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Minsi honors two men ‘who made a difference’

The North Valley District, Minsi Trails Council, Boy Scouts of America, held its annual Friends of Scouting Dinner on Thursday night at the Blue Mountain Ski Area, Lower Towamensing Township, honoring two people who have “made a difference” in the lives of people in the Carbon County community.

Jim Tkach, who with his wife, Sandy, founded the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation, and Donald Behler, a longtime successful businessman and philanthropist, were the guests of honor during the dinner program.

Tkach received the Distinguished Citizen Award, presented by William O’Gurek, treasurer of the foundation and Carbon County commissioner.

Behler accepted the Distinguished Scout Award from his son, Andy, and Craig Poland, Scout executive for the Minsi Trails Council.

Jaime Mendes, a member of the Carbon County Friends of Scouting Dinner Committee and board member of the Minsi Trails Council, served as master of ceremonies, telling a crowd of about 150 people.

“It is more important than ever to mentor and guide our young men to be tomorrow’s leaders by teaching them respect, values and to treat others well. Tonight, I am personally honored to recognize two great men who have done that, who have been tremendous role models and who are pillars in our communities.”

The invocation was asked by Larry Arner, North Valley District chaplain. Logan Kresge, a Life Scout of Troop 209, based out of the Palmerton Rod and Gun Club, explained various activities of a Scout’s journey. Richard and Darlene Nothstein of Palmerton presented Kresge an American flag that flew over Shanksville after the 9/11 attack on America.

Foundation recognized

Before presenting the award to Tkach, O’Gurek pointed out the foundation Tkach and his wife founded following the death of their son, Bo, in 2007, has “put back into our communities close to a quarter-million dollars, including upward of $175,000 for counseling services for children and young adults who might otherwise not receive the care they need and deserve because of the lack of funding and/or insurance.”

Of the Tkachs, he said, they “were beckoned by God to continue to share the kindness they not only have in their hearts, but that which they spent a lifetime of teaching and sharing, through their children, and, now, through the foundation they now head.”

While Tkach himself was the honoree, the former Lehighton and Palmerton resident and retired teacher and successful football coach, preferred to share the honor with members of the foundation.

“We’ve been very fortunate, because we have a great group of individuals who are serving and giving in faith,” he said of foundation members. “We are very touched by this. It’s difficult to put my name on it, because the people in our organization all work together for the cause for which the foundation stands.”

Tkach publicly thanked the Reinhard family of Palmerton for what he called “tremendous support” of the foundation, and said former National Football League player and Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen and his family “have been tremendous to us.”

Overwhelmed by the ongoing support of his family and foundation, Tkach added, “The world is filled with people who are servants. We need to continue to teach young people how to serve.”

Businessman praised

Poland, making the District Eagle Scout presentation, praised Behler and Tkach, saying, “We are very pleased to honor two great individuals, and I can’t say that enough.”

He explained Behler is the recipient of the award from the National Eagle Scout Award Association, honoring the man who became an Eagle Scout as a young boy in Palmerton, served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II, and escalated in the Blue Ridge Pressure Castings company, eventually purchasing it in 1967 and growing the company into a nationally recognized industry leader.

Through those decades, Behler served a number of nonprofit organizations as chairman of the Carbon County American Red Cross, Carbon County Cancer Society fund drive and on the boards of the Mauch Chunk Historical Society and the Mauch Chunk Opera House.

The Minsi Trails Council has been one of Behler’s most highly regarded organizations, having served as district chairman for Carbon County and the Pocono District and its nominating committee. He was also the district’s Membership and Sustaining Membership Enrollment Committee chairman and for 30 years and served on the council’s executive committee.

In accepting the award, Behler recalled being an 11-year-old who was pumping gas in Palmerton when customer Charles Donchez insisted Behler join his Boy Scout troop.

“The strange thing is, in the west end of Palmerton, there wasn’t much scouting in that area, but (Donchez) encouraged me to join, and I am happy that I did.”

Behler humbly accepted the honor, saying, “I wish we could get more kids involved in Scouting. It can lead to a great life.”

Other participants

Troop 209’s color guard, made up of Billy Drake, Luke Drake, Gaige Serfass and Aaron Whitney, presented the colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem sung by Billy Drake.

Jean Papay of Rep. Doyle Heffley’s office presented the two honorees awards from the state House of Representatives.

In addition to Mendes, members of the dinner committee included Sheri Anthony, Joe Bennett, Barbara Green, Michael Harleman, Richard Nothstein, Sue Arner, Jamie Drake, Joe Guardiani and Kerry Paules.

Mendes said the event and associated activities helped to raise over $23,000 in support of local scouting programs.

Donald Behler, left, displays the National Eagle Scout Award presented to him by the Minsi Trails Council, while Jim Tkach holds the Distinguished Citizen Award he received during Thursday night’s Friends of Scouting Dinner. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Andy Behler presents the plaque to his father Don Behler. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO