Scoutreach

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SCOUTREACH

Having grown by more than five times in 10 years, the Scoutreach program of the Buffalo Trace Council of Evansville, Indiana, now serves roughly 2,200 youth, up from 424 in 1994. This success stems from long-term commitment from United Way and community leadership, as well as delivery of traditional Scouting through nontraditional means.

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The Sky's the Limit,
Evansville, Indiana

Ghost stories, foil dinners, tents pitched beneath the stars—a typical campout, right? The Buffalo Trace Council adds a twist to its Scoutreach campout: It's held on the roof of a downtown building. "Sky Camp is a real attention-getter for Scouting in the community," says Scout Executive Bob Hopper. The event also strengthens council relationships, since it's used to cross-promote United Way's program kickoff.

Making the Little Things Count
Tyler, Texas

In Scoutreach, as with much in life, little things can make a big difference. When the East Texas Area Council started Soccer and Scouting last summer, parents, clergy, and community leaders attended the first game—but they weren't interacting. The next week, the council installed a tarp near the field to entice them into the shade from the hot sun. That's all it took to gather these individuals together and start relationship building.

The council's units are chartered through churches, businesses, and other organizations. In areas where leadership isn't available, the council offers a weekly after-school program delivered by local university students. Vice President of Scoutreach Yvette Payne reports, "Kids build character and gain morals Scouting represents. You can see a difference when you compare program participants with the other school kids."

Additionally, Buffalo Trace Scoutreach youth enjoy events designed especially for them. "Reaching out to the community, the council is sensitive to the needs of inner-city youth," comments Payne. "The council's attitude is: 'Let's go to the kids instead of getting them to come to us.'" This approach is taken with downtown day camps, in which summer camp is imported to youth through the housing authority, and a campout that takes place on the roof of a city building. The council also encourages family attendance at banquets and ceremonies, where meals are provided for entire families to come together.

Further, the council earmarks funding to ensure that every youth who wants to participate in Scoutreach can do so. Camp scholarships are available, as well as a uniform donation program. A single Scout parent, Rajean Fleming is impressed that "the council includes any and all kids, no matter what their financial status or background." Fleming couldn't afford the uniform her son needed to participate in a flag ceremony. Through the council's uniform donation program, which provides used uniforms and funds, Fleming's son was able to represent the pack "he loves."

Program Manager Shannon Thompson states, "Scoutreach provides a Scouting experience for kids who may not otherwise have it. Parents see there are people willing to go the extra mile for their child, and that makes all the difference."

What makes the difference in the East Texas Area Council of Tyler, Texas, are significant commitments from private donors, the new Soccer and Scouting program, and relationships with schools. As a result, Scoutreach numbers have grown from 159 youth in 10 units in 2001 to 750 youth in 19 units in 2004.

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Faith helps guide Scouts in their daily lives, as they explore nature, strive for excellence, and work and play together.

Focusing on local Hispanic/Latino communities, the council emphasizes long-term growth that hinges on three-year commitments from funders. One such donor is Fourth Partner Foundation, which is also active in providing nonprofit development guidance. "We don't just give money and walk away," states Dawn Franks, a foundation director. "We ask the organization to agree to outcomes and also if we can be of service in the process. The East Texas Area Council set clear expectations for Scouting growth in the Hispanic community. We're looking for impacts over time."

Making an immediate impact, the new Soccer and Scouting program has been "an avalanche of success," as Scoutmaster Don Day puts it. "It's a first-rate program that's got the kids 'where they live.'" Launched in summer 2004, it has already promoted unit growth and parental involvement.

The program consists of Scout meetings and soccer practices midweek between Saturday games. Samuel Robles, a volunteer whose son participates in the program, says, "I recommend Soccer and Scouting—it involves parents with children, teaching cooperation and offering activities."

Scout Executive Mike Ballew points out that the program is "one of the tools in the toolbox. Soccer and Scouting wouldn't be as successful if a strong Scoutreach program hadn't already been in place." Much of the council's success comes from partnerships with schools to provide traditional and after-school Scouting opportunities. Unit Commissioner Maria de la Luz Nichols observes that Scoutreach gives students, some of whom are immigrants, "a real sense of belonging."

The council's efforts have led to a stronger presence with Tyler's Hispanic/Latino leaders and communities. Franks remarks, "We're really, really pleased with all the council has done."