Fun with a purpose
"We've been real fortunate that so many of our lay people still believe in the Scouting program and support it."
chairman of the council's Catholic committee on Scouting
|Allegiances with strong chartered organizations provide a wide range of opportunities for Scouts to learn and grow.|
In its efforts to create a relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the American Red Cross, the Patriots' Path Council may also have blazed a trail for similar pairings nationwide.
The New Jersey council aggressively pursued a plan to build allegiances with communities and other service organizations through the creation of a Community Action Team, which sought to develop at least one relationship in each of the council's towns.
At the same time, council executive board member John Kennedy said, the local Red Cross "seemed to have a tremendous wish to be involved in Scouting, but had no idea how to go about it."
The result of their efforts is a new Venturing crew tasked with helping the Red Cross provide emergency assistance. The youth in the unit have received training and are dispatched in the event of fires or floods to offer disaster relief. Members also teach CPR classes and have organized community events to promote environmental awareness.
"With traditional Scouting, by the time some boys turn 15 or 16, they're gone," Kennedy said. "We need to have a way to keep them involved so that as they grow and evolve, they truly see the value of the program."
The new crew has set such a good example in its work that it is being discussed at national levels of both organizations as a template of sorts.
"We wanted to create a workable, reusable program," Kennedy said. "I think that by teaming up the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross, it's a natural fit for older kids."
For the Lincoln Heritage Council of Louisville, Kentucky, the key to growth has been in strengthening relationships with local faith communities. The council has steadfast ties to the neighboring Catholic, Baptist, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organizations and is working to establish a relationship with local Methodists as well.
"I think Scouting is the best youth program we have in this country, and I think churches are the best sponsors we have for Scouting," said Dr. Robert Doty, chairman of the local Baptists for Scouting committee.
The council provided training for leaders from 16 Latter-day Saints congregations at an event dubbed "Little Philmont," and plans are under way for a similar event tying into the Wood Badge theme for 2008.
"It's the principle of what the Boy Scouts of America organization is all about: helping young men," said Lyle Stucki, an executive board member and Latter-day Saints stake president.
The council's ties with the Catholic community go back at least to 1947, the date of the first awards program honoring Scouts who completed the criteria necessary to earn their religious emblems. That tradition continues today, and the annual Bishop's Dinner for Scouting—at which priests and lay members from parishes without Scouting are taught about Scouting and exposed to its principles—also offers the council a chance to grow.
Of the approximately 150 parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville, about 80 are home to Scouting units, said Charlie Hulsman, chairman of the council's Catholic committee on Scouting. About six new units grew out of last year's event.
The goal, he said, is to focus on growth in every parish; if there are no Scouting units in a parish, try to begin one, and if there is one unit in a parish, try to start a second one.