In the basement of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, amid the singing and the homecooked food, was the joy of unbelievably good news:

Boy Scout Troop 358 will participate next month in the historic presidential inaugural parade in Washington.

"It's amazing to me," said 16-year-old senior patrol leader Derrick Kershaw, grinning in braces near a buffet table at Wednesday evening's scout holiday party.

Kershaw, a scout since first grade, has several lines of merit badges, including ones in first aid, swimming and graphic arts, sewn onto his khaki-and-green uniform. He loves being outdoors, and now he gets to participate in "something that happens once in a lifetime."

Like most of the scouts, Kershaw found himself captivated during the height of the campaign.

Every night, he and his family huddled in front of the television, flipping through news channels, obsessed with the possibility.

After Barack Obama's victory, his mother, Suzanne, was scouring the Internet for inauguration tickets for her family when she came across an opportunity for scouts to actually be in the parade.

When she presented the application at the next troop meeting, no one questioned the troop's chances, though the deadline was in two days.

"This election gave everybody a sense of possibility," said Suzanne Kershaw, 54. "We're now living in a season of hope, and that moves you to act."

For generations, Troop 358 has celebrated proud milestones. It's one of the oldest African American troops in the country, according to the Congressional Record. And in its 54 years, 52 members have risen to Eagle Scout, with four on the horizon.

"We don't have a record of criminals. We don't have a record of dropouts," said the Rev. G. Daniel Jones, lamenting the stereotypes of young black males while praising the troop's history of educational achievement and community service. "We have dedicated leaders committed to giving these young men a chance."

Two weeks ago, the scouts received the news. Out of about 1,400 applicants, their troop would be in the parade, on an official float, in full uniform.

"It feels great," echoed Terrell Barringer, 17, a star quarterback at Dobbins High and soon-to-be Eagle Scout.

"Obama is just-" he gushed. "To see a black face in the middle of this, and now to be a part of it. This is something I will tell my kids about."

"It definitely inspires them," said scoutmaster Brian Wallace, 31. "It gives them a sense of the opportunities that scouting provides."

The troop's next challenge: travel, lodging and food.

During Wednesday's party, the chairman of the troop committee, Charles Whiting - who is also principal of Dobbins High School - told the boys that they won't spend a night in a hotel. Instead, their bus will likely leave Philadelphia at midnight to beat the expected gridlock. The scouts will basically live on the bus until showtime, possibly putting some of those merit badges to use.

The boys also need new duds - Boy Scout uniforms have just been redesigned. Since the weather in January is "iffy," Whiting suggested that parents buy larger shirts to leave room for layers.

With uniforms costing about $100, Whiting has arranged for Dobbins fashion students to sew badges and hem cuffs.

"We're going to make sure you don't have to suffer too much," he told parents.

The trip will cost another $100 for expenses such as food and transportation. How to raise the money will be discussed at the scout meeting early next month.

Mark Bundick, 39, wearing a Santa hat, came to the party with his 13-year-old son, Nigel.

"Who would've thought we'd get to see something like this?" he asked. "Now he's going to be a part of it. I guess he gets a better view than I do, and that makes me so proud."