When Pack 619 in Shakopee, Minn., collected canned goods for a local food bank earlier this year, Cubmaster Rob Crowe wanted to make sure the boys understood why they were participating. Before the project started, he explained how the food bank works and whom it serves. Then he said, “These people look just like you and live in a house just like yours, but they’re in a situation where they can’t afford to buy food right now.”
One Cub Scout understood exactly what Crowe meant. “Yeah, my dad’s been there three times because he lost his job,” the boy said proudly. Crowe quickly changed the subject, but he knew the Scouts had learned a valuable lesson: Their service was making a real difference in their community.
Crowe’s Scouts aren’t the only ones making a difference. Last Christmas, the members of Pack 320 in Jackson, Mich., adopted a needy family at the school where they meet. By recycling bottles, collecting food donations, and even contributing some allowance money, the Cub Scouts helped a family in need have a joyous holiday.
“There’s a lot of focus on me, me, me,” said Cubmaster Dan Bauman. “It was nice to see kids reach out and help somebody.”
In the midst of an economic downturn, of course, there are plenty of people who need help. By planning service projects that are relevant, informative, and fun, you can mobilize your Cub Scouts to reach out and help some of those people.
Make It Relevant
While older Scouts and adults might do well with projects where they don’t quickly see the end result, Cub Scouts need projects that are relevant. Although the members of Bauman’s pack didn’t know the identity of the family they adopted, they understood their project’s relevance.
In addition to collecting canned goods, Crowe’s pack has assembled meals for a local charity, Feed My Starving Children, which supports third-world feeding programs. Since many of the boys think they’re “starving” if they go without food for three hours, they grasped the plight of kids who go for days without eating.
Make It Informative
Even if a project’s benefits seem obvious, it’s still important to explain the project and put it into context. With Pack 320’s adopt-a-family project, Bauman made the connection to the recession, which has hit Michigan especially hard. “Everybody knows what’s going on,” he said. “It’s in the paper daily and on the TV all the time.”
Agencies that frequently work with outside groups like Scout units typically do a good job of orienting volunteers. When Crowe’s pack volunteered with Feed My Starving Children, staffers played a video that showed meals like they would be assembling being delivered to kids in other countries.
Make It Fun
However noble the cause, be sure your project doesn’t feel like drudgery. Take frequent breaks—even after 15 or 20 minutes—and think of ways to make the work fun.
If you’re cleaning up a park, for example, you might give a prize to the den that collects the most trash or to the Scout who finds the most unusual object.
Most important, strive for an project with an impact that will outlast a single event. “Start small, but dream big,” Crowe said. “The boys will understand that they’ve done a good job and how important it is. If you can start them at this age enjoying service, hopefully that will continue throughout their lives.”