Having grown by more than five times in 10 years, the Scoutreach program of
the Buffalo Trace Council of Evansville, Indiana, now serves roughly 2,200 youth,
up from 424 in 1994. This success stems from long-term commitment from United
Way and community leadership, as well as delivery of traditional Scouting through
The Sky's the
Ghost stories, foil dinners, tents pitched beneath
the stars—a typical campout, right? The Buffalo Trace Council adds a twist
to its Scoutreach campout: It's held on the roof of a downtown building. "Sky
Camp is a real attention-getter for Scouting in the community," says Scout
Executive Bob Hopper. The event also strengthens council relationships, since
it's used to cross-promote United Way's program kickoff.
Making the Little Things Count
In Scoutreach, as with much in life, little things can
make a big difference. When the East Texas Area Council started Soccer and
Scouting last summer, parents, clergy, and community leaders attended the first
game—but they weren't interacting. The next week, the council installed a
tarp near the field to entice them into the shade from the hot sun. That's all
it took to gather these individuals together and start relationship building.
The council's units are chartered through churches, businesses, and other
organizations. In areas where leadership isn't available, the council offers a
weekly after-school program delivered by local university students. Vice President
of Scoutreach Yvette Payne reports, "Kids build character and gain morals Scouting
represents. You can see a difference when you compare program participants with
the other school kids."
Additionally, Buffalo Trace Scoutreach youth enjoy events designed especially
for them. "Reaching out to the community, the council is sensitive to the needs
of inner-city youth," comments Payne. "The council's attitude is: 'Let's go to
the kids instead of getting them to come to us.'" This approach is taken with
downtown day camps, in which summer camp is imported to youth through the housing
authority, and a campout that takes place on the roof of a city building. The
council also encourages family attendance at banquets and ceremonies, where meals
are provided for entire families to come together.
Further, the council earmarks funding to ensure that every youth who wants to
participate in Scoutreach can do so. Camp scholarships are available, as well as
a uniform donation program. A single Scout parent, Rajean Fleming is impressed
that "the council includes any and all kids, no matter what their financial status
or background." Fleming couldn't afford the uniform her son needed to participate
in a flag ceremony. Through the council's uniform donation program, which provides
used uniforms and funds, Fleming's son was able to represent the pack "he loves."
Program Manager Shannon Thompson states, "Scoutreach provides a Scouting
experience for kids who may not otherwise have it. Parents see there are people
willing to go the extra mile for their child, and that makes all the difference."
What makes the difference in the East Texas Area Council of Tyler, Texas, are
significant commitments from private donors, the new Soccer and Scouting program,
and relationships with schools. As a result, Scoutreach numbers have grown from
159 youth in 10 units in 2001 to 750 youth in 19 units in 2004.
Faith helps guide Scouts in their daily lives, as they explore nature, strive for excellence, and work and play together.
Focusing on local Hispanic/Latino communities, the council emphasizes long-term
growth that hinges on three-year commitments from funders. One such donor is Fourth
Partner Foundation, which is also active in providing nonprofit development
guidance. "We don't just give money and walk away," states Dawn Franks, a foundation
director. "We ask the organization to agree to outcomes and also if we can be of
service in the process. The East Texas Area Council set clear expectations for
Scouting growth in the Hispanic community. We're looking for impacts over time."
Making an immediate impact, the new Soccer and Scouting program has been "an
avalanche of success," as Scoutmaster Don Day puts it. "It's a first-rate program
that's got the kids 'where they live.'" Launched in summer 2004, it has already
promoted unit growth and parental involvement.
The program consists of Scout meetings and soccer practices midweek between
Saturday games. Samuel Robles, a volunteer whose son participates in the program,
says, "I recommend Soccer and Scouting—it involves parents with children,
teaching cooperation and offering activities."
Scout Executive Mike Ballew points out that the program is "one of the tools
in the toolbox. Soccer and Scouting wouldn't be as successful if a strong
Scoutreach program hadn't already been in place." Much of the council's success
comes from partnerships with schools to provide traditional and after-school
Scouting opportunities. Unit Commissioner Maria de la Luz Nichols observes that
Scoutreach gives students, some of whom are immigrants, "a real sense of belonging."
The council's efforts have led to a stronger presence with Tyler's
Hispanic/Latino leaders and communities. Franks remarks, "We're really, really
pleased with all the council has done."