At some point in the career of most District Executives, they ask themselves the question, “Is what I am doing really making a difference?”
Most of the time, this question comes after several weeks of long hours trying to solve problems that some people just don’t want to face, let alone solve.
Do we, as professional Boy Scouts, make a difference? Do we make the world a better place? Do we leave a legacy that makes all of the long hours and being away from home so many nights and weekends worthwhile?
Each time I have been asked the question, I have been pretty general in my answer. “Sure we do.” But I really had never thought to think about the legacy that I have left Scouting and answer the question; has my career made a difference in the lives of young people?
It was on my last day of serving as the Ranch Director for a very large Scout Camp that a young man named Geoffrey approached me to say farewell. He had served the past 3 summers as a member of the camp staff and had really been one of the most enthusiastic and best example young men you would ever meet.
In addition to ending his summers at camp, he was within a year of graduating from college and he had been a part of the Universities Presidential Leadership program that he was attending.
This last summer at camp, he was serving as the program director of one of the three camps on the property. On what he knew would be his last camp staff day he sought me out to say thank you.
What I didn’t know till that day is that he had never been a Cub Scout, and that I had come to his classroom, built a fire, and recruited him to be a part of a new troop we were forming in Parker, CO.
I remembered the troop well. At that time, Parker already had two outstanding Boy Scout troops, and all of the volunteers in my district kept telling me that we didn’t need another one. All we would do is put one or the other out of business.
My supervisor at work was a tall lanky fellow by the name of Charlie. Once the idea of me starting a new Troop in Parker made it’s way into his mind, every week at our checkpoint meeting he would hammer me for the next step.
Personally, I wasn’t all that excited about starting this troop. Nobody but Charlie seemed to think it was a good idea. Every week at our meeting, he would ask me what is the next step to start this unit. After a lot of excuses and several weeks of no progress, it was made very clear to me that the time was now to get out there and start this unit.
In a moment of weakness, I decided to razzle dazzle my way into not starting this unit by following the guidelines for starting a new unit given to all professionals by the National office. At that time, there were ten. I figured that sooner or later, one of those steps would be impossible and I could blame the plan and hope that my supervisor didn’t blame me.
The first step was to find a chartering organization. So I called a guy that had been a long time Commissioner for the area, Doc Rosnick. I hit him with the need to start a new unit in Parker.
“Don’t we already have two really good troops in Parker?”
“Yes, but the number of kids we have entering the fifth grade is so much larger than normal, we may not have space for all of the demand if we don’t start now.”
A true fact, but not one that most commissioners would buy into.
“Let me think on this a bit and get back to you.”
Great, another week of making up something to tell Charlie about why I was such a loser and hadn’t started this unit already. Why oh why didn’t I go to truck driving school? But I was wrong, the next morning Rosnick called me back.
“Hope next Tuesday works for you, I have set up appointments at five places that I think may charter a unit. I figure we can keep going to them till we find one that says yes. Let’s go start us a Boy Scout troop.”
Ahhh, Friday, and the checkpoint meeting with Charlie.
“So, what’s new with the Parker Troop.”
I kind of scrunched my face up, looked at the ceiling and told him the news pretty slowly and with a pretty whiney tone, “Well, I’m still not sure which way we are going to go on this, and both the Troops in Parker are against us starting this, but you know…well…I have been working with one of my commissioners…and we have some appointments set up next Tuesday to find a chartered partner.” Eye contact was finally made in the last few words of that speech.
My supervision, who had probably spent the full week relishing the idea of getting to beat me about the head and ears and feed me to the buzzards if I had not done anything yet again(okay, a writer’s exaggeration here), got a big smile on his face…progress at last.
“Okay, what is the next step?”
“We’ll do the meetings and decide on how we will go about the next step with the head of the institution.” I had been reading my book on how to start a unit and the first step was a decision, the next was forming a steering committee to make it happen. I hadn’t read past the second step, I didn’t want to jump into this willy nilly and read all the steps, I was just looking to get to the one that got me out of having do any more.
Tuesday was a pretty amazing day. We met with someone from the Lions Club, a senior citizen center, two churches and a guy that worked for the city. The third meeting was at a new Presbyterian church and we found a new pastor that was excited by the idea. I didn’t undersell what was needed and gave it to him right out of the book. Form a steering committee of members of the church to determine leadership and begin to plan program.
He said yes and we scheduled a meeting the next week for him to find the steering committee.
Now he had my attention, things were moving forward and the book was working. What next? Will he actually find a Scoutmaster? Will I have to explain to my friends in the other two troops that it really isn’t my fault this new troop started while accepting the praises of my supervisor? Will I have to swallow my pride and realize that the National office didn’t make up these steps to starting a unit, that they actually work better than me sitting at my desk and waiting around for a new unit to fall in my lap?
Indeed the steering committee did find leadership and started planning. In less than a month I found myself on one of the last steps, recruiting youth in two schools near the church; using a hot spark kit to build a fire in every classroom. I had an old pizza pan that I would put a little piece of dryer lint onto and then I would make a fire in one stroke. I told them that if they came to join our Troop, they would get a free hot spark and that if they brought it back to school, the teacher could keep it for their survival kit.
Less than 6 weeks after meeting the pastor of that church, we started a troop with 9 boys. I kind of snuck the new unit paperwork in, hoping to surprise Charlie with the fact the new unit appeared on our membership report. Within an hour, both the Scout Executive and my boss’s boss, the Director of Field Service, had been by my desk to congratulate me on the unit.
Over the 8 years I served as a District Executive, I started numerous units. Many of which, I know still survive today. In fact, Troop 88 in Parker is still around. Both of the other Troops in Parker are still around as well. Troop 469 has had 48 Eagle Scouts since Troop 88 was started in 1988. Troop 16 has had 72 Eagles in that same time. And Troop 88…they have had 76 young men achieve Scouting’s highest rank.
The third of those 76 Eagles was a young man named Geoffrey that later worked for me at Scout camp. I had been trying to convince him to come to work for the Scouts, but he had a higher calling of service to others, to join the Peace Corps. On his last day of camp staff, he came to thank me for recruiting him into Scouting.
Almost 20 years later I was able to find Geoffrey on the internet. He is still helping people find better lives in Africa. His career in a life of service to others is just a small reminder of the legacy that Professional Boy Scouts leave, when they start a new unit.
Geoffrey is the one in the middle holding the banner. How proud I am to have had a small part in starting a Boy Scout Troop in Parker, Colorado.
Nobody in Troop 88 knows who I am today. I would bet that the Scouts, parents, leaders and even the chartering organization never stop to think and ponder how this whole Troop got started. I would imagine that only a few if any would know Geoffrey, or Doc Rosnick; the point is, that starting this unit is the gift that keeps giving.
This summer the troop is not only going to a week long camp, but they are also going to Philmont and sending a group to the Tetons for a week of adventure. Two more Eagle projects are on the calendar. On their web site, they show numerous activities over the next few months. I would bet if you were to ask them, they would say that another Troop isn’t needed in Parker. I would bet they are wrong. I wonder how many fifth graders there are?
The crazy thing is, every unit in Scouting has had a moment when someone decided that they should exist and then through the shear force of their will, brought the group into existence. Nobody is out there sitting by their phone waiting for us to call and start a unit. In fact, there are many naysayers that always have what sound like good reasons for us to not start any additional Scouting units. Yet when we have the courage to make the call, we can share a dream of a world where everyone lives by the Scout Oath and Law.
It is a legacy worth fighting for.