By John Scheib
Scouting in South Hampton Roads proudly marches on and is as relevant today as it was more than 100 years after its origin. With its youth development program that is centered on values, citizenship, and preparing young people for life, Scouting has extended its reach to boys and girls to help them “be prepared” for life.
On September 21, 1911, twenty eight of Norfolk’s most prominent businessmen met to form the Norfolk Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA). In 1934, the Cub Scout program was formally adopted by the Norfolk Council. The challenge of the day was “new ambition for greater service to more boys throughout America.” In January 1935, the council was given its present name, The Tidewater Council, Inc., BSA.
Today, the council serves youth in seven counties in northeastern North Carolina and the Virginia cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach.
Throughout Scouting’s history, its core values — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent – have not changed.
From those first days with only a handful of boys, the values of Scouting have directly influenced hundreds of thousands of lives here in the Tidewater Council. Many of them have gone on to distinguish themselves as leaders. “Our Council serves more than 4,000 boys and girls through 164 units through a force of adult volunteer Scouters numbering 1,941,” said Jamie Parnell, who is the Council’s Scout Executive. “We do that through several different unit types: packs, troops, crews, ships, and posts that meet throughout Hampton Roads.”
Scouting takes seriously its mission and the need to provide the best youth development program in a safe environment. Youth Protection training is required for all BSA registered volunteers and is a joining requirement. And in Tidewater Council, it is required annually.
Cub Scouts is fun with a purpose and is open to boys and girls from kindergarten to fifth grade. Interested parents can obtain more information for their child at https://tidewaterbsa.com/join/.
Cub Scouts is a year-round program that offers fun activities that promote character and leadership development. “Our program is designed to be hands-on, and parents are encouraged to play an active role in our programs,” explained Scout Executive Parnell.
Cub Scout families enjoy a program that embraces the outdoors through camping, hiking, and water sports, and other adventures. Lessons learned in the out-of- doors help to develop a life-long respect for the environment.
Cub Scout activities are centered around earning badges that represent a rank and that are specific to each school grade level. Advancement refers to the progress a Cub Scout makes toward their badge of rank. “Cub Scouts is all about Scouting as a family,” explained Meghan Mead, Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner for one of Tidewater Council’s districts. “In the 5 years that our family was in the program, we experienced an upward spiral: every activity we did brought us closer as a family, made us better citizens, and allowed my boys to see how they can contribute to their community.”
In den meetings and pack meetings, Cub Scouts make new friends, play purposeful games, and learn new things. Dens usually meet two times a month. All the dens in the pack come together once a month for a pack meeting.
Open to youth from ages 11-18, Scouts BSA is the program of scout skills, merit badges, rank advancement, camping and adventures that is the trail to Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout. Service, community engagement and leadership development are important parts of the program as youth lead their own activities.
The big transition here is that troops have youth leaders and advancement is based on individual achievement. The trail to Eagle Scout is filled with opportunities to learn skills and earn merit badges. Merit badges give scouts the opportunity to investigate around 135 different areas of knowledge and skills. A Scout must earn at least 21 merit badges to reach Eagle Scouts. Thirteen of those badges are required, including first aid, various aspects of citizenship, cooking, personal fitness, environmental science or sustainability, camping, and family life.
Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, girls were invited to join Scouts BSA girl troops on February 1, 2019. Scouts BSA will be single gender – all girl troops or all boy troops. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single-gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families. Scouting expanded its reach in response to the fact that families today are busier and more diverse than ever.
Scouting also understood that the values of Scouting as outlined in the Scout Law – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent – are relevant and important values for both young men and young women.
“We have been energized to see girls join the program. In fact, some of the girls, have attained Eagle Scout already and others will soon finish and join the first class of female Eagle Scouts to be announced early next year,” noted John Scheib, Tidewater Council Board and father of a female Scout.
The outdoor camping experience is an integral part of the program as youth learn to be self-sufficient, to plan, and to work as a small unit to get tasks like cooking and cleaning done themselves. The Tidewater Council supports its Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA members camping at Pipsico Scout Reservation. Pipsico Scout Reservation is located in Surry County, Virginia, on property held in trust since 1958 for the benefit of the scouts in the Council. It encompasses 916 acres of woodland, open fields and marshes. Pipsico Scout Reservation’s northern boundary extends for a mile and a half along the banks of the historic James River. The “Red Trail” that encircles the reservation provides a variety of visual and ecological wonders for hikers of all ages. Along the trail you may choose to stop and see the “Pipsico Tree”, a tulip poplar nearly 20 feet in circumference that predates the arrival of the first English colonists or stroll along the sandy beach of the James River and observe the flight of the bald eagles that nest on the reservation.
Scouts participate in activities at Pipsico throughout the year, including summer camps, service weekends, Cub Scout family camps, an annual Zomboree, Klondike Derby, Guns and Grilling, and other exciting events.
Pipsico is also available for rent to non-Scout groups.
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Tidewater Council is fighting its way through the constraints of COVID. But its future is bright. The Council raised nearly twice as much money in 2020 than in 2019 through its Friends of Scouting campaign. “The community has stepped up and reaffirmed Scouting’s importance in developing citizens and leaders through their treasurers,” said Scheib who led the 2020 campaign. “But we can always use more support.”
And the beneficiaries are our youth.