Harry and Leslee Evans: “Scoutmasters For Life”
By Matt Oja

While Harry and Leslee Evans don’t live within the North Buckhead boundaries, they sure spend a lot of time here. You’ll see their work and that of their Scout charges’ work all over our area, but let me tell you a little about them first. 

Harry and Leslee met at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico while they were in college. Harry grew up in Oklahoma and Leslee in Texas but they both loved Scouting and went to Philmont regularly where they became good friends. Harry’s persistence for a date paid off and they eventually married. They’ve effectively never left Scouting and raised three children (Harrison, Sarah and Matthew) who whole-heartedly joined – and continue to participate – in Scouting.

Harry says that most kids get introduced to Scouting when they’re in elementary school, then stick with it when they realize how much fun they’re having. Leslee echoed that sentiment when I asked why she joined Boy Scouts and not Girl Scouts. “Skiing! The Scouts went skiing!”, so the hook was set early for her. Until 2018, girls were not allowed to join Cub Scouts or the program then-named Boy Scouts (which are different programs within the Boy Scouts of America) but could join Venturing and Sea Scouting (which are different programs within Scouting); women could be adult volunteers in all programs.

When they first moved to the Meadowbrook subdivision in 1989, they quickly found a church home at St. James United Methodist Church on Peachtree Dunwoody Road and just as quickly volunteered to support the Boy Scout troop there, Troop 370. Harry first joined as an assistant Scoutmaster but took over as Scoutmaster a few years later. Even after moving to Millbrook Drive in Chastain Park, Harry and Leslee kept up their commitment to grow the troop and coach kids on leadership, organizational and outdoor skills.

Leslee officially established the girls Troop 372 in February 2019. The troops at St. James have enjoyed tremendous growth over the years. From an initial 20 boys in 1998 to over 125 today, and the girls troop has grown from an initial eight to 26 in the first eighteen months.

You see their work, you just don’t know it

The St. James troops have made a tremendous impact on North Buckhead, especially through the work of their Eagle Scout candidates. As Harry says, “It’s difficult to go to public spaces in North Buckhead and not run into our projects.”

A few of their community projects include:

  • At Blue Heron Nature Preserve, multiple bridges, trails, and outdoor classrooms have been built by Scouts. One of the girls recently installed six bat boxes along the walking trails.
  • In Little Nancy Creek Park, the stream bank was seriously eroding and was rebuilt by Scouts.
  • PATH 400: Just east of GA400, the PATH 400 extension has been under construction but had to stop as it came upon a 150 year-old cemetery. An Eagle Scout candidate used ultrasound equipment to mark out all grave boundaries and roped out the area so construction could continue.
  • Multiple beautification efforts at St. James church.
  • At Mountain Way Common, many Scouts have been working the conservation area under GA400. Many invasive species had taken over and erosion had worsened significantly, leaving the area nearly unusable. Scouts partnered with residents and other volunteers “to take it back and our Scouts have led the way”, says Harry, “removing the non-native plants with native species and creating walkable trails.”

 Why do kids want to be in Scouting today?

I asked them, why do you think Scouting is still relevant in today’s world of multiple screens and seemingly hundreds of activity choices. Harry replied, “An 11 year-old is starting mostly because parents encourage them to try it out but the kids are referring their friends. But the program has to hit two buckets: parents have to believe it’s worth the time compared to the alternatives, and so do the kids. There are lots of choices out there, especially in North Buckhead where we are blessed with lots of options.”

“A huge percentage of our Scouts work towards the Eagle rank by the time they’re 18. And I’ve been so impressed with how our Scouts have carried on the program during the pandemic, particularly how our 16 and 17 year-olds who lead the program have done a phenomenal job keeping the weekly meetings going via Zoom.”

“The kids in the program don’t know that they’re learning all this stuff,” says Leslee. “They’re just here to have fun – they just want to go camping! We do everything the guys do…but better!”

She thought a little more. “They join so they can do cool stuff. They just don’t realize they’re learning how to be leaders.”

So we thank our neighbors Harry and Leslee Evans for being great neighbors and for helping develop the children and teenagers of North Buckhead!