Recruiters in the Heart of America Council of Kansas City, Missouri, won’t take no for an answer. If they can’t promote Cub Scouting in classrooms, they visit cafeterias and bus-loading zones. If those areas are off limits, they put up yard signs. If all else fails, they mail promotional DVDs directly to families of Cub Scout–age boys. Each DVD comes with a packet of Trail’s End popcorn, a list of school night locations, and a letter from Scout Executive Tim Bugg.
“We say, ‘Pop the popcorn, pop in the DVD, then sit down as a family and watch this brief video,’” Bugg said.
Innovations like that are just one part of the council’s school night program.
At each of the council’s 505 elementary schools, trained district and council volunteers give tightly scripted presentations that stress both the fun and the benefits of Scouting. “The objective is to sell fun to the boys and sell values to the parents, particularly the mothers,” said Bruce Allen, council vice president for membership.
That approach pays off. Allen said, 88 percent of boys who attended school nights last fall joined Scouting that night. All but one pack recruited enough den leaders at school night to begin meeting.
The council’s plan includes one more key feature: a family campout in each district. More than 5,000 Cub Scouts and their families attended these outings in 2007. They broughtwhatever camping gear they had— from pup tents to recreational vehicles—and took home memories of just how much fun Scouting can be.
Scouting is more than just fun for some Scouts in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It’s an escape from the bleak surroundings in Crying Eagle Village, the FEMA trailer park where they live.
The city’s most dangerous neighborhood, Crying Eagle Village is home to some 1,200 evacuees from Hurricane Rita. Since the fall of 2006, it has also been home to a Cub Scout pack, a Boy Scout troop, and a Venturing crew. Each Thursday, the Scouts come outside to tie knots, practice compass skills, and play—all under the protection of armed guards. “They’re kept inside a good bit because of security reasons,” said Legare Clement, Scout executive of the Calcasieu Area Council. “This is their time to get out, run around, and basically be boys.”
The Scouts also participate in fishing trips, day hikes, and summer camp— all at no cost to their families. “The council came up with the money to send the boys to camp; they really got out and hustled,” said Order of the Arrow lodge adviser Ernest Maggiore, who has brought Scout volunteers to work at the trailer park.
When boys leave Crying Eagle Village, the council works to keep them in Scouting. “We told them when they were moving who was in the area they could go talk to,” Maggiore said.
But even those who haven’t left the trailer park are benefiting from Scouting. One boy in an alternative school was allowed to return to his regular school after attending Scout camp. He’s now behaving in school, making good grades, playing football—and coming to Scouts every Thursday.
“I’ve worked for the Scouts for 16 years in four states,” Clement said. “This is the most significant thing I’ve done in that time. It really is an amazing program.”