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Helpers Among Us — Scout leaders Paul Masi and Mann Shoffner

Winchester Scout troops now have both girls and boys. COURTESY PHOTO/MANN SCHOFFNER

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So many helpers in Winchester and this week we have a two-fer!  Paul Masi and Mann Shoffner lead two different Scout troops in town. 

Shoffner came by it naturally, as he was an Eagle Scout who helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity. 

“I had no idea there was a troop in Winchester, but my wife signed up our son — it brought back memories,” Shoffner said.

And he was hooked.

Winchester Scouts from Troop #503 raft during a trip. COURTESY PHOTO/TROOP 503

Masi was a Scout back in the ’60s. 

“My family didn’t do much,” he said, “but we climbed Mt. Washington and we did canoeing.” 

His troop is #503 and they meet at the First Congregational Church, while Shoffner’s troop #507 meets at the Crawford Memorial Church. 

Shoffner said when he got involved, he thought about all the things that go on in high school. 

“Basketball, student council, etc.,” he said. “But the things I learned as a Scout, I’ve taken into adulthood.”

One thing both leaders agree on is that Scouting teaches leadership. 

“Cub Scouts are adult-led,” said the Grassmere Street resident. “Boy Scouts are youth-led. We camp once a month and it’s all planned by the Scouts who do the mapping and meal-planning. They learn by doing. We take our older Scouts on a high adventure trip every two or three years.”

Back in 2022, eight kids went to New Mexico for a back country hike. 

“I watch the kids go from scared fifth-graders to Eagle Scouts, where they have to plan, organize and execute a project with a non-profit,” he said. “I always say if someone applies for a job and has Eagle Scout on their resume, they’ll always get an interview.”

Masi went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and while there, he worked at a “Project Adventure” program, which brings outdoor activities to city kids. Once he started working at Arlington High School, he worked with kids who’d been suspended in a special program. 

“One of those kids made our wedding bands!” he said.

Scoutmaster Paul Masi gets ready to go out with his Scout troop. COURTESY PHOTO/PAUL MASI

But Proposition 2 1/2 cut his job and he and his new wife went to Ecuador and taught in an American School. He’s back at Arlington High as an indoor track coach, and through the Ecuador program, he met a woman who sold them a house on Swanton Street. 

“We had five Eagle Scouts this year,” he said, and his younger sons were also Eagle Scouts.  “We’ve taken our kids to Moab, Utah, to Colorado, and other places where we climb 14,000-footers and do mountain biking. We get kids at 12 — they’re children — and they leave at 18 as mature young adults.”  

In February, he took about 25 Scouts to New Hampshire, where they camped in the snow. He asked the kids at the end of the trip, “If I told you, you’d be doing this, how many of you would have thought it would be impossible? So next time, you’ll know these things ARE possible.”

Shoffner’s troop has girls as well as boys, and this month, the Boy Scouts of America changed its name to Scouting America.

“The name change is long overdue,” Schoffner said. “Scouts began accepting girls in 2018, and changed the name of the program to Scouts BSA.”

Masi echoed the sentiment, “It’s more accurate and inclusive.”

This article has been updated to refer to the former Boy Scouts as Scouts, unless used in a direct quote.

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