Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles spotlighting area volunteers and their organizations. To nominate a volunteer go here.
With his still-strong Australian accent and rugged exterior, it’s no wonder why Richmond Hill’s Max Coles is affectionately called “Mad Max” -- seemingly a reference to the character in the 1979 film starring Mel Gibson.
“My nickname with my kayak buddies is Mad Max,” Coles explained. “The MAD is Make a Difference,” not short for someone battling crazed biker gangs in the dystopian future.
Coles certainly makes a difference within his community. “I’ve always been a volunteer of some sort. I used to do Junior Achievement. I was on the YMCA board.”
But it’s his last 15 years as Scoutmaster for Boy Scouts Troop 486 at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Richmond Hill where Coles is making his biggest impact.
He has spent countless hours mentoring young men. “As a mother of two of those boys, I want him to know I see all the work he puts into Scouting and I want him to know he is appreciated,” said Nicky Hurt, who nominated Coles for the Volunteer Spotlight.
Not bad for someone who had no prior Scouting experience.
Coles hails from Sydney, Australia, and is 69 years old, but looks years younger. He was in the Australian Air Force for 20 years as a navigator, and had a 24-year-career as an analyst with Gulfstream. He retired two years ago and has made Richmond Hill his home since 1988.
He became active in Scouting when his youngest son, Tim, was a Cub Scout, and was a year away from crossing into Boy Scouts. “We had a pack here, but no troop at the church, so I decided it was time we started a troop,” Coles said. He took on the role of Scoutmaster, and has never looked back.
Over the years he has volunteered countless hours with camping and canoe trips, outdoor training and first aid, and is vice chairman of the Scouts’ Atlantic District, which serves all of Savannah and South Bryan County.
Troop 486 has grown in size since its inception, going from just seven Scouts in the first year, to 26 active today. “We have good support from the church,” he added.
Coles calls Scouting “the greatest youth training organization the world has ever seen,” and is “the joy of my life.”
He says it’s gratifying to see young men and women go through Scouting and use those skills they acquired to become successful in life.
“I wake up each day knowing that I’m doing something worthwhile,” Coles said, “because I’m working with an organization that is doing something great in a crazy world.”