Scouting magazine

Ten service project ideas to help initiate action in your unit

When was the last time your unit offered a hand to members of your community? The next time you’re looking for service project ideas, turn to these 10 examples of excellence.

Scouting started with a Good Turn in 1909.

Fast forward to 2013, when Scouts and Venturers across America recorded 17,042,938 hours of service to their communities. Multiply those hours of service by the national volunteer-hour value of $22.14, and that equates to more than $377 million worth of service in 2013. And that’s just a glimpse at one year!

While your Scouts might volunteer for service opportunities, it can be tricky to juggle it all: advancement, meetings and the many great experiences Scouting offers youth. These units make service a top priority in their annual Scouting calendar, and yours can, too. Use these projects to help inspire new and innovative ways to give back to your community.

To honor America’s veterans on Memorial Day, members of Pack 309 in Henderson, Nev., placed flags on veterans’ headstones at the Eastern Palm Mortuary. All the pack had to do was provide manpower, and the mortuary provided the flags. By donating their time and effort, the boys paid respect to those who served our great country. Photo courtesy of Allison Lewis.

After several trips to Guatemala with his church, Assistant Scoutmaster Dale Hajost of Troop 444 in Marietta, Ga., began talking with two other Scout leaders about the possibility of starting a Scouting unit in the community of Embaulada.

In 2011, the trio started small with a plan to organize a Cub Scout pack in the local ministry and help the leaders host a pack meeting. Since its inception, Hajost and boys from his troop have returned to Guatemala to help organize events, such as a pinewood derby race and a blue and gold banquet. The pack continues to thrive today, and sponsor Troop 444 sends Scouts each summer to visit and help support the pack’s growth.

New friends: A handful of Troop 444 Scouts have visited the Guatemalan pack, and their response was incredible, Hajost says. “When Troop 444 Scouts arrived, I think the sight blew their minds,” he says, “The Cub Scouts were all waiting for us and saluted the minute we walked in the door. The enthusiasm on both sides of the cultural spectrum was awe-inspiring.”

Sharing Scouting: The troop leaders’ goals continue to focus on bringing the same values of Scouting in America to young boys and girls in another spot on the globe. “Baden-Powell started Scouting in England but was soon exporting it all over. It hasn’t made it quite everywhere, so we took it upon ourselves to introduce it into just another small corner in which it hadn’t been seen before,” Hajost says. Photo courtesy of Dale Hajost.

Did you know that the greatest need for blood donations is often during the Thanksgiving holiday? (A high number of accidents occur during this time because of the increase in travel.) Venturing Crew 77 from Madison, N.J., discovered that fact while working with a local Red Cross chapter to host a Black Friday blood drive. While most of us are busy searching for shopping deals, the teens of Crew 77 host an annual blood drive that has grown to a councilwide event at six locations overseen by Crew 77 and other crews and posts. Last year, they collected nearly 200 pints of blood — enough to assist 2,400 people in need. Photo courtesy of Bob Beaman.

Looking for a way to honor Veterans Day, Den 6 of Pack 3291 in Prairie Village, Kan., collected Halloween candy to donate to U.S. troops stationed overseas, with the help of Operation Gratitude ( The boys placed boxes in their elementary school’s lobby and started collecting candy the week after Halloween. “Parents were very eager to get candy out of their house so soon after Halloween,” says Den Leader Tara Brant.

Why doing good tastes so sweet: At first, the Cub Scouts were a little reluctant to give up their goods — after all, many had worked hard trick-or-treating to earn their loot. “But they were very generous after they learned how it could help save lives,” Brant says. The candy donations go to soldiers deployed in combat areas where servicemen and servicewomen sometimes use the treats to make friends with locals. Photo courtesy of Maura Coleman Murray.

In Tucson, Ariz., like a number of cities in the U.S., many veterans live homeless in urban streets and public parks. The Veterans Administration in Tucson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development help place homeless veterans in designated apartments. But, while a roof is a dramatic improvement to their lives, the veterans lack furniture for their new homes. That’s where Troop 270 comes in. The troop, led by former senior patrol leader Lance Picton, joined forces with the city and collected an abundance of furniture to help make the veterans’ new spaces truly feel like home.

Feeling thankful: “To go from being homeless to suddenly finding a dozen Scouts setting up a new home in record time was shocking and surprising to some of the veterans,” Lance Picton says. The senior patrol leader’s mom (and Troop 270 volunteer), Jackie Picton, describes a moment of appreciation when one veteran began to cry and stated that he “didn’t know they made boys like this anymore.” The man said his most prized possession was his U.S. Marine Corps flag, which he offered to the troop as a gift. The boys weren’t allowed to accept this, so they hung the flag on the man’s bedroom wall next to his new bed.

A newfound passion: The boys in Troop 270 now have a reinvigorated interest in helping others, and they’re already collecting furniture for another donation to veterans. To other Scouting leaders looking to ignite such a passion, Jackie Picton advises, “What fires up your Scouts? Once you can define their interests, help encourage the boys to take the lead. If they make a project their own, they’ll learn how to take the initiative to implement the project from start to finish.” Photo courtesy of Troop 207.

After Pack 11’s springtime pinewood derby race in Raleigh, N.C., the boys and leaders head to a local retirement home to set up the track for a second day at the races. Residents even make their own pinewood cars to send flying down the track — bringing loads of excitement to a typically quiet facility.

Sharing Scouting: Now in its third year, the annual race brings plenty of smiles to residents’ faces. “The activities coordinator even got some pinewood kits so the residents could assemble and race their own cars with our Scouts,” Karl Moss says. What Moss, a den leader and committee chairman, didn’t expect was discovering common Scouting experiences with residents. “Many of the residents shared memories of being den mothers or being a Scout or having kids in Scouting,” he says. Photo courtesy of Caryn Summers.

The U.S. Coast Guard requires most boats greater than 16 feet in length to carry at least three flares. These devices are rarely used, so it’s not uncommon for boaters to have expired flares aboard their vessels. And, because of the flares’ combustible qualities, they cannot be disposed of in the trash. That’s where Sea Scout Ship 41 comes in. The ship hosts a drive to collect expired flares and uses the devices for training — providing a helpful recycling act for boaters. Photo courtesy of Jim Clements.

What started as a small holiday gift drive for California’s Long Beach veterans hospital quickly grew into a widely celebrated tradition — but instead of taking place during the end-of-year season, this holiday celebration takes place in the hospital’s less-visited time: August. Pack, Troop and Crew 727; Post 6024; neighbors; friends; and the Rancho Santa Margarita LDS stake work annually in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., to help collect and donate more than 300 gifts to the hospital for a “Veterans’ Summertime Christmas.”

Firsthand experience: Jim Clements, Scoutmaster of Troop 727, dedicated 20 years of his life to serving his country in the U.S. Navy, and he spent more than a month hospitalized for injuries incurred during his service. “I understand the loneliness when you’re away from family and stuck in a bed,” he says. All it took was a phone call in 2003 and Clements’ Scouts had found a way to make a difference at the local veterans hospital.

It’s not about the tangible gifts: “It’s all about the gift that the Scouts and their families provide by visiting with each patient. When the Scouts show up in a veteran’s room, not only do the patient’s eyes light up, but so do the parents of the Scout as they witness the interaction. Patients often state that they, too, were Boy Scouts and begin telling their Scouting stories,” Clements says. Photo courtesy of Don Friswold.

When a bond promising a new school facility failed to pass in the town of Springfield, Ore., Troop 179 stepped in to help. Hamlin Middle School desperately needed some sprucing up, especially its outdoor play area, which includes a sand volleyball court. The court was completely overgrown with grass and weeds, so Scouts in Troop 179 used donated equipment and materials to resurface the court to make it usable for the students.

When budget cuts strike: Hamlin Middle School sits in the same neighborhood where Troop 179 meets. So when the school suffered from budget cuts, the troop asked the principal how they could help. Now that the court is refinished, the school still has plenty of projects for Scouts to tackle. “We have one Scout exploring the possibility of completing his Eagle Scout project with the school,” Scoutmaster Ryan Scott says.

A chance for leadership: Sure, this project offered Scouts a chance to get dirty and make a difference. But what Scouts also found was a chance to step into leadership roles. “They learned how to work as a team — we have a few new Scouts who are still ‘storming,’” Scott says. “The boys in leadership positions gained experience directing people and helping people complete specific tasks.”

Give and receive: At the end of the project — more than 100 hours later — the students have a new place to play outside. And the troop also has an even stronger relationship with their local school. “Getting involved with a local school has helped our troop grow, even with a severe lack of Cub Scouts in our area,” Scott says. “With this project, we built a positive relationship with the school and projected a positive image of Scouting to our community.” Photos courtesy of Ryan Scott.

When the village of Orland Park, Ill., set out to celebrate its 120th anniversary, Troop 383 decided to jump in and help out by creating the Orland Park Geochallenge. The Scouts identified 20 locations in the town of 60,000, established each location’s coordinates and created challenge questions for the individual sites. The challenge requires visitors and residents (using GPS devices or smartphone apps) to check out historic landmarks and answer questions about each location. “Local governments can’t always put everything into their budgets, and they oftentimes need help with a park or a project,” says Scoutmaster Gerry Klotz. “Contact your town governments to ask where they need help.” Photo courtesy of Orland Park Troop 383.

Cub Scouts in Pack 307 from Baltimore, Md., partnered with a local foundation to collect books for inner-city elementary schools in need. They expected to gather about 100 to 200 books, but they were shocked when the final count surpassed 1,500 books. And all it took to make such a large impact was to reach into their at-home book supply.

Keep it simple: Working with an established foundation — in this case, the Kaufman School Library Swap Foundation — eliminated the pack’s need to seek school-district approval. “Partner with other groups or organizations with existing programs to reduce the burden on pack leadership,” Assistant Cubmaster Chris Gutberlet says.

Give everyone attainable tasks: No matter the boy’s age, most (if not all) of them have books at home. The Cub Scouts’ job was to choose a gently used book from their collection to bring to the book drive. As the books started flooding in, the pack quickly discovered the boys’ enthusiasm for sharing their favorite books with other children.

Make it fun: Before the pack said goodbye to its collection, the pack leaders made sure to celebrate its success — plus, “it’s always important to keep things fun,” Gutberlet says. During a meeting, the boys built a structure with the books, an activity that was designed as a team-building exercise with limited involvement from leaders. Photo courtesy of Robert Cole Sr. of Elite Video Solutions.

If your pack, troop, ship, team or crew completes a service project, be sure to register the activity in the BSA’s Journey to Excellence dashboard. (Council, district, unit or individual Lone Scout projects can be recorded here.) Plus, you can view other registered activities to find additional project ideas. Find the online registration at