Year of the Volunteer—Western Region
After a challenging experience as a rookie summer-camp leader three decades ago, Jan Perkins set out to become the best Scoutmaster he could be. Since then, he has worked to make Boy Scouting the best program it can be. Perkins helped craft the current youth leader training continuum and led the five-year effort to revise every merit badge pamphlet.
Jan Perkins remembers exactly how he became a Scout leader. “I complained too much,” he said.
Specifically, Perkins complained that his son’s troop was skipping summer camp because the Scoutmaster couldn’t attend. Troop leaders quickly invited him to take the Scoutmaster’s place on the trip, assuring him that only four Scouts were going.
“I showed up at the appointed time, and there were 18 boys and only one adult—me,” Perkins said. That was long before the Guide to Safe Scouting came along, so Perkins took the Scouts to camp. It was not a great week.
Back home, Perkins bought a copy of the Scoutmaster Handbook and began learning how to be a good Scout leader. He soon became Scoutmaster, attended Wood Badge, and served on the first of many Wood Badge staffs. Since then, he has worked at every level from the district committee to the national organization. Most recently, he has served as an area president in the Western Region. “I didn’t volunteer to do one thing. I just said, ‘I’ll help where you need me,’” he said.
At the national level, Perkins has helped change the face of Boy Scouting. During his time on the Training Committee, the BSA introduced a new training continuum that includes National Youth Leader Training and National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience. When he was head of the Advancement Committee, he spearheaded a plan to revise and update every single merit badge pamphlet over a five-year period.
According to George Trosko, professional adviser to the Advancement Committee during the merit badge project, Perkins offers unique skills. “His reputation is that of a volunteer leader who tackles major multi-year projects with ease and produces successful results while making all feel good during the process—even when disagreements occur,” Trosko said.
Perkins is quick to point out that such projects—unlike his first summer-camp experience—are not one-man shows. “Lots of volunteers worked on these things,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be the chair.”
He also points out that the most important person isn’t even in the room at committee meetings. “I always have in the front of my mind that whatever we’re doing helps a kid somewhere,” he said. “That’s what drives me.”
John Richers, Scout executive of the Sequoia Council, recalled the time at a National Scout Jamboree when a timid Scout knocked on the door of Perkins’ trailer, asking if it were an aid station. The Scout didn’t need first aid, however. He was lost and needed a ride back to his subcamp, which Perkins graciously provided.
“Jan continues to be an aid station to the youth of our nation,” Richers said.