IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR. Just about the time new den leaders figure out how to lead a den and pack programming falls into a comfortable rhythm, Thanksgiving Day arrives. And not far behind it come Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day. By the time school resumes in January, many Cub Scouters feel as if they’re starting from scratch.
But you don’t have to lose momentum between the end of November and the beginning of January. With careful planning, you can use the winter holidays to accelerate your program, not slow it down. Here’s how.
Don’t Tilt at Windmills
First, acknowledge that non-Scouting commitments will take precedence in December, says Tom Yuschok, a longtime Cub Scouter who’s now vice president of district operations in the Central Florida Council. “You have to accept that there’s a time when everybody’s going to be with family and on break,” he says. “There’s not going to be a lot of activity. Let that happen.”
If You Can’t Beat ’Em …
That doesn’t mean you should wave a flag of surrender or become a Cub Scout Scrooge. Michelle Gee, who has been a Cub Scout leader in Omaha for more than two decades, recommends adding holiday flair to your December pack meeting. “Make it a Hawaiian night and have the kids wear their flip-flops,” she says. “Have Santa come in a Hawaiian shirt. Do something fun. It gets them excited.”
When Gee served as Cubmaster, she held some December pack meetings at a local assisted-living facility. “We would bring goodies and make some punch there so the facility didn’t have to do anything,” she says. “We’d just hang out with the elderly people, and they just loved that.”
Also, your pack can participate in a communitywide event like a parade. That’s what Yuschok’s pack, Pack 74 in Ormond Beach, Fla., does every couple of years. They decorate a float the morning of the city’s parade and ride in the parade that evening. “We tried to do the holiday parade every year, and we had a couple of years where we didn’t have a lot of participation,” he says. “If we do it every other year, there’s some excitement around that.”
Connect the Dates
Whatever you do in December, make a connection to what’s planned for January. Many packs hand out pinewood derby car kits as holiday gifts at their December pack meetings. Yuschok’s pack goes a step farther. It holds an early January pack meeting where boys can get their pinewood derby cars roughed out.
“We have a couple of parents who bring in band saws,” Yuschok says. “If the boys have planned out the general shape of their car, they can come in and get them cut. We get almost everybody in the pack at that meeting.”
Coordinate and Communicate
Scheduling special activities, changing dates, and moving meetings requires plenty of advance planning. This extra planning also makes scheduling and recruiting easier. You won’t have much luck calling dads with band saws on New Year’s Eve to recruit them for your Jan. 3 pack meeting. “You can do it that way, but oh it’s painful. And you usually don’t get as good a result,” Yuschok says.
Communication becomes especially critical when dates and locations are different from the usual. You can’t rely as much on announcements at den and pack meetings because attendance may be spotty. So be sure to spread the word through your Web site, e-mail newsletter, and phone tree.
Doing that, as well as making sure holiday activities are on the pack calendar from the start, will help ensure that boys have a great holiday season and get primed for an even greater spring and summer.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR MAINTAINING MOMENTUM WITH YOUR PACK DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW.
We have an annual tradition in our Troop, the week of Thanksgiving to get together on Friday and do a clean-up at the church, which includes raking leaves and picking up any trash. This year the boys also had a huge task of removing a large number of fallen branches from the property from the hurricane and northeaster that hit New Jersey a few weeks earlier. The second part of our tradition is to meet at the local bowling alley on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and enjoy breakfast and bowling together. The boys look forward to this particular week every year!
During our December Pack Meeting, we have a Holiday Cookie Exchange, make ornaments, sing Christmas Carols, and pass out PWDerby Cars. We sometimes make a holiday neckerchief slide as a pre-meeting activity. Then a week or so later we go caroling at a local Nursing Home/Assisted Living and as we carol we hand out the ornaments to the residents. We also sometimes give a few ornaments to our Chartered Org., a church, and the volunteers that minister to the homebound in our parish pass them out.
Our local city Christmas parade is held every year in December. It alternates routes every year – one is shorter and is generally walked by the boys, and one is much longer and we decorate a float and pickups so they can ride. Usually the week after that we do a service project for the our charter, generally cleaning the grounds of leaves and trash. Pinewood cars are handed out at the December Pack meeting. We do a Pinewood workshop in January so everyone has a chance to at least get the rough cuts done on their cars. Pinewood itself usually happens a week or two after the workshop. With all these events we have been pretty good over the years.