Troop 1139 partnering with police in new shoveling program

Troop 1139 partnering with police in new shoveling program

Partnering up to help out with snow removal are from left, North Smithfield School Resource Officer Chrystal Lin-Cabral, Scoutmaster Robert Skinner, Troop 1139 member Christian Forant, Senior Patrol Leader Zachary Wetmore, Troop member Nathan Wetmore, Capt. Stephen Riccitelli and School Resource Officer Emmanuel Avila. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – With milder temperatures arriving this week, some residents are beginning to look ahead to the summer months. But North Smithfield Police Capt. Stephen Riccitelli warns the town could still have one more snowstorm in store, and when it comes, the Boy Scouts of Troop 1139 Slatersville will be ready to lend a helping hand.

The Scouters Hall-based troop, in partnership with the North Smithfield Police Department, launched an effort last week to connect volunteers with elderly or disabled residents in need of assistance shoveling snow. According to Scoutmaster Robert Skinner, the initiative is a pilot of a program they hope to continue next winter season.

“This is going to be the first time that we’ve taken on the snow shoveling. We have other projects that we help out in around town as well,” he said.

The idea started with Riccitelli, who told The Breeze police often come across homes in need of shoveling when they’re responding to calls. The initiative is specifically geared toward town residents who would not otherwise be able to shovel on their own, including the elderly and those with disabilities.

“It was a collaborative effort. We thought that it was something that would benefit the town, and we thought we’d reach out to the Boy Scouts, Mr. Skinner in particular, and see if they’d like to collaborate on it, and they were more than happy to do it,” said Riccitelli.

Scouts present at North Smithfield High School earlier this week told The Breeze they were happy to help with the project, though it will be their first foray into volunteer shoveling. The troop regularly participates in other service projects in the community, including Clean and Green Day, Scouting for Food and trail clearing for the North Smithfield Land Trust.

Skinner said the troop has already received inquiries about the program, though they haven’t had the chance to shovel any snow yet. He plans to coordinate volunteers based on location, pre-assigning scouts to assist residents in their neighborhoods.

“We have over 30 scouts in the troop, so we should be able to cover a lot of neighborhoods just by foot and shovel,” he said.

Riccitelli explained that in addition to assisting the town’s older residents, the partnership offers an important service from a public safety perspective. Uncleared snow can block entryways and isolate homes, posing difficulties for police and North Smithfield Fire and Rescue employees called to respond to an emergency.

“We’ve seen some houses that clearly needed some help in shoveling. Maybe they have family but they live out of state, and clearly they need some assistance clearing snow off their property,” he said.

He added the program fills a need that has developed in recent years as fewer people are familiar with their neighbors. In previous generations, he said, it was more common to see groups of kids going around their neighborhoods after a snowstorm offering to shovel out homes. Now, members of Troop 1139 can offer that service with a little planning ahead.

“Now that the program has been started, next year we’ll kick it off much earlier and people will be familiar with it,” he said.

Interested residents can contact Capt. Riccitelli by email at sriccitelli@nspolice.org or Scoutmaster Skinner at robskinner7@gmail.com.