Cotatiís Keith Schoenthal remains involved with Boy Scouts of America even though children are grown and no longer participate
Most men, when their children are no longer participating, choose to end their involvement in a sport they were coaching or other extra-curricular activities. That certainly is not the case with Cotati’s Keith Schoenthal.
Schoenthal’s son, Christopher, had achieved the ranking of Eagle Scout 13 years ago. At that time, the man who was the troop’s scout master had held the position for three years. It was intended for him to serve on a one-year interim basis.
Christopher asked his father if he’d consider taking over as scout master for the group in Cotati that meets by the Rancho Adobe Fire District stationhouse.
“I agreed to do it, became scout master of the local troop, and I held that position for more than 11 years,” Schoenthal said. “I believe I was the longest-tenured scout master the troop ever had.”
Schoenthal no longer serves as the scout master for the local troop, but he still is deeply involved with the Boy Scouts organization.
“I have two different scout roles,” he said. “I am now the Miwok district chairman for the Redwood Empire (Sonoma and Mendocino counties). We have one district (Yokayo-Logger) that’s all Mendocino. Another district (Pomo) is for Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Windsor and Sebastopol. The Miwok is Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma and Sonoma. The other job is associate section advisor for Order of the Arrow.”
The territory for the Order of the Arrow – a national honor society of the Boy Scouts – includes parts of Nevada, the East Bay and the Sacramento area.
Schoenthal has stayed involved with the Boy Scouts because he really believes in the program and all that it has to teach and offer youngsters.
“It’s about the delivery of the leadership and citizenship program to the youth,” he said, adding, “the Boy Scouts isn’t just for boys any more.”
Children were scouts
Both his children were involved in scouting. His daughter, Linnet, who’ll be 23 next month, joined a group called the Venture Scouts when she was in college in Pennsylvania. The Venture Scouts is a co-ed scouting program for those between the ages of 14-21. The Venture Scouts also meet at the same place in Cotati as the Boy Scouts.
Schoenthal also describes his role with the Boy Scouts as that of a mentor and advisor.
“The boy scouts is run by the boys, not by the adults,” he said. “I’m there to mentor and give suggestions, and if they don’t want to take the suggestions, they don’t have to.”
His attitude is that of letting the scouts go through the process of trial and error, as long as things are safe.
“If you lay out your reasons and they have other reasons…that’s what it’s about,” Schoenthal said. “You let them fail because if they fail, they learn form their mistakes. My primary focus is to maintain safety, so if they want to do something that was not safe, I would invoke the scout master rule. If it’s just a hair-brained idea, I let them do it as long as it’s not a safety issue.”
A surprising answer
One question Schoenthal asks seemingly has an easy obvious answer. He poses, “What rank do you think Boy Scouts of America wants all scouts to obtain?”
The first answer that comes to mind would be that of Eagle Scout.
“That’s the obvious answer but that’s not the correct answer, and that’s what I talk to the boys about. The Boy Scouts of America wants each scout to make First Class.”
To get to first class, a scout must reach the level of Tenderfoot, then Second Class and then First Class.
Schoenthal’s work with the Boy Scouts can be time consuming, as he has his district meetings, senior leadership meetings and events that last entire weekends, just to name a few. And he doesn’t see one red cent for his work.
“The standing joke is that it’s only an hour a week,” Schoenthal said with a chuckle. “There are only two paid professionals for the Redwood Empire council that have direct support roles for boys scouts and cub scouts packs. All the rest of us are volunteers.”
Time consuming task
To get the rank of Tenderfoot, scouts have to learn to tie certain knots and learn certain first aid skills. To get from Tenderfoot to Second Class, scouts must learn more knots, more citizen skills and more first aid. To get to First Class, they have to finish that whole set.
Once a scout achieves First Class status, the next step is Eagle Scout. Schoenthal said from that point on, scouts don’t have to learn new knots or first aid techniques. They have to earn a certain 21 merit badges (13 of which are strictly required) to reach Eagle Scout.
Schoenthal is a fourth-generation Sonoma County resident. He proudly states that his grandmother’s maiden name was Guerne (as in Guerneville). He attended college at California State University Los Angeles.
“The only reason I went to Cal State Los Angeles was to get my degree in fire protection administration,” he said. “It was the only school west of the Mississippi that offered a bachelor’s level degree in fire protection administration.”
He retired from the San Rafael Fire Department four years ago as second in command. Schoenthal served for 26 years with the department.
The way the Boy Scouts work, once a scout reaches 18, he or she is aged out of the organization. The only exception is for those with disabilities.
When boys leave the program and new scouts come in, you can bet Schoenthal will wield some sort of positive influence on the youngster.