If you ask most people, the driving force behind Scouting is the volunteer. The Scoutmaster, Committee Chairman, Den Leader, Packmaster, merit badge counselor, Cub day camp leader and so on are all volunteers. In fact if you are reading this article you are probably a volunteer in Scouting in some way.
As a volunteer we all joke about the line, “It only takes one hour a week to be involved in Scouting.” I have not known many people who got involved in Scouts and can limit their time spent to one hour a week. The time volunteers spend is given to help kids grow and mature; to offer a chance to wear Khaki gang colors instead of red or blue; to give back to Scouting some small measure of what Scouting has done for them.
Over the years I have found the interface with volunteers and the local council falls into one of two areas: a necessary evil that must be dealt with in order for the council to function or an integral part of the Scouting that is essential to provide opportunities for Scouts to grow. A look at two different councils can demonstrate the difference.
In Council 1 the Scout Executive seems more interested in fundraising and financial matters than in the programs for the Scouts. The council is run dictatorially and suggestions and input from volunteers is generally frowned on. Each year the local NESA organization had an Eagle banquet to recognize the Eagles for the year. This council would not approve the banquet as a function unless it could be used as a fundraiser as well. A Venture crew leader was “black listed” from any activities outside of those involving his crew. Venture crew training was scheduled as an activity at a University of Scouting program. When it was learned that this individual was setting up the training, the program was disapproved and no Venture training was given. This is not a council where the Scouts and the Scouting program are of primary importance.
Council 2 is a council I visited for summer camp. Everyone was greeted warmly as one would expect. As a district advancement chairman I was observing the various training exercises. At the lifesaving merit badge, I became aware that requirements for the merit badge were not being fully complied with. After a short discussion with the program manager and camp director where we all discussed reasons why this situation was occurring, it was agreed that their training should be modified and it was. On Wednesday evening the local council executive staff (Scout Executive and all his executive committee) came to camp and cooked a special dinner for the volunteers and presented each volunteer with a camp mug. The comment was made that without the time given by the volunteers there would be no Scouting program and the council executive staff wanted to show their appreciation.
Could these councils be more different? Both will survive. Both will train Scouts. One is much more enjoyable to work with than the other. Scouters aren’t much for polls but I have created a poll in the forum to see which kind of council is more prevalent. If you get a chance, give me your input.