Spotlight on Los Alamos: Longtime scout lands perfect job

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By Kelly LeVan

“Sometimes people tell me, ‘I was an Eagle Scout,’” said Paul Rhein, Boy Scouts district executive for Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Taos counties. “But there’s no ‘was.’ Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”

The Eagle badge requires, among other activities, many hours devoted to organizing and leading a final service project. Rhein, now 24, completed his in 2000, when he and a group of some 30 helpers put reflective tape on fire hydrants in their district, Farmington. Collaborating with the local fire department, the group spent more than 100 man-hours making the hydrants easier for firemen to spot quickly at night.

Rhein said that between his project and a similar, follow-up project conducted by his best friend, “we covered most of the town.”

Part of Rhein’s current job involves locating Eagle Scouts who might no longer be active in scouting but could nevertheless be a great resource. Rhein is hoping to create a database of Eagle Scouts within the district he can call on for their expertise.

“This program doesn’t exist without volunteers,” he said.

It also wouldn’t exist without Rhein, who is constantly available for troop leaders and their scouts – to answer questions, deliver permits and applications, offer new ideas and help the troops raise funds to support their many activities.

In the district, he works with about 700 youth, including a number of girls who take part in the Boy Scouts’ explorer and venturing programs. In Los Alamos and White Rock, he helps sustain some 245 Cub Scouts, 155 Boy Scouts, 25 Varsity Team participants and 39 Venturing crew members.

“My job is to rally the public,” he said, “to get support for scouting and to the get the word out that scouting is doing good in our community.”

Rhein grew up outside Provo, Utah, but his family moved to New Mexico when he was still in school, and he graduated from Farmington High School. He then spent two years in Norway on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching and offering support to local churches.

Rhein, his wife Nicole and Taylor, the couple’s 10-month-old daughter, moved to Los Alamos from Idaho, where Rhein was attending Brigham Young University.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in December.

When he graduated, he wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to take, he said. But ultimately, the choice was easy.

“I wanted to get involved in something that would make a difference in other people’s lives,” he said. “This program is doing exactly that.”

Clearly, the pride Rhein took in his Eagle project continues to grow as he works with an organization he deeply admires.

“The best thing about Boy Scouts is that while the boys are having fun, they’re also learning to become more responsible citizens, good fathers and better people overall,” Rhein said. “Other than churches, there isn’t an organization that does those things better than Boy Scouts of America.”

He said that as the organization approaches its centennial in 2010, “I’d like to see our presence in the community expanded way more.”

Although scouting thrives in Los Alamos, he said, he would like to see an annual scout show at Ashley Pond, where scouts could distribute information on scouting opportunities the public might not be aware of.

For instance, Rhein said, many don’t know about Explorer, which currently has two Los Alamos youth working directly with police officers, doing ride-alongs and learning what it takes to someday join the force.

He also looks forward to celebrating the 90th anniversary of Los Alamos Troop 22, which has remained strong ever since the Ranch School days, when the boys had to wear shorts year-round and sleep on the porch at Fuller Lodge.

Scouting – like everything else – has changed since then. But certain lessons endure.

“We want people to feel scouting is relevant to our time,” he said. “We still stand for values that are essential in a community – values boys carry with them throughout their lives. I owe a lot of who I am to what I learned with Boy Scouts.”

He said a lot of his energies go toward promoting scouting in Rio Arriba and Taos, where scouting isn’t as popular as in Los Alamos. Nevertheless, he and his wife are thrilled to make the Hill their home.

“We’re more than glad to come down here,” he said. “Nicole has a degree in education, and understands the value of a well-educated community, and we both appreciate how welcomed we’ve felt and how quickly we’ve made friends.”

Furthermore, he said, “It’s a beautiful view out my window.”

To find out more about Boy Scouts, to contribute or to volunteer, call Rhein at 695-0766 or e-mail him at prhien@bsamail.org. Visit the Boy Scouts website at www.scouting.org.