Cronin’s retirement barbecue at the Barber Scout Camp, people shared their memories of Cronin dating back to the early 1980s and his involvement in many Erin activities and his outreach into the community.
“I didn’t realize how committed he was. He was involved in scouting longer than I’ve been alive,” said Jones.
Cindy Storey with 1st Erin Scouting said, “we had a retirement party for him at Barber Camp in Guelph, on Sunday, Sept. 21. The 1st Erin Scouting group hosted a barbecue, cake and presented a bird feeder and bird seed hand made by Earl Klatt from Hillsburgh.”
About 35 people attended the party.