Linda Potvin has done it all. With four children, she has spent nearly two decades as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America. Her heaviest involvement started with her youngest son, whom she followed from Cub Scouting all the way to the rank of Eagle Scout.
Today, Potvin serves as a merit badge counselor, board of review member and Life-to-Eagle coach. But she devotes the majority of her volunteer time to serving as Advisor of Venturing Crew 413, a unit she and six other adults started three years ago.
Where do your Venturers come from?
All over northern Illinois. One girl comes from Elmhurst, which is probably 40 miles to the east. Others come from DeKalb, which is 20 miles to the west, and from Yorkville, which is 20 miles to the south. They heard about us from a big newspaper article and couldn’t find closer crews that were active enough for them. We also participated in an open house at the high school, which helped a lot.
What’s the gender breakdown?
When we started, we had all boys and one girl, but after two years we were about 50-50. All the original boys had been Boy Scouts, and the girl was a member of our church. We started with five Venturers and now have about 15. This year, we will encourage our boys and girls to join both of the BSA’s programs for older youth. We tell them, “If you can make that work in your schedule, do both, because you can learn from both and you can shine in both.”
How do guys and girls do in Venturing?
The boys are more laid back, but they kind of step it up to impress the girls. And the girls are like sponges because the boys have been doing all this through Scouts and they’re eager to learn. You know: How do you tie this knot? How do you work the camp stove?
Describe your summer trips.
After going to Sea Base, we did two days at Disney World; that trip also included a day in the Everglades and a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. Last summer, we went to VenturingFest at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia and tacked on the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and a ghost tour in a little town called Waynesville, Ohio. We like to see what else is in an area because who knows when they’ll get back there.
Besides summer trips, what does your calendar look like?
We meet twice a month because they’re busy. Instead of having a boring meeting, sometimes we’ll go to a trampoline park or do a movie night. And we try to do at least one activity a month — not always camping. We do a lot of community service work, including hosting pancake breakfasts for the Society of St. Vincent De Paul at our church.
How busy are your Venturers?
Very. They’re working. They play sports. They’re not going to show up at every outing or meeting. Patience and communication are key.
How does planning work in the crew?
The Venturers plan trips during crew meetings, brainstorming how we’re going to get there, what’s it going to cost, how do we make reservations. Sometimes an adult has to make the reservation, because we have to have a credit card — but the Venturers have done research about how much it costs and that kind of stuff.
Are your Venturers good at planning?
Usually, but sometimes they don’t follow through on something, so it doesn’t always go as planned. But that’s OK, because that’s how they learn.
Do your members pursue Venturing awards?
In my experience, most Scouts are interested in advancing to Eagle, but in Venturing that’s not our top priority. If it happens, they’re thrilled, but that’s not their main interest. Their main interests are to go out and do activities and help the community and have fun together.
What’s the secret to success in Venturing?
You have to keep it fun, keep it exciting. And let them choose what they want to do.
See Crew 413 backpack in Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest at go.boyslife.org/crew413
Fact sheet: Linda Potvin
Years as a Scout Volunteer: 19 years
Current City: Elburn, Ill.
Current Position: Advisor, Crew 413
Day Job: Vice president for her family’s heating and air-conditioning business
Most Satisfying Moments in Scouting: Many, including seeing her sons become Eagle Scouts, watching Venturers work together at meetings to solve problems, and seeing shy Venturers come out of their shells and begin to speak their minds with confidence.
Favorite Camp and Why: Florida Sea Base. “I love the sun, and I love the ocean. And seeing five boys and one girl work together to run a sailboat for six days was terrific.”