Longtime scout John Strassner distributes smoke detectors

John Strassner handed out smoke detectors as part of his Eagle Scout project. Photo by Andy Swift

Dave Gorgon

John Strassner of Riverview has taken a leadership role in many of his challenging activities. He was captain of his varsity bowling team, was a section leader in the brass section of the band at Riverview Community High School and, most significantly, he has been a leader of other young men in Boy Scout Troop 1659.

It was the latter role that the recently-turned-18-year-old focused on something so important it could save lives. For his community-driven Eagle Scout project, Strassner distributed smoke detectors and fire safety information to anyone who needed them.

Strassner, who graduated from Riverview High this year and attends Wayne County Community College District at the Downriver Campus in Taylor, gathered new smoke detectors from businesses willing to donate them and purchased more with money he gained through bottle and can returns.

He advertised on social media, set up a table outside the Riverview Community Center on Sept. 26 and handed them out along with a pamphlet of fire safety tips with information coming from the National Fire Academy and the Michigan Fire Marshal Bureau.

Strassner said his target was “community risk reduction,” something that is very important during the COVID-19 global pandemic in which many people have their thoughts on worries of the day and when they should remember the importance of fire safety.

As a result, 30 smoke detectors have new homes in Riverview. Those that were left over at the end of the distribution time were donated to the Riverview Fire Department to give to the public. And Strassner is closer to his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout – the highest rank in Scouting.

Strassner said he chose smoke detectors as his Eagle Scout project after learning from his father Jamie Strassner about the significance of the devices. Dad is not only Scoutmaster of Troop 1659, he’s fire chief in Canton.

“My dad suggested it to me when I was trying to think of a project,” the Eagle candidate said. “Studies show that in about half of all housefires there was not a correctly working smoke detector or they’ve been installed in the wrong place or they have dead batteries. That’s a drastic number if you ask me.”

The Strassner family has been into Scouting since John was a young boy. He was 4 years old when brother Joey became a Cub Scout at age 6. Mother Kristy became a den leader.

“I was going to meetings when I wasn’t old enough to be a Cub Scout,” John said. “It’s been part of my life since I can remember.”

Along the way, the boys enjoyed earning badges and attending summer camp, Jamie took over as Scoutmaster, Joe became an Eagle Scout, Kristy turned to helping recruit younger Scouts and John stayed with it.

John is currently a Life Scout – the rank just below Eagle – and has served as senior patrol leader, the Scout who has the “highest authority in the group other than the Scoutmasters.” (He also works at Trentwood Farms in Southgate.)

With a Scoutmaster as a father, John said he learned so much about the importance of being a leader, making sure tasks and challenges are completed and guiding fellow Scouts to work as a team to get them done.

“The entire troop looks up to my dad and appreciates what he does for us,” John said. “He really has taken it seriously… He taught me to lead by example and be a leader, not a follower. Seeing older Scouts were always leading, it’s something I always wanted to be part of.”

Riverview Mayor Andrew Swift, who was on hand for the smoke detector distribution, said the Strassners are community leaders.

“I’ve known John Strassner for years,” Mayor Swift said. “He is the perfect example of what it takes to be an Eagle Scout. He has a good heart, honestly cares about his community and does what it takes to improve it.”

Jamie Strassner said “it’s not always easy” for a child to live up to expectations of a father who is also a Scoutmaster, but both John and Joey developed leadership skills while having enjoyable experiences in Scouting. Joey, by the way, has gone on to become an EMT.

In John’s case, he was the unanimous choice of fellow Scouts to become senior patrol leader, even when there were other older boys to consider for the role.

“The kids wanted Johnny to be their leader,” Jamie Strassner said. “He’s got morals. He’s a good kid. He’s conscientious and observant. He wants to do the right thing and wants others to do the right thing.

“I’ve always taught all of these kids they have to have good communication skills. You have to set good expectations with people. You have a group of kids come together, even when it’s not the most exciting thing to do, and rally around a cause. A leader has to say this is what needs to be done and this is how we’re going to do it.

“Johnny is a hands-on kind of kid. He would never ask others to handle a job while he did nothing. If you want to have other kids do something, you have to be willing to do it yourself. It takes a lot of integrity to be that guy.”

Strassner said he has shown “real growth” in meeting expectations – and the leadership has “bled over to him being a good leader in school.”

As a high school bowler, John has been a four-year varsity letter winner. In his senior year, he was team captain, averaged 190 and qualified for the state tournament.

“I’ve been privileged to coach him for four years,” said Coach Bill Patterson, who was a Boy Scout in his younger days. “He has a good personality and is great with his teammates. He’s just a natural leader.”

Jamie Strassner said John has until Oct. 27 to complete all of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. John must draft an ambition statement talking about his life goals. He must obtain letters of recommendation. And he must face an interview from a Scouting board.

“Johnny had a good project and he’s a good kid,” his Scoutmaster father said. “I have nothing but good things to say about him, especially in the Scouting world.”

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