When you are blessed with a good staff and
dedicated volunteers, it can only lead to success.

Western Los Angeles County Council Vice President of Programs Richard W. Hallock, far left, believes that training for Scouting volunteers is essential for quality leadership and, in turn, a quality program.

A Continuing Population boom has been good news for the Gulf Coast Council; membership in the Pensacola, Florida, area council has increased from just over 7,000 to more than 11,000 in the last three years. And exploding membership is also welcome in the Western Los Angeles County Council in Van Nuys, California, where youth membership jumped 10.5 percent in 2001.

Behind this excellent growth, though, lies the challenge of hiring more professional leaders to not only service new units, but also reach more of the available youth moving into the area.

"The more professional staff that is available, the greater amount of service provided to volunteers in the field and the greater number of youth reached by the program," explained Jon G. Neeley, training chairman in the Western Los Angeles County Council. Professional unit-serving executives work with potential chartered organizations to create new units, help volunteer leaders organize School Night for Scouting recruiting, and help unit leaders provide the best program possible, among other things.

An empowering relationship between council professionals and volunteers is a key to recruiting quality volunteer leaders, notes Chuck Kuzma, far left, a district chairman in the Gulf Coast Council.

"Data has shown that in areas where professional staff is available to assist in the field, programs have been more effective, units have grown more, and Scouts have advanced further through the program," Neeley said.

No one in the Gulf Coast or Western Los Angeles County councils doubts the benefits of hiring additional professionals; the challenge is in supporting new salaries. But thanks to the dedicated fund-raising of council board members within local businesses, successful Friends of Scouting campaigns, and the financial support of community members, two new unit-serving executives have begun serving the counties surrounding Pensacola in the last two years—with plans to add two more next year—and four new professionals have joined the staff in Western Los Angeles County.

As population numbers climb, council leaders in Van Nuys, California, and Pensacola, Florida, have accepted the challenge of hiring additional professional staff to serve new members and leaders. Pictured above is Jon G. Neeley, training chairman in the Western Los Angeles County Council

As important as the professional Scouters are, though, Scouting could not exist without the support of its unpaid leadership. Volunteer leaders are on the front lines working with Scouting's youth and bringing the program to life. Volunteer committee and board members determine the direction each council takes as it strives to serve more youth. Recruiting volunteers who believe in the mission of Scouting and training them to become the best possible leaders are constant priorities for councils.

"To succeed, you have to start with volunteers who believe in the program," noted Vaughn Nichols, a district chairman and Cub Scout leader in the Gulf Coast Council. "Good training programs then allow you to have more committed volunteers because they understand the program better. And if you offer basic training to parents, they are more likely to become involved with their children in Scouting."

Eric Nickelsen, previous president of the Gulf Coast Council

Vaughn Nichols, district chairman and Cub Scout leader in the Gulf Coast Council

In the Western Los Angeles County Council alone, more than 100 training events are offered each year.

"Training is absolutely essential for quality leadership," said Richard W. Hallock, the council's vice president of program. "When you have quality leadership, everything else falls into place. Quality leadership leads to quality programs which are more attractive to kids. Additionally, as membership grows, more parents volunteer as leaders."

A similar cycle exists between volunteer leaders and the professional staff that supports them.

"Our council professionals empower the volunteers and give us more of a feeling of ownership of the program and the council," said Chuck Kuzma, vice president of council membership and a district chairman in the Gulf Coast Council. "That in turn allows the council to attract a lot of volunteers that otherwise might be reluctant to come on board."

Together, professional and volunteer leaders in each council face the challenge of bringing the very best Scouting program to every available youth in their area. Membership growth indicates they are succeeding.

As Eric Nickelsen, a previous president of the Gulf Coast Council and current Southern Region board member, noted, "When you are blessed with a good staff and dedicated volunteers, it can only lead to success."

With the permission of Gulf Coast Council and Southern Region board member Col. David Bird, nearly 150 members of the U.S. Air Force's 796th Civil Engineer Squadron made camp at the Spanish Trail Scout Reservation in Pensacola, Florida, last spring and began to work. For the squadron members, who are stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, the next several days were full of valuable hands-on training in areas such as self-aid buddy care, field sanitation, and large-equipment deployment.

For the Gulf Coast Council, the exercise resulted in new roofs for the dining facility and main meeting facility, updated plumbing and electrical systems, and more than eight miles of repaved roads and parking areas.

Both parties hailed this win-win combination of Scouting and the community as a great success.