Five secrets to successful Cub Scouting service projects

CubServiceProjectsWarder Park in Jeffersonville, Ind., attracts its share of casual walkers, concertgoers and homeless people looking for a place to rest. One Saturday last December, it attracted a different crowd: 35 or so Cub Scouts and parents from Pack 4043, who were there to complete a service project they began the month before.

Between Warder Park and another nearby park, the Cub Scouts tied more than 250 handmade fleece scarves and other items on trees, benches and signposts, each with a simple message attached: “I am not lost. If you are cold and need me to stay warm, please take me home. All I ask in return is for you to show a kindness to someone else who is in need.”

The project made the local newspaper, and the story was shared across the country via social media. But what most impressed Ashlee Mashburn, committee chairwoman, was the impact on pack families, who sent her “an exuberant amount of text messages” afterward.

“It’s nice to know that we did something for other people, but we actually made a lasting impression on the families we see every week,” she says.

Community service is central to Scouting, of course, but many Cub Scout leaders struggle to find meaningful service projects for their boys. Tigers and Wolves have short attention spans, and even Bears and Webelos struggle with the sort of manual labor common in Boy Scout service projects. Pack 4043’s project yields five secrets to successful Cub Scout projects.

1. Create Empathy
Pack 4043’s project began during a cold November pack meeting, when Mashburn and Cubmaster Heidi Casey had the boys take off their jackets and push up their sleeves. Then they took them outdoors for a quick hike. Back inside, the adults asked the boys how they felt.

“The first words out of their mouths were, ‘It was cold,’ ” Mashburn says. “From there, we explained that not everybody has a nice warm house and nice warm jackets and scarves and gloves and things to help them get through the winter.”

That simple lesson in empathy helped the boys understand the importance of the scarf project. The day of the project was unseasonably warm — many boys were in T-shirts or shorts — but leaders were able to remind them of how they’d felt back in November.

“That was the first thing I said to them,” Casey says. “  ‘Do you remember when we took you out? Do you remember how you felt when you were cold?’ ”

2. Involve Families
The scarf project was simple enough that pack leaders could have handled it without help, but Mashburn and Casey invited parents and siblings to participate. Families were asked to visit a fabric store and buy a yard of fleece fabric to make scarves. They also had the option to buy gloves or premade scarves.

At their meeting place on the day of the project, leaders set up workstations manned by parent volunteers for cutting, tagging, counting, etc.

“It was awesome that we had the parent turnout that we did,” Casey says. “You could really see the bond between a Scout and a parent, and the parent kind of stepping up.”

3. Keep It Simple
Although parents pitched in, there was little about the project that the boys couldn’t do. They cut fabric into strips, snipped the edges to create fringe and attached cards.

“It was an inexpensive project. All we needed was scissors, tags, some yarn and some fabric,” Mashburn says. “Everybody donated around five bucks, and we had over 250 items that we ended up distributing.”

4. Make It Short
Not counting shopping and that November hike, the project took about two hours to complete. Less than half that time was spent making the scarves — a process accelerated
by the workstations. That meant the boys got to spend most of the time outside on a beautiful Saturday morning. It also meant they went home thinking community service
is fun — not a chore.

5. Have Fun
Pack leaders can do all sorts of things to make service projects fun, including playing upbeat music and offering refreshments. For the boys of Pack 4043, the fun came when they got
to the first park.

“We had to walk across the street to get there,” Mashburn says. “Once we did, it was hilarious. You would have thought we were at an Easter egg hunt. They had so much fun running through the park.”

Pack 4043 has completed all kinds of service projects, including collecting canned goods for Scouting for Food and donating relief supplies to tornado victims, but the scarf project was perhaps the most impactful on the boys — and their parents.

“I think it was one of the best we’ve ever done,” Mashburn says.

Find more advice for Cub Scout leaders at

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