BARNSTABLE – “Some people come in and look like they really need coffee,” said Alan Healy, 15, a Boy Scout with Yarmouthport Troop 50. Alan and his troop mates staff a weekend tent at the rest area between exit 6 and 7 on the eastbound side of Route 6.
The tent, offering free refreshments, has been operating along Route 6 for about 50 years, according to Kieran Healy, Alan’s father. The rest area is located about 20 miles from the Sagamore Bridge heading on Cape, and about 45 miles to the tip of the Cape.
“When you work the overnight shift, you get people who have been driving for 10 hours or more,” said Kieran, who has volunteered in the tent with his son for the past five years.
They live in Yarmouth. Their shift this day was 6 AM to noon.
Kieran said he is the committee chairman for Troop 50. “I deal with the adults. The scoutmaster deals with the Scouts,” he said. Alan is the the senior patrol leader of Troop 50. “I’m the youth in charge who is not the scoutmaster,” he said.
Together, on the morning of July 4, father and son were the staff inside the 12-foot by 32-foot Korean War era olive green canvas tent where travelers could stop for coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water, or fruit punch. In addition, there were bananas, Chex Mix, Cape Cod Potato Chips, and Honey Dew Donuts.
About a mile before the rest area, Scouts planted a series of signs, asking travelers, “Thirsty?”, “Hungry?” “Lost?” until they reach the final two signs, “Ask Mom”. and “Tell Dad.”
“We’re mainly here to keep people awake, give them a break, talk,” said Kieran, who is from Ireland and first visited Yarmouth 30 years ago on a J1 visa. He worked in a hotel that was owned by his aunt and uncle. He is now a US citizen, and works as a land surveyor.
During the summer the tent, weighing 350 pounds and requiring “two men and two big boys to put up,” is staffed for 48 hours, from noon on Friday until noon on Sunday, said Kieran.
As for working on July 4, Kieran said, “It’s great. You get to meet people. A holiday weekend means work to me.”
He said he really likes how the working in the tent gives his son an opportunity to interact with so many people.
Alan said he especially liked working “the shifts that touch noon (6 AM to Noon, or Noon to 6 PM) because there are lots of people and the time goes by fast.” He was eager to talk about his scouting experience, and show off photos of some camping trips.
He is three merit badges away from being an Eagle Scout. Merit badges help Scouts get an Eagle rank.
Kieran said, “Scouts is all about helping people and volunteering. Everything we do is to volunteer to help other people. All the merit badges and all the Eagle Scout projects are to help other people. Eagle projects must help people other than Scouts.”
And so here they were, at a rest area along the side of Route 6, just offering some refreshments, and, as Kieran said, “We’re basically giving them a reason to stretch their legs.”
Most of the visitors to the tent are headed beyond the Orleans rotary, said Kieran. “If they are stopping at the next exit, they probably don’t need to stop here,” he said. And, he said, a good percentage of them are foreign visitors.
Everything is free, but donations are accepted. On an average weekend, the Scouts raise about $600. The money helps fund the camping trips.
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— Brian Tarcy