It really shocked me when friends in our community told me they really were not aware of a significant Boy/Cub Scout presence in our community.
Scouting, at its core, is all about service. It became my goal to help move scouting out of the fellowship halls and church basements and into the community.
We have succeeded in moving our Ocoee District events to the public arena. Some of you may have had the opportunity to watch our Pinewood Derby at Bradley Square Mall, or our Cubmobile race in the parking lot of the Church of the Living Word on 25th Street. Many know of our almost famous Boy Scout Winter Camporee and Great Hiwassee River Raft Race. These events draw participants from all across the region.
Our local United Way does exceptional work in assuring that any scout who wants to participate in the program can do so, regardless of financial ability. Registration fees, camping fees, and uniforms are all taken care of. However, due to the independent structures of each individual Boy Scout and Cub unit, it ultimately fails to the scoutmasters and den leaders to decide upon service projects ... and figure out how to get them funded. Service projects are required at every level of scouting, from Tiger Cubs (1st grade) all the way through Eagle.
Many have noticed scouts picking up trash on the Greenway or in other areas around Cleveland. I know several wetland areas that have been cleaned up by our local scouts.
We were able to help many families with an organized service day after the tornadoes in 2011. Those are wonderful service projects, but we want to do much more.
I was very pleased when a former human resources contact asked me if the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts would be interested in “partnering” with the local tree board. I think my exact words were “YES! and YES!”
We have just begun this new partnership with the installation of tree identification markers on the Greenway. Initially, just a few have been installed as test markers to check for height, durability, etc. All in all, I think there will be 32 of these.
Marty Frix, scoutmaster of Troop 75 said it best when he gathered his scouts after the initial markers were installed. He asked them if thay had fun. The boys were digging in the dirt and working with tools. Of course they had fun.
But then he said “How do you feel about what you did today? People walking on this Greenway will walk over to these markers and increase their knowledge because of your efforts here today. Years from now, you may walk here with your children and see a full-grown tree. Your children may walk over to this marker and use the information for a school project.
“This is giving back to your community. That is what community service is all about.”
The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of the Ocoee district are reporting for duty, and we are looking forward to many years of service to the Cleveland/Bradley County community.
If you would like to know more about how you or your child can be involved in Scouting, please contact James Hulgan at 423-443-9181 or Shannon Ward at 423-240-0535.
Shannon Ward is Ocoee district commissioner of Cherokee Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.