01/11/07 — Local Boy Scouts see increase in members

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Local Boy Scouts see increase in members

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 11, 2007 2:04 PM

Forging a strong relationship with the public school system has helped the Tuscarora Boy Scout Council reach out to more boys than ever before, Scout officials say.

When Scout Executive Harold Keller came to work for the council a year ago, he made development of a relationship with the school system a priority.

The result has been increased recruitment into the Scouting ranks.

Keller said the positive reaction from school officials has been the key to the surge in numbers.

School officials in Wayne, Duplin, Sampson and Johnston counties welcomed the council's overtures, Keller said, and invited Scout leaders to talk to boys interested in joining Scouting.

Keller said his experience in other councils showed him how important the support of the schools is to sustaining a strong Scouting program. He said he found school officials in Wayne and nearby counties extremely receptive.

"We were welcomed by all of our Wayne County schools, which was fabulous," Keller said.

Developing a relationship with schools is not an emphasis with national Scout leaders, Keller said, but he noted that to him, it's "just good business."

Just before the school year started, the council's staff met with school administrators to brief them on the council and what Scouting has to offer. Soon after, the council held a dinner to recognize school administrators and the job they do.

"They are truly the unsung heroes in our community," Keller said.

Once classes began, the council began holding "roundup" meetings at elementary schools in the four counties that make up its Torhunta, Neusiok and Coharie Districts.

The first, at Northwest Elementary School, helped recruit more than 60 boys into the Cub Scouts.

That was indicative of how well similar recruitment efforts went in the other schools, Keller said.

"All of our numbers were very similar," he said. "We did extremely well."

At Spring Creek Elementary, principal Charles Ivey, who has a large number of Hispanic students, asked for an interpreter and Spanish translations of Scouting materials to help get more boys interested in Scouting. Nearly half of the boys who joined the Scouts from Spring Creek were Hispanic, Keller noted.

"I thought that was especially relevant, because Scouting is for all of our children, and we need to make it available for them," he said.

In all, more than 400 Wayne County boys joined the Cub Scouts in 2006, Keller said. Overall, the number of boys involved in Scouting in the council increased to about 5,700.

Keller said the increase reflects a trend across the nine Boy Scout councils in North Carolina and part of Virginia. These councils make up Area 7 of the national organization. The Tuscarora Council led the 13-state Southeast region in recruiting new Scouts for a council of its size, Keller noted.

Keller said that not every school district is so open to Scouting.

The council's three recruitment chairmen are school superintendents Steven Taylor in Wayne County for the Torhunta District, Wiley Dobey in Duplin for the Coharie District, which also includes Sampson County, and Fred Bartholomew in Johnston County's Neusiok District.

"Having these gentlemen on the board made a huge impact. We've got to maintain that relationship," Keller said, adding that Taylor has joined the council's board and its executive board.

The council will recognize 94 new Eagle Scouts at the Jan. 25 annual banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church at 202 S. Fourth St. in Smithfield. The Neusiok District will be the host for the event, which features the recognition of new Eagle Scouts and the presentation of Silver Beaver awards, the highest award in Scouting. This year, the council will honor two Wayne County volunteers, one from Johnston and another from Sampson.