The guests will be attired in black-tie, but the spirit of the evening will proudly sport the familiar tan and green of the uniform of the Boy Scouts of America.
On the evening of Oct. 23, Boy Scout Troop 1 of Monmouth Beach will conduct the opening ceremony of the formal event sponsored by Monmouth Council, Boy Scouts of America, honoring longtime Scouting leader Carl Gross.
In addition to serving as scoutmaster for 11 years, Gross has held several executive posts — including executive board member, vice president of fund-raising, and council president — and is credited with bringing the troop back to life 15 years ago after a long spell of inactivity.
Gross will receive the 37th Annual Joshua Huddy Distinguished Citizen Award at the ceremony to be held at the Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury. He spoke in a phone interview with NJJN about the joys of juggling his Scouting volunteerism with his family life and his work as an attorney and real estate developer.
“I am very honored they chose me for the award,” said Gross, a Monmouth Beach resident. “This year celebrates my 65th birthday, my 25th wedding anniversary, my son Zachary’s college graduation, and the law school graduation of my nephew Michael, whom I raised.
“I am inviting all my friends and family to come celebrate with me and my wife Mary in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Gross exemplifies leadership at the highest level, while remaining highly active with the troops, said Lee Marconi, executive with the council. “This award reflects Carl’s dedication to the scouting program and to his community. He is an ardent supporter of the Scouting mission and the impact Scouting has on young people in helping develop their leadership skills,” Marconi said. “Carl’s enthusiasm and commitment have been phenomenal.”
Gross, who is actively involved with Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson, and Chabad at the Jersey Shore, has been a critical player in revitalizing the Jewish Committee on Scouting. The committee helps attract Jewish youth to scouting through newly formed packs like Cub Scout Pack 613 at the Ruth Hyman JCC of Greater Monmouth County in Deal. For the last three years at Forestburg Scout Reservation in upstate New York, Gross initiated a shomer Shabbat contingent that attracted some 75 Scouts from around the country and as far away as Israel and Canada. The Monmouth Council also hosted a shomer Shabbat contingent at the National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
During his three-year presidency of the Monmouth Council, Gross drove up to the Forestburg Scout Reservation once a week each summer to meet with Scouts and Scoutmasters. Even after his presidency ended, he continued to make the two-and-a-half-hour trip whenever possible.
“When I became president,” he said, “I thought it was something a president should do. The only way to keep the organization on keel is for everyone to do their own part.
“Whatever help I can offer gives me great satisfaction.”
‘Patience and tact’
Gross’ dedication to Scouting has earned him high regard among the young members and their leaders. When word got out that Gross would be featured in NJJN, phone calls and e-mails poured in.
“Mr. Gross’ influence has really impacted my whole life,” said 20-year-old Adam Sferlazzo of Monmouth Beach, a member of Congregation Torat El, who was in Gross’ Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops. A junior at the College of New Jersey, Sferlazzo credits Gross’ influence for helping him earn a full college scholarship.
“He wasn’t just a Scout leader, he was a mentor and a role model and a family friend,” Sferlazzo said. “He was always there if you needed anything. He always encouraged you to be your best. If it weren’t for him I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I did in Scouting, and as far as I did in academics.”
Joanne Herman, assistant scoutmaster of Monmouth Beach Boy Scouts Troop 1, has worked with Gross for 12 years. “I’ve learned from him the value of patience and tact in dealing with challenging situations, both in the Scouting world and personally. He embraces each member of our troop as if we are extended family. Carl inspires us to be the best person we can be, and to make life really count,” she said.
Assistant scoutmaster Michael Heath said Gross created a culture of high achievement among the members of the troop. The national average of Scouts rising to the highest rank of Eagle is about 3 percent; Troop 1 produces Eagles at around 50 percent, Heath said. “Like a teacher who yearns for his students to go off to college, Mr. Gross has created a mindset among the Scouts that they are all on a path toward achieving the prestigious rank of Eagle. His approachable persona and egalitarian manner toward the scouts and adult leadership has made his tenure a highly successful one.”