Celebration and Challenge
By Jon C. Halter
At the BSA National Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Scouters reviewed the successes of 2001 and renewed their commitment to bring Scouting to every community and neighborhood in the nation.
In welcoming the more than 2,000 Scouters and spouses to New Orleans in early June for the 83rd National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America, William M. Metcalf Jr., president of the Southeast Louisiana Council, noted with pride that his council had led the nation in growth in Cub Scouts in 2001, "with over 1,800 more young Cub Scouts than we had at the end of 2000."
The new Cub Scouts are "a diverse gumbo," Metcalf said, "African-American, Anglo, French, Hispanic, Italian, Cajun, Asian...," representing the many and varied communities served by the Southeast Louisiana Council.
Louisiana's diversified population is no longer unusual, however, and similar ethnic and racial communities now exist in growing numbers across the United States. And at the New Orleans meeting, Scouters representing more than 300 local councils reaffirmed the BSA's goal (one of five critical issues in the 2002-2005 Strategic Plan) toas stated in the 2001 Annual Report"continue to be strongly committed to offering (our) program to all economic and racial groups," realizing "a representative membership that encompasses all ethnic groups."
Focus on new unit growth
In 2000, at the start of his two-year term as president of the BSA, Milton H. Ward challenged Scouting to make the commitment to organize a Scout unit in every community and neighborhood in the nation. In New Orleans, in his final address as BSA president at the annual business meeting, Ward reported on the progress toward achieving this goal:
"No child who wants to join Scouting should be denied the opportunity because there is no unit in his area," Ward stressed. "I believe we have an obligation to serve those most in need, [and] across the nation today, Scoutreach professionals are indeed planting the seeds of Scouting in places where it has rarely been found in the past."
Ward introduced a special group of 32 Scouting professionals, from councils as distant as Hawaii and as near as Mississippi, who had been invited to share their innovative methods and success stories at the national meeting. (And, thanks to funds donated by Milton Ward and his wife, Adele, a similar group of outstanding Scoutreach executives will participate in future national meetings.)
In 2001 the BSA "ended with the largest number of youth served evermore than five million," Ward reported. "From 2000 to the end of April , we added 25,886 new traditional units. That's a great sign, because it shows we can growand we still have plenty of people to serve."
New unit growth around the nation will receive a special boost in February, Ward added. A nationwide New Unit Video Conference, scheduled for Feb. 5, 2003, will provide a catalyst to support unit growth in every local council.
Ward also reported that "2001 was also a great year financially...Revenue was up 9 percent over 2000...total United Way income was up almost 4 percent, Friends of Scouting was up almost 5 percent, and our investment income was up 3.7 percent. Not bad for an economy in a slump."
Tools and methods for achieving the goals of the 2002-2005 Strategic Plan's five critical issues (Traditional Membership and Unit Growth, Scoutreach, Leadership, Marketing and Strategic Positioning, and Financial Development) were explored in five seminars and 17 elective workshops. The sessions covered a variety of topics, such as council commissioner leadership, council marketing and strategic planning, youth protection, Wood Badge for the 21st century, building effective local council Web sites, and new marketing and outreach programs and tactics for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing.
In the exhibit area, Scouters visited with representatives from the National Council and other sources to learn about all areas of Scouting. Displays included the latest merchandise from the Supply Division; details on Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, and high adventure programs; resources available from Risk Management, Health and Safety, Scoutreach, Relationships, and Finance Support; a preview of the new National Scouting Museum in Irving, Tex.; and a sampling of the newest features from Boys' Life.
Past and future
At the closing banquet and at the business session, Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams thanked all volunteers for their dedicated service. He told them that the BSA National Annual Meeting is "a celebration where we take the opportunity to recognize all of the hard work you put into this great movement."
He noted that "the BSA has a long tradition of exceptional volunteer leadership, [and] you're part of an unbroken string of leadership that has helped this movement to survive and prosper since 1910."
He was particularly proud of Scouting's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Williams said. "The actions of our members show that the lessons of service and of patriotism our program tries to instill have had a very positive effect...Scouts volunteered and councils responded in a thousand different ways."
A national meeting is also an opportunity to focus on the challenges ahead, and Scouting's mission today is more important than ever, Williams said. "Scouting can't solve all the problems that come up in a young person's life, but we can equip them with tools they need to make better decisionstools like honesty, integrity, respectall the values that are found in the Scout Oath and Law."
Scouting's challenge, he said, "is to show schools, United Ways, foundations, our fellow business people, and all the others we talk to, show them how we can help, how effective our program is,...[that] our traditional programs of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity, and Venturing are still some of the best ways to equip kids with values."
Many Scouters may not realize the impact they have on young people, Williams said, "[but] chances are you've made a difference in more ways that you'll ever know...
"I'm proud of what you do," he concluded. "I'm proud of who you are and who we are...I'm proud to be a Scout and I know you are, too."
Jon C. Halter is the editor of Scouting magazine.
September 2002 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2002 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.