Quality Programs and Services Draw New Scouts
Build It and They Will Come
With the help of enthusiastic volunteers and staff members, the Buffalo Trail Council has experienced a 13 percent increase in traditional youth membership.
Many new Scouts join the program at rallies, after-school gatherings of potential Scouts and their parents. Volunteers and professionals in the Buffalo Trail Council are given special training in how to conduct effective - and informative - rallies.
"The movie adage 'Build it and they will come' is somewhat true even in Scouting," says Sam Howell II, president of the Buffalo Trail Council in Midland, Texas. "If you build a good quality program and have quality volunteers and a full professional staff, the Scouts will come."
With a 14 percent jump in traditional units and a 13 percent increase in youth members, it seems the Scouts did come to the programs offered by the Buffalo Trail Council in 1998. Like Howell, Scout Executive John D. Johnson credits the increasing community interest to his council's dedication to service and program improvement.
"The attitude among our volunteers and staff is that we are going to continually have better services and better programs than we had the year before," says Johnson.
Also important is the enthusiasm volunteers and staff members have for reaching new Scouts in the community. With quality programs in place, Scouting supporters must use their time efficiently to spread the word to as many young people as possible.
Guy Wilemon, field director, helped promote this efficient use of time and resources with training. Council supporters learned how to determine which areas in the community needed additional attention by reviewing regular progress reports. "There are six districts here," Wilemon says, "and we can take a look and see which districts have the fewest active youth in our programs."
Scout Executive John D. Johnson, left, and council President Sam Howell II are committed to traditional unit and membership growth.
Volunteers and professionals were also trained in how to promote and conduct rallies, after-school gatherings of potential Scouts and their parents which allow them to learn more about Scouting and choose to become involved with the program.
At the rallies, those interested were often encouraged to fill out an application even if they were not able to pay the registration fee immediately. "It gives us an opportunity to follow up with the ones who were not able to join that night," explains Bob Kennedy, district director in the council's Odessa, Texas, location. Following up helps ensure that interested boys have every opportunity to join Scouting. After all, while the membership numbers are important, Kennedy points out, "behind every number in our progress report is a little boy who is getting the chance to do positive things he might not be able to do on his own."
Kennedy and his co-worker, District Executive Reynaldo M. Galindo II, are well known in the council for their tireless enthusiasm for helping volunteers carry the program to Odessa-area families. When school starts, both may be involved in a strenuous schedule of one or two rallies each night, but Kennedy insists, "Recruiting new Scouts is the greatest thing in the world."
The number of traditional units in the Buffalo Trail Council jumped 14 percent in 1998. Scoutreach programs such as the Siempre Juntos Hispanic Emphasis were especially successful in recruiting new Scouts and volunteers.
"You have to remember that this is not a 40-hour-a-week job, especially in the fall," Kennedy continues. "You have to love what you are doing, and it absolutely pays off."
Galindo works especially hard with the council's Hispanic Emphasis program, Siempre Juntos (Always Together). Although the percentage of Hispanic youth in the council has doubled over the last 10 years, there is still a strong need for programs such as Scouting in many predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.
Many families in those neighborhoods carry a distrust of Scouting, but Galindo strives to show them how traditional Hispanic family values coincide with the positive values of Scouting.
Having been a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout himself, Galindo knows firsthand the impact Scouting can have on a boy's life. "I am able to tell them about some experiences I've had in Scouting," he says. "I tell them of the kids I've seen come out of bad situations into good ones."
Close to 200 adult volunteers became involved with the Siempre Juntos program in 1998, a number that suggests success. But Galindo, like Kennedy, is not so much concerned with the numbers.
"Success for me is just being able to see these kids get into Scouting and grow from boys to young men," he states.
Field Director Guy Wilemon, left, helps district executives recruit participants from Tiger Cubs to Venturers and their leaders.
Throughout the council, this sentiment rings true, and each person at the Buffalo Trail Council has played a part in the tremendous membership growth the council has experienced. As Howell notes, "It is never the efforts of any one person. It takes everyone from the brand new Tiger Cub parent to the Scout executive."
"The Boy Scouts of America has more to offer today than ever before," Howell continues. "We have a program that meets the needs of today's youth, and more and more youth are going to need such a quality program to be involved in."
That is why the Buffalo Trail Council cannot merely be content with its 1998 growth. The years ahead will bring new groups of young people - young people whose lives could be changed forever by Scouting.