‘Right in My Wheelhouse’

TMMK’s Charas, who thrived as a Boy Scout, returns the favor by serving as the scoutmaster of Troop 41 in Lexington

March 24, 2020
Mountaintop Experience -- James Charas, left, and his son Sam catch their breath after hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

When James Charas was a boy, he was also a Boy Scout. So when his son came of age, it’s only natural that he’d want him to have a similar experience — if not take it to an even higher level.

“Sam is an Eagle Scout,” says Charas, who over the past 27 years has risen to become a manager of engineering in Assembly at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK). “I only made it to Life.”

Charas, though, is more than just a proud father. He’s also the scoutmaster of Troop 41 in Lexington, even though Sam is too old now to be a scout. That means heading up weekly meetings at a local church, organizing monthly weekend campouts and orchestrating week-long trips to Camp Crooked Creek in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, and — when the opportunity presents itself — even longer adventures at Philmont Scout Ranch in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern New Mexico.

It all added up to more than 1,000 volunteer hours in 2019, more than any other TMNA team member on record. But Charas doesn’t give the giving a second thought.

Back to Nature -- Charas (far right) pauses with scouts and other adult leaders at the top of Thunder Point in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area a mere 400 yards from the Canadian border.

“Scouting is right in my wheelhouse,” he says. “No. 1, I love camping. I also agree with and promote the mission of scouting, which is to teach kids how to be leaders and how to make good choices. That’s what it was all about when I was a boy and it’s never changed.”

It can also be physically demanding. Charas says the most advanced of the 84 scouts under his wing will routinely hike 20 miles or more, with a full backpack, to get to a campsite.

“Scouting is helping to keep me fit, that’s for sure!” he says. “The biggest hardship for the kids is that they have to give up their cell phones when we’re camping. They don’t like being separated from their video games. But once you get them on the trail, they don’t even think about them.”

Charas reengaged with the Boy Scouts of America when Sam was old enough to be a Cub Scout. He plans to remain fully involved at least until he retires from TMMK.

“It’s very rewarding to help children get a good launch into life,” Charas says. “There’s more to life than just work.”

Inspired to follow in Charas’ volunteering footsteps? Check out Toyota4Good to learn how Toyota stands ready to support you and the worthy cause of your choosing.

By Dan Miller


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