I learned early on that promoting Scouting seems to fall into the hands of the local troops and packs. During my 33 years of being involved with the Boy Scout program I have very rarely seen the national office or the local council do much to promote the Scouting program outside of the Scouting program. In fact, even with the all negativity thrown during the past dozen years at Scouting I have seen little positive promotion done by the national office. Take away any news of the 100th anniversary or the National Jamboree and what are you left with?
Are those crickets I hear?
Anyway, my issue with the national office and the local councils can wait for another article. Let’s get back to what this article is about, and that is local promotion of the Scout program, that which is done by local packs and troops. Namely my troop, Melrose Troop 68.
Shorty after becoming an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 68, like within a month, I began writing articles about troop activities for the local newspaper, the Melrose Beacon, and called it the Scout’s Review. For awhile, I wrote the article with Sharon, the oldest sister of one of the Boy Scouts and a cousin of mine. The first article was published on July 23, 1980. It covered the first troop camping trip held at a local lake in June. It also covered a second outing, a father and son camping trip, and the troop elections. It covered a lot of stuff for a short article. (Click on the picture for a larger version to read the article.)
The purpose of the articles was to get the word out within town that the Boy Scout program was back and going strong. The previous troop had disbanded four or five years earlier. It was time to start anew. Time to get your son involved in this worthwhile program.
I believed it helped. Articles and pictures appeared in the paper regularly, usually at least once a month, sometimes two times a month. Boys not involved in Scouting were able to see what the Scouts were doing and the fun they were having. Even the Cub Scout Pack would submit articles which I am sure helped the pack to grow strong. When the troop went to Philmont the story of the trip filled half of a page of the newspaper. Stories of Eagle Scouts began to appear, and people enjoyed reading about them. When our community had its own public television station we put that to work to add to the troop’s public image.
For three decades I wrote articles about Scouting and submitted them to the paper. I had a great relationship with the newspaper. But three decades is a long time to write articles. I started to burn out. I received very little help from the parents. It finally got to the point were I really did not care to write and submit any articles anymore. The Scout’s Review began to appear less regular. Sometime months would go by without an article. I was also burning out as the scoutmaster. I know that did not help my mood for writing articles.
I am not the scoutmaster anymore. I stepped down nearly two years ago. But somehow, this year has been turning out to be a great year for getting the Boy Scouts back in the press locally. One reason is because I still submit pictures to the newspaper, along with a short description of the activity. I may not write a full story along with the photo, but at least we get something in the paper.
The second reason is because the editor of the paper, Carol, has covered the troop during a few of its activities. She was there to take pictures at the last troop meeting of the year at the Jaycee park. She came to our waffle breakfast fundraiser and took a couple pictures. She wrote an article about the troop’s decades of use and meetings at the Jaycee Park, which the city council decided to sell to the hospital this year for a new expansion project. In other words, she sees stories about Scouting that she thinks should be shared with the community. It has been great.
I have four three ring binders that contain the articles printed in the Melrose Beacon over the past 33 years. I think I have every article, but I may be missing one or two. Those four binders contain quite a history of the troop, beginning with that first camping trip at Uhlenkolts Lake, to the Scouting For Food Drive held this month. They contain articles about trips to Philmont, and BWCA, and the mountains of Virginia. There are also articles of most of the eighteen Boy Scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Like I said, quite a history in those binders.
How does your troop get the word out about Scouting in your community? Does your troop or pack have a person appointed to submit articles and pictures to your local newspaper?