As part of a new series, Scouting Wire is taking a look at how members of our Scouting family across the country observe a variety of religious holidays of their own faith and support fellow unit members in theirs.

This month, join us as we hear from the leader of a Cub Scout den from the Circle Ten Council who tells us in his own words how the den recognizes Ramadan. Read on to hear den leader Hussain Jinnah offer his unique perspective on this holiday, its traditions, and how his very own Cub Scout community – including his Tiger Scout son Cyrus – honors this special time.

Please share your perspective on Ramadan and what you feel it means to those who observe it.

Hussain: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month begins and ends with the appearance of the new moon. This year, it is observed from May 5th – June 4th.

For thirty days, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food and beverages. It is a way to feel solidarity with millions of poor and hungry people around the world who fast day and night without choice. Of course, exceptions are made for people with health concerns, pregnant women, nursing mothers, postpartum women, children, and seniors.

Ramadan is more than just fasting. Muslims put extra emphasis on introspection, self-restraint, self-reflection, prayers, charity, and selflessness to improve one’s character and benefit society. This, in turn, is a way to cleanse the soul and have empathy for the less fortunate.

The conclusion of Ramadan is marked with a major celebration known as Eid al-Fitr (or Eid ul-Fitr), the Feast of Fast-Breaking. Families often receive clothes, money and gifts during that time.

Scouts who observe this holiday can show consideration by doing service projects to help the less fortunate, feeding the hungry, collecting donations for food banks, doing additional charity work, and educating other non-Muslims about what Ramadan represents.

As one way to support those who celebrate Ramadan, a nice gestures is to accommodate Muslims by helping them avoid food during this time.

How does your Cub Scout den like to celebrate Ramadan?

Hussain: By observing the protocol, giving back to the less fortunate and celebrating with fellow Scouts over food (when appropriate).

How did your family get involved in Scouting?

Hussain: Scouting resonates with our core values as a Muslim community and what we fundamentally believe in as a family. We couldn’t find a better program to instill character, citizenship and ethics in our kids.

Special thanks to Scouter, Scout father, and handball coach extraordinaire Hussain Jinnah of the Circle Ten Council for sharing his story on Scouting Wire. 

Congratulations to Dirk M. Smith, who will serve as Scout executive of the Montana Council in Great Falls, Montana effective May 16, 2019.

Dirk began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Put-Han-Sen Area Council in Findlay, Ohio. He moved on to become the senior district executive and then field director with the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later promoted to field director and director of field service of the Connecticut Rivers Council in Hartford, Connecticut, and then was selected to serve as Scout executive of the Suffolk County Council in Medford (Long Island), New York. In 2014, Dirk was promoted to the National Service Center where he has since served as the Northeast Region talent manager.

Dirk is an Eagle Scout who enjoys working out, playing golf, swimming, and reading.

Dirk has an Eagle Scout son in Cincinnati, Ohio and a daughter in Denver, Colorado.

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

Story contributed by Laura Clay, district director, Catuenga, of the Western Los Angeles County Council

As our council’s family Scouting staff advisor, I was working with an organizer for all-girl troop, Troop 642 in Calabasas, CA during August and September when they expressed a desire to reserve Camp Josepho for their troop to do camporee prep. After some discussion with staff in our camping department, as well as other girl troop organizers during our “Scouts BSA Boot Camp” in October, we decided to move forward with a “Trail to First Class” event with the goal of offering an opportunity for girls to easily get a taste of what Scouting is like, as well as connecting all of the brand new troops to one another.

The “Trail to First Class” Event

Once word got out, the Scouting community came together to create an amazing event. We recruited young female staffers from our camps to lead stations and many adults from the new troops stepped up as well. We also spread the word to surrounding councils, as there are several in the Los Angeles area and we could clearly see the desire was there for an event encompassing all the new troops of young women.

At the event, we offered eight stations: swimming, fire-building, knife, ax & saw, first aid, rifles, knots, and nature. Almost all of the staffing was female, as one of our goals was for the girls to see other female role models already in Scouting. During campfire, our council commissioner, Jessica Pazdernik, spoke about what Scouting meant to her, how she was proud of her daughter now being invited to join, and how the girls can step up to be leaders in their community by supporting each other. We also had guest speaker Sherri Zhu from a company that sends youth from China to our Scout camps talk about the international Scouting movement.

The mood was electric, with 100+ new Scouts from 20 troops across 7 councils – Orange County, GLAAC, WLACC, Venture County, Verdugo Hills, Los Padres, and California Inland Empire – and lots of excitement from the girls, their leaders, staff, and everyone who came out to visit. “I was feeling burnt out as a volunteer, but this event and the invitation of girls into Scouting has re-energized me completely,” shared Howard Schwartz of Troop 642.

The girls left not only with several requirements towards the first few ranks, but they also gained lasting friendships as well! I’ve seen many girls tagging each other on social media about the event and in news coverage for girls’ troops since then! 

To see more photos from the event, check out their Flickr album. Councils are encouraged to orchestrate similar events in their communities to continue building the momentum of welcoming girls into Scouting.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Laura Clay for contributing this story.

Please help us congratulate George Villalobos, who will serve as Scout executive of the Ventura County Council in Camarillo, California effective June 1, 2019.

George began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Los Angeles Area Council in Los Angeles, California. During his tenure with the council, now known as the Greater Los Angeles Area Council, he successfully served as director of all markets, director of development, director of field service, and for the last three years as deputy Scout executive.

George enjoys outdoor activities including golf, hiking, and camping. Most of all, he enjoys time spent with family, reading, and being active in the community.

George and his wife, Lorraine, have two Eagle Scout sons, George and David. They also have a daughter, Rachel, who claims she would have been an Eagle Scout as well.

In the comments below, please join us in congratulating George as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Ventura County Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

You may have heard media coverage discussing the Boy Scouts of America’s Volunteer Screening Database and our organization’s Youth Protection efforts. The safety of children in our Scouting programs is our top priority. As an organization, we have an important duty and an incredible opportunity to focus on keeping children safe, supported, and protected. 

Our Volunteer Screening Database, previously known as “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” is at the forefront of youth protection procedures. While it has often been misunderstood and criticized, time and time again it has successfully prevented potential predators from re-joining our organization and gaining access to youth – which is precisely why we have been maintaining these records since the 1920s. 

The database system is one of the approaches most often recommended by experts, including the Centers for Disease Control, to keep kids safe and is a collection of information on individuals who, due to past inappropriate behavior or suspicion of inappropriate behavior, are prohibited from participating in BSA programs.

How the Volunteer Screening Database (VSD) works:

  • Individuals are added to the Volunteer Screening Database based on violations of our policies, or suspected violations of our policies. They don’t need to have been convicted to be added to the VSD. We have a very low threshold for removing someone from our scouting programs. Again – this is because our priority is to protect kids, first and foremost, above all else. We believe victims and routinely remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior.
  • When an individual is added to the VSD, they are removed entirely from any Scouting program. They are also prohibited from re-joining anywhere.
  • Every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement. Once the individual has been removed from Scouting and has been reported to law enforcement, the BSA has no other avenue for further investigation or public disclosure. 

Our goals for protecting children go beyond our organization– we seek to be part of the solution both in and out of Scouting.

The BSA fully supports and advocates for the creation of a national registry overseen by a governmental entity, similar to the national sex offender registry, of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, and thus allowing all youth serving organizations to share and access such information. We have advocated to Congress for enhanced youth protection policies, initiatives, and efforts. Specifically, BSA has recommended to Congress the following programs and ideas that independent experts agree will keep children safe, including:

  • Establishing and funding a system where volunteers can register/be cleared through a common screening process for all states and organizations, with an affordable process for conducting background checks and periodically renewing the clearance to reduce the risk that potential abusers can gain access to children by moving across state lines or to other youth serving organizations;
  • Enabling youth-serving organizations to share information about individuals who have been removed from their programs for alleged inappropriate conduct – even if the individuals have not been arrested or convicted – to keep potential abusers out of these organizations;
  • Strengthening mandatory reporting laws; and,
  • Requiring that sex abuse offenders serve full sentences.

We are optimistic about these efforts because we know that they will make a difference – we have seen firsthand the impact they’ve had on our own organization’s steps to protect children.

For more information on BSA’s Youth Protection efforts, please visit

Fellow Scouters, 

The tragedy of child abuse, be it physical, sexual, or emotional is one that is truly heartbreaking. 

Painfully, there have been incidents of abuse that occurred in our program, and we sincerely apologize that some despicable individuals used their positions in Scouting to harm children.

First and foremost, the Boy Scouts of America believes victims. To those who were harmed – we grieve with you, we respect you, and we want to help you heal. Over the years, Scouting has provided counseling for victims, no questions asked, for as long as they needed it. Our commitment and responsibility to victims is in keeping with the tenants of the Scout Oath and Law – it’s at the core of everything we stand for. That means we want victims to receive fair compensation, and we are committed to finding the best way to do that.

We are also committed to fulfilling our duty to serve the millions of youth and families currently in our programs. Those Scouts and families count on us to deliver life-changing character and leadership opportunities provided by the outdoor adventure methods of Scouting. And, the safety of the youth in our programs is paramount.

I want to be clear – the Boy Scouts of America has never knowingly allowed those who have committed inappropriate acts with children to remain in our program.

Long before there were smart phones, email, fax machines, the internet, criminal databases or other modern methods available to identify or track predators, the BSA kept records to ensure that anyone seen as unfit to be a leader – even those not charged or convicted of any crime, would be banned forever from our program. 

The BSA never covered up the fact that it kept that database. In fact, that database has been the subject of various public news reports over the years.

The creation of that database was just the first step in the BSA’s development of a comprehensive set of strategies designed to provide the best possible youth protection system. Today, record-keeping or databases such as ours are now recommended by experts as an important step in protecting children. 

In addition to other protective measures, all participants in Scouting are considered Mandatory Reporters, and as such, are required to report any suspected abuse to the appropriate state child protection authorities. We fully cooperate with law enforcement and wholeheartedly support the prosecution and punishment of convicted individuals.  

And while the BSA’s database of those banned from Scouting has been used against the organization and made us more vulnerable to lawsuits, if we could go back in time to the 1920s when these records were first created, we would decide to keep them again and again because we firmly believe that doing so has protected millions of kids who have been in our program over the last century. 

Scouting is always premised on helping others.

I ask every member of our Scouting family to continue upholding his or her duty to others and to our country by standing up for victims. Believe victims. Support victims on their journey to becoming survivors.

Be outspoken and be advocates for youth protection and prevention of child abuse – in and outside of Scouting.

Do your Good Turn Daily and find ways to support victims of past abuse, speak and act boldly to protect children presently in our program, and spread the good works of Scouting so that we may continue to positively change lives for future generations of children.


Mike Surbaugh

BSA Chief Scout Executive

Providing a quality, year-round Scouting program should be the goal of every Scouting unit. This program planning guide will help district executives develop an annual program plan, a budget to go along with that plan, and a fundraising plan to reach  program goals. The result is a well-managed, well-financed Scouting unit. Use the resources below to start your program planning today.

Cub Scout Packs

Cub Scouting is fun for the whole family. It’s fun, hands-on learning that puts kids in the middle of the action and prepares them for life.




Scouts BSA Troops

Scouts BSA is the traditional Scouting experience for youth in the fifth grade through high school. Service, community engagement and leadership development become increasingly important parts of the program as youth lead their own activities and work their way toward earning Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.



  • Troop Budget Planner

  • Popcorn Sale


Save this page for future reference as you plan for district programming, and keep an eye out for additional resources to help you kickoff Scouting in your district.


Story contributed by David Rico “Rico,” Southern Region – Membership Growth Coach

As professionals, we face many challenges to meet our membership goals. While many pros have developed processes in the past, it’s a good idea to revisit those processes from time to time to stay current. Having a solid plan will help you to exceed your membership numbers, but most importantly, deliver the promise to youth in our communities. We are in a very competitive world where we need to adapt to the changes in our society. This article will help you strategize and develop a plan that works for you and your district in our ever-changing world.

Where Do I Start?

As part of the process, we must do our homework and research. Take advantage of your access to social media, social networks, and the internet. Take the time to better understand your school districts and their leadership, including superintendents, board members, and principals.

Prepare a “School Night Fact Sheet” showcasing Scouting’s benefits, the purpose of the school night, Scouting highlights, and expectations. As part of the expectations, include Scout Talks (emphasize it will take approx. 5 mins), promotional materials, and highlight how posters should be placed in high-traffic areas.

Building and Maintaining Relationships with Superintendents

In an ideal world, you would have access to your superintendents. The reality is, not everyone has that privilege. Our recommendation is for you to utilize your resources to create the bridge between Scouting and the school system. Research and identify volunteers who have connections with the school system to open doors.

“The executive must help themselves by inviting a volunteer to make the connection with the superintendents of each school district to assist the recruitment process during the initial phases,” shared Taylor Neal, district executive at the Yocona Area Council.

If you have access to multiple school districts and superintendents, prioritize how you will connect with them. While preparing for your visit, think about making it a win-win situation. Consider highlighting the service benefits that many schools with Scouting youth experience.

During your official visit, it would be a great idea to start by sharing any impacting local Scouting stories to break the ice. Discuss the “School Night Fact Sheet,”upcoming events, or give them a token of appreciation.

Throughout your interaction, ask if they will be willing to create a one-year support letter. A one-year support letter ensures that you will have access during the fall and spring recruitment campaigns (share any samples from other districts if available). In addition, ask if they will be willing to share via e-mail with their principals. Finally, ask if you can get a few minutes to address the principals face to face during one of the principals’ meetings. After the meeting, send follow-up notes thanking them and letting them know the next steps.

School Principals Visits

Again, start the process of visiting principals by doing your research.

“Before conducting a principal visit, I always consult the websites of my schools prior to the visit because it is pretty common for the principals to change from year to year, but even then, the site may not yet be updated,” explained Austin Abee, district executive at the Yocona Area Council. “Calling ahead to schedule an appointment and speaking with an administrative assistant can help to confirm this, so you know ahead of time who you’ll be speaking with.” 

“Knowing how each school works best with Scout Talks from previous years and the total number of all youth can be provided by the administrative assistant in advance of the meeting in order to discuss how each youth talk will be conducted,” added Taylor Neal, district executive at the Yocona Area Council. “This takes some heat off the principal and lets them know you are serious about limiting classroom disruption. We also encourage steering them away from lunchroom talks, because even a 5-minute interruption is very likely and that takes away from class time.” 

When meeting with principals, never assume they know the process. You are the expert! Guide them throughout the process to ensure that you both get the most out of it. Don’t forget to highlight the benefits to the school and share with them any impactful stories to kick off the meeting.

Keep the meeting short and to the point, share with them information on the local unit(s), and highlight any past service projects, especially those that benefitted local schools. If possible, have a letter of support from the superintendent and the School Night Fact Sheet.

Once you explain the process, find out if there is a possibility to promote the Scouting night on their website, Facebook page, marquee sign(s), parents school text message system, and any other methods of communication available. Don’t forget to recap at the end of the meeting to ensure you are both on the same page.

“All in all, my goal is to come away with the principal feeling like Scouting is a worthy effort and any special requirements we may need or ask for are worth it,” said Jeremy Twachtman, district executive at the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council.

Best Practices

  • It is recommended to visit with superintendents before summer.
  • It is recommended to set up appointments before the summer and conduct visits during the summer when principals have more time to and fewer distractions.
  • It would be ideal to create a principal development event to capture the interest of as many principals as possible. According to Trey Smith, district director of the South Plains Council, they host a breakfast for the principals. During the event they feed them, give them a mug, and report their success of the prior year.
  • Build rapport with the gatekeepers (administrative assistants) and principals. Bring items like popcorn, camp cards, promotional items, etc. “It is important to have a good working relationship with the office staff because they will be the ones to ensure your fliers are distributed and posters hung up in the fall. They also control access to the principal,” shared Austin Abee, district executive of the Yocona Area Council.

Scouting Wire would like to thank David Rico for contributing this story.

How councils can strengthen bonds with schools by leveraging school access bills


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