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Cover image via Deseret News.
I caught my breath last week when my sister posted on our family text thread that the Church had officially separated from the Boy Scouts of America for our older boys. Though we all knew the time to bravely stand alone was coming, it’s a major bend in the river of Church culture for our youth. I am sure that there will be many memories shared as we all look back and cherish the good things that Church Scouting brought to us and will support our leaders as they seek to better lead our older teens in growing into the Priesthood leaders that the Lord and the Church needs in the demanding years to come.
For our family and our sons, it was the road to Eagle that will forever be the pinnacle of our many years in Scouts. Will Eagle Scout Projects continue, we wondered? The answer was readily available:
When officially asked, Can young men in these age groups continue to earn the Eagle Scout award? The Church says: “Yes. Young men who desire to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged. It is important to remember that only those young men who are properly registered are eligible to be awarded merit badges and rank advancements.”
The transition will take some time to put into place, with the rest of this year serving as a transition time with January 2018 to mark the beginning of the new programs. Along with a lot of fun and many experiences with their Scouting buddies and families, our sons, Spencer now 29, and Cooper, 26, learned how to work with a capital W! We’d given them a head start as little guys, ages 4 and 7 with folding newspapers when their sister Emily, age 8 became desperate for an American Girl doll (You can read that article HERE). Yes, indeed, they all had their first taste early on of the satisfaction that comes with earning your own way. We delivered newspapers until our youngest child, a baby girl in a car strapped in a car seat with that first newspaper route, was a High School Junior.
The work required for Eagle Scout projects as older teenagers, was, however, a big step beyond the weekly newspaper route! Coming up with the projects our Scouts were excited about was a big deal in and of itself, and both our sons spent some serious time deciding. Spencer went back to his Little League days to clean and restore dugout benches and fences. Two years later, Cooper chose to support a community service organization that needed coats for their winter coat give-away for men, women, children and babies.
Spencer was a baseball nut before he could walk and dearly loved his Little League days. As an older teen (still playing baseball on the High School team and Babe Ruth) and in need of an interesting Eagle project, he contacted those who maintained his beloved field at Byron Avenue in Springfield Virginia. Was there was anything he could help with? It was his wish to pay back in some way for the great joy of his first great years playing.
“You bet! Our dugouts are in bad shape! We have some stands and fences that badly need to be re-stained with a weather-protective finish! Take your pick of these projects!” was the local Little League’s cheerful response.
He chose both, and set to work getting donated sealant materials from the local hardware stores, and convincing his fellow Scouts that scraping gum off dugout benches was a worthy cause. We cleaned, scraped, sanded and painted for several weeks. In the end, it was a vast improvement and made for many happy memories as well.
Several years later, things in our Ward troop had become very disorganized with Cooper’s large group. It was time for Cooper to get his project going. About that same time, the Bishop called my husband to work with these older Scouts. He pulled together the records, badges and projects for these boys to receive their Eagles in a timely way.
These boys and their families were willing, but in sore need of a plan and a dedicated leader to make it all happen. Bob’s a detail man with a very special way with teens and adults. With him as the team captain and the support of some key parents, over the next 12-15 months the goal was achieved!
While Spencer’s project lasted several weeks, Cooper’s lasted for nearly a year. The coats would need to be collected at the end of the winter, but not delivered until the beginning of the following winter. It was a multi-phase project of planning, advertising and organizing that lasted from mid-January through early November.
In January and February, we helped Cooper outline a game plan. In March, he contacted local business owners for supplies (plastic bags, boxes, storage space, etc.) In April, he briefed his fellow-scouts on what would be happening, then advertised in all the Ward bulletins in our large Stake that he would be gathering no-longer-needed coats. He then provided large boxes with signs for the various buildings.
On a designated Saturday in early May, he and his fellow Scouts hand-delivered fliers requesting new and used coats and supplied large plastic bags to hold the coats to every house in our large surrounding neighborhoods. The following Saturday we drove the Scouts through those neighborhoods and picked up the bags sitting out by mailboxes.
By mid-May he had collected over 400 donated winter coats of all sizes and styles. The mountain of coats sat in our garage until a generous self-storage business donated a unit for the next six months in which to store the collected coats.
It was a hot day in June when we finished taking them to the storage unit with a couple of the Scouts, but we were done for the summer! In October, we met at the storage unit again with many of the Scouts to sort, organize and size them. We had a grand time trying on and modeling the coats and on one last Saturday in early November, we drove them over to the community group that had requested them, and spent the morning putting them on hangers by size and gender.
That very day they started handing out the coats to those in need. Like Spencer’s completed project, it was enormously satisfying to see the hard work completed and so gratefully accepted.
What an incredibly fulfilling and demanding year that was as Bob and Ward leaders supervised these eight Young Men. On one glorious Sunday evening, we held an Eagle Court of Honor for eight, yes EIGHT, new Eagle Scouts and their parents! There were flags that had been flown over the US Capitol for each of them, and letters from Congressmen, along with beautiful displays in the Cultural Hall for each of the eight new Eagles. I’ve said ever since that Bob has a very special jewel in his crown in heaven for his part in it all.
Ten years later, was Church Scouting worth it? There were lots of months – even years — when I, personally, was not so sure. There were times when it seemed to be more our experience than theirs, but in the end, of course, it was and still IS a thrill. It is even more so as I’ve watched our sons grow into wonderful missionaries, college students, and businessmen. They are loyal and honorable to our family and friends to all! At this time they are working together to launch our new business with our herbal detox for LDS missionaries at www.CTRVital.com, and it’s exciting to see how that work ethic is a huge part of their lives, along with a sense of adventure and joy that goes with knowing how to work hard.
When Spencer, as a high school 17-year-old, needed a job, after being turned down at several restaurants, he went to the most popular, exclusive steak house in our area, “Mike’s American Grill.” With no experience, but a winning smile and a “can-do” attitude, the manager asked him what he could say for himself and why Mike’s should be interested in hiring him. Spencer pulled out his Eagle Scout card and said, ‘I’m honest. I get along well with others and understand teamwork. I know how to try, I know how to learn and most of all I know how to work!”
The manager looked at him and said, “I know what’s required for that Eagle rank. There are not many of you guys around and I want you!” That wonderful job created an employment path that lasts to this day for his brother, his sister, and a number of their friends, then their friends and family members to work at that fabulous restaurant. That restaurant taught even more valuable life lessons that have served our children well, especially as missionaries knowing how to meet the public. For some of those friends, including Spencer, their part-time employment at “Mike’s” eventually became full-time jobs. After high school graduation, Spencer was promoted from “Tiger/Bus Boy” to “Waiter” and fully paid for his entire mission to the London England Mission with his earnings. When he returned two years later, Mike’s American Grill put him to work full-time immediately and he earned enough money over the next several months to buy a car for his next several years at BYU-Idaho.
Would he have been hired at Mike’s without earning his Eagle? He doesn’t think so. The memories, the experiences, the friendships, all of it that came from his Eagle and the blessings that followed is highly regarded in our family’s view as essential for their success as missionaries and right up to their current successes.
As a family, we fully understand the Church’s need to move on and create more customized experiences for our Young Men around the world. There are many ways to make memories and teach them how to work and have a great time while doing so. How grateful we are for what it provided for us, and it will be exciting to see how the Church accomplishes these important character traits and leadership skills for our young men who will usher in the Second Coming!
With gratitude, our family says, “Farewell and Thank You!” to the Scouting experience as we have known it. We then then add a hearty “Welcome!” to the new plans, knowing that the Church is true and has the courage and inspired leaders to direct and protect us in an ever-changing world.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online since 1999, having presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups while living in the Washington, DC area.
She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents to a growing number of darling grandchildren. They are now happy empty-nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox and reflexology power socks.