Story by Melanie Mays of the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council

“What in the world are you kids gonna do with 50 cups of coffee?” the clerk at the truck stop asked my 7-year-old daughter, Dakota and 10-year-old son, Demarkus.

I just grinned and let the kids explain. After all, it was their idea.

Demarkus spoke first, “We had to leave our house in Florida and go to North Carolina because Hurricane Irma was coming. Now we’re driving back home since the storm is gone. My mom was telling us about how all the truckers are bringing water and supplies to help the people in places that got hit by the hurricane. She explained how hard truckers work and how much people depend on the supplies they are bringing.

So, I got to thinking, Mom ALWAYS needs lots of coffee when she has to drive a long way. And truckers drive a lot, so I’ll bet they would like some coffee, too!”

Dakota chimes in, “When we were at my friend’s house, we got to make tons of Kindness Rocks. We picked our favorite rocks, painted them and put nice words on them. We are bringing them home so we can set them all over the place for people to find, and hopefully the rocks will make people happy. We were at my friend’s house for a long time waiting for that hurricane to pass, so we made a lot of rocks!”

“Yeah, so, it was MY idea to buy coffee for all the truckers and my sister’s idea to give them Kindness Rocks, too.” Demarkus explained to the clerk.

“Well,” the clerk nodded her head toward the parking lot where the truckers were waiting to get the all-clear to head into Florida, “you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got trucks, and we’ve got coffee. How about I make you a deal? I’ll give you a nice discount. How does $20 for all 50 sound?”

My kids were so excited. What could I do? I reached into my pocket and proudly plopped down our last $20.

It was quite a thing to witness. My two kids enthusiastically greeting bleary-eyed truckers as they entered the convenience store –– Dakota holding out Kindness Rocks and Demarkus offering them a free cup of coffee!

The truckers were a combination of confused and grateful. When they would ask the kids why they were doing this Demarkus replied, “We figure you probably had to drive a long way here to help people, so we want to help you.”

Some of the truckers offered to pay the kids for the coffee. Some stayed and chatted, describing what they were hauling to Florida. I can honestly say, all left the truck stop smiling. 

When we started back on the road, the kids could hardly contain themselves. They now had a very unique story about a “Good Turn” they’d done, and they couldn’t wait to share it with their pack.

This story is just one example of why, for me, there has never been a question whether Scouting is worth the time, effort and money.

It hasn’t always been easy. A couple of years ago I had no idea how everything was going to work out. My two young children and I had moved from the only home they’d ever known in the rolling hills of North Carolina to a small sea-side community in Florida. Our lives had been very unpredictable.

While I was looking for a permanent place to live, we had to stay in a motel and balance everything that comes with a long-distance move, plus find a job, go to work, and get the kids settled in school. It was a lot of juggling, and I wanted to make sure to set aside time to really connect with my kids and help them feel “at home” in this new city. I had to find a way to get us out of that cramped motel room, if just for one night a week. I made a decision long ago about what kind of kids I wanted to put into this world. I knew exactly where we would go.

I found out when and where the next Cub Scout meeting was going to be held and the rest is history. When we entered the room for our first Cub Scout meeting, I watched the swirl of activity around me, wondering how we fit into this picture. Demarkus, being rather shy, stuck close to me while Dakota buzzed around the room like a bee meeting other kids. There were parents chatting in a corner and a few very busy folks in uniforms arranging chairs and moving tables. 

At this meeting I found out the pack was shrinking because parent volunteers were crossing over with their kids to the Scouts BSA troop. So I raised my hand once that night and BAM! I’m a den leader. Just like that, I was leading my first wolf den, and Demarkus had 6 new friends. I definitely had more questions than answers, and my fellow Scout families were right there to help me figure everything out.

If I were to make a list of what I have in common with the other families in my pack, it would be quite short.  We don’t live, shop or worship in the same areas. But we bond around the vision and dreams we have for our kids. The values and morals of Scouting connect us. People I never would have met are now my best friends. They are my family, my Scouting family.

As a parent, how do I know I am raising the best kids I can? I look for evidence. Evidence like my kids helping others by giving away free coffee and Kindness Rocks. I watch how they treat those they don’t know. I see how they pay respect to those who sacrifice. I witness the gratitude they put into the world.  We can’t expect schools to provide all the skills and lessons necessary for kids to become leaders. This is why I choose Scouting.   

Melanie, thank you for telling your Scouting story! The love and friendship connecting you and the other families in Pack 8 is but one reason your pack now has over 100 Cubs! As evidenced by the kindness Demarkus and Dakota readily show to others, you are raising our future leaders to show compassion and gratitude.

Thank you for choosing Scouting. We are grateful for the time, talent and treasure you so readily give. Scouting only happens because of people like you!

Congratulations to Russell Etzenhouser, who will serve as Scout executive of the Orange County Council in Santa Ana, California, effective December 1, 2019.

Russell began his Scouting career as an Exploring executive at the Hiawatha Council in Syracuse, New York. He moved on to become the camping director and later director of camping services of the Orange County Council in Costa Mesa, California. He was promoted to director of field service of the Circle Ten Council in Dallas, Texas, and then to Scout executive of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council in Buffalo, New York. 

Russell is an Eagle Scout who enjoys hiking and Scouting with his family. Russell and his wife, Beth, have two children.

Please join us in congratulating Russell in the comments below as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Orange County Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Article contributed by Janice Downey of the National Service Center Marketing Group.

As you think about planning for 2020 and preparing for your annual planning conferences,  use this high-level information about upcoming membership, marketing and program initiatives to help inform and support your local efforts. Marketing has put together a new resource to assist Councils in 2020 Planning called the 2020 Council Marketing Packet.

  • Included are highlights from Marketing, Membership and Program all in one place.
  • This piece or individual slides can easily be added to any presentation you do to highlight important resources available now and “coming soon”.
  • This new powerpoint will be available via Scout Executive packet and Scouting Wire in November and December.

For more information visit this page.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Janice for contributing this article.

Article submitted by David Nelson of the Great Alaska Council

Fall recruitment is one the most exciting times of the year for Scouting. Setting forth to deliver the promises of outdoor adventure, positive family interactions, and strong character development instills a sense of hope and renewal each year. One of the challenges that is surfacing more and more is that there is a misalignment between the number of Packs serving available schools. In some districts, Packs serve whichever school is most convenient, while others employ limits based on geography alone. A strategic conversation with your unit leaders on the appropriate number of schools a Pack should serve can be done in three simple steps. Doing so will uncover new opportunities for growth within existing packs and will help identify new Pack prospects.  

Step One: Develop a Plan to Right-Size Existing Packs

Each month I create time in my schedule to take an in-depth look into the membership of all the Packs that make up my district. I delve into the total membership and then into individual dens. Doing this shows me a few things: the Pack growth potential, the effectiveness of each Pack’s recruitment endeavors, and the Pack’s ability to retain members on an annual basis. Once this analysis is complete, I hold a conversation with unit leaders (people who are committed to the growth of the Pack) and ask what things we can do to ensure that they have full dens for all ages. If they are a small Pack, I recommend that they should limit themselves to serving only two schools. Packs that are significantly larger could consider long-term plans to ensure that every youth has a chance for meaningful recognition. Leaders have told me that their upper threshold is around 80 Scouts and that a conversation about intentionally branching off into a new Pack has helped them to expand into more communities.

Step Two: Find or Develop an Effective Planning Tool

A tool that is easily accessible for me and the membership growth volunteers I work with is essential. I am particularly skilled in cartography; two months before the start of the school year I began map making. I first began with a printout map of the district with every elementary school (public and private) visibly marked. From there I added all my Cub Scout Packs and connected them with their traditional schools. I found great benefit in my map this year—the perspective was valuable. Through this process, I discovered one Pack in my district was serving a school that was 30 miles away from where they meet! I was able to show unit leaders that distance between a school and meeting locations limits a Pack. The visual representation helps me to share the powerful narrative of why parents would prefer good Scouting programs that are more conveniently located in their own neighborhoods.

Step Three: Develop and Strengthen Connections

Connections are crucial to everything we do. Recruiting, Friends of Scouting, and community involvement all depend on our ability to connect with passionate people in our districts. I like to ask unit leaders about a Pack’s connection to schools and about what I can do to help them make the connection stronger.

My volunteers and I have discussed that strong connections include regularly going to PTA meetings, being familiar with the school’s administration, knowing the key parents who lead other events like carnivals, fundraisers, and community service events. If a Pack is serving five schools, it is not likely that they are able to consistently accomplish these things. Packs with school connections provide the best service to families in a community. My role as a Scouting professional is to uncover the great opportunity to develop these connections and facilitate them among my unit leaders.

This approach has helped me to strengthen relationships with my existing units. Direct conversations about our roles in the volunteer/professional partnership serve as the building blocks to successful membership growth. When we develop and implement a plan to ensure that the very best version of Scouting is delivered to every youth in a Pack, we see amazing results.  This begins with ensuring that each Pack understands and subscribes to its capacity and potential.

Scouting Wire would like to thank David for submitting this article

Article submitted by Gene Butler, Growth Coach of the Central Region.

Religious emblems programs have been part of Scouting’s “Duty to God” for many years and support the Declaration of Religious Principle. Although the religious emblems have always been recognized in terms of “program or advancement,” they have been overlooked in terms of “membership” and should be used by local councils to strengthen charter partner relationships, increase membership and manpower, improve retention, and enhance program. Simply put, religious emblems and faith-based relationships reinforce the values found in the Scout Oath and Law. 

The religious emblems programs are created by the various religious groups and faith traditions who partner with the BSA to encourage youth to grow stronger in their faith. The BSA has approved these programs and allows the recognition to be worn on the official uniform, but each religious organization and faith tradition—not the Boy Scouts of America—develops and administers its own curriculum and emblems. 

Religious emblems signify the work one completes learning about their faith tradition and its customs. These programs are graduated programs that teach youth or serve as ministry through curriculum developed by leaders and educators in their own faith. Most traditions have multiple emblems for each Scouting program that align with requirements for Duty to God Adventures, Scout Spirit, and the Venturing TRUST Award. Similar to other advancement within BSA programs, when youth earn the emblem of their faith, they advance more frequently and are registered longer. Likewise, faith-based units traditionally are more sustainable. By providing an instant and visible connection between Scouting and a faith community, the religious emblems programs can help councils reach diverse groups and specific geographic areas or communities not already being served by Scouting.

Congregations benefit from this program, as well. The religious emblems programs can help a congregation embrace Scouting not as an outside group that meets in its building, but as an integral part of their education or ministry with youth and community outreach. Local congregations will not only be providing religious instruction through the religious emblems programs, but they will also be strengthening the spiritual component of the Scouting program. Furthermore, Scouting’s annual recruitment efforts regularly bring young people and families through the doors of the congregation. Past BSA studies have shown that 17% of all Scouts have their first exposure to faith through Scouting programs chartered to a congregation. 

According to the Search Institute, Scouting and Religious Community are two of the 40 Developmental Assets for positive youth development. Both organizations share concern about the same areas of education and ministry: increased participation by families and youth, outreach, and leader development. Understanding that the BSA does not create religious emblems is the key to leveraging religious emblem programs and allows councils to initiate dialogue with local congregations about one of their own resources designed to serve their youth.

Five ways to encourage a faith base organizations to embrace Scouting:

  1. Ask a religious leader that doesn’t have a Scouting program to consider working with youth of their religion with the Religious Program of their faith.
  2. Consider a “Ten Commandment Hike” as a public relations event to promote Duty to God and A Scout is Reverent.
  3. Together We Organize event of the same faith-based organization.
  4. Scout Sunday promotion. Working with the Council Religious Relationship Committee to promote and identify Scouting activities in the respective faith-based organization.
  5. Volunteer Recognition. An opportunity for the religious leader to acknowledge their scout leaders who are working with youth in their organization.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Gene for submitting this article.

Congratulations to Jeff Schwab as Scout executive of the De Soto Area Council in El Dorado, Arkansas, effective December 1, 2019.

Jeff began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Southeast Missouri Council in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He moved on to become the field director of the Gamehaven Council in Rochester, Minnesota, and then Scout executive of the Allohak Council in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He was later promoted to Scout executive of the Georgia-Carolina Council in Augusta, Georgia. In 2017, Jeff joined the National Council staff as a Program Development Specialist on the World Scout Jamboree team.

Jeff is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow who enjoys golf, scuba diving, travel and baseball.

Jeff and his wife, LaVonne, have one Eagle Scout son named Justin.

In the comments below, please help us send Jeff  our well wishes as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the De Soto Area Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Please join us as we congratulate Matt Klutzaritz, who will serve as Scout executive of the Pine Tree Council in Portland, Maine, effective January 1, 2020.

Matt began his Scouting career as an exploring executive at the Minsi Trails Council in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He moved on to become a district executive, district director, Scoutreach director, field director, and director of field service of the council before being selected to serve as Scout executive of the Northeast Iowa Council in Dubuque, Iowa.

Matt enjoys music and sports.

Matt and his wife, Carolyn, have two children: Mark (19) and Jamie (16).

In the comments below, please help us welcome Matt to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Pine Tree Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Please join us as we congratulate Jeff Brasher, who will serve as Scout executive of the Norwela Council in Shreveport, Louisiana, effective November 15, 2019.

Jeff began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Tukabatchee Area Council in Montgomery, Alabama. He moved on to become the senior district executive and later field director of the Istrouma Area Council in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was promoted to field director, program director, and then director of support services of the Greater Alabama Council in Birmingham, Alabama, before being selected to serve as Scout executive of the Northwest Georgia Council in Rome, Georgia.

Jeff is an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and Professional Circle Award recipient.

Jeff and his wife, Auburn, enjoy kayaking, hiking, cooking, reading, and attending Auburn University football games.

In the comments below, please help us welcome Jeff to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Norwela Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

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