Agency Spotlight article by Kelsey Walker, District Executive, Boy Scouts-Great Rivers Council
The Boy Scouts are one of four agencies that have partnered with the United Way of Central Missouri since its inception in our community 92 years ago. Boy Scouts is a 107-year-old organization whose mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime and to achieve their full potential by teaching them life skills and instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. We use the outdoors as our classroom to teach youth leadership skills, life lessons and expose them to a variety of interests. Through fishing, shooting arrows, and hiking they are growing, developing character and experiencing new things in a safe environment. The Great Rivers Council, Boy Scouts of America provides this program to 33 counties in central Missouri.
Journey to Excellence is the metric the National Boy Scouts of America uses to rate their councils, districts and service units. They can be unrated, bronze, silver and gold in ascending order based on membership, fundraising, advancement, training, camping and community service. This year (under the Great River Council) the Five Rivers District that encompasses Cole, Moniteau, Gasconade, Osage, Maries, and southern Callaway counties raised the bar. For the first time in eight years, the district proudly achieved gold status. The achievement would have been impossible without the leadership of District Chair Chris Wood and his committee, Ed Kniest and his commissioner staff and the volunteer leaders that work so hard to make a difference in the lives of our youth.
Scouting is thriving in central Missouri! Last fall the Boy Scouts joined forces with the Girl Scouts for one unified school night to join scouting. This recruitment event allowed boys and girls in Jefferson City to get involved with scouting. The night was so successful that we partnered again for our Pinewood Derby. The Girl Scouts raced their cars in the morning and the Cub Scouts raced their cars in the afternoon. These kids could participate in face-painting, games, scavenger hunts and help themselves to funnel cake while they waited for their cars to race.
The Boy Scouts are not just about popcorn, knots and camping! The Sinquefield Invention Labs bring Scouts into the 21st century. The labs contain 3-D printers, laser printers, embroidery machines, Arduino boards, computers, CNC-routers and little bits! Not only do we have mobile labs to bring technology to youth of all ages, we also have a brandnew, permanent lab in the final stages of building for the summer of 2017.
The equipment in the lab is so inspiring; it is taking community groups to new heights. The Invention Scout Program provides young men and women ages 14-20 years old entrepreneurship and problem solving activities. These talented students identify an issue, brainstorm, test and solve it. The program not only encourages these students to invent a problem solver, but also encourages them to patent and market the idea. The very first Invention Scout crew in the nation was fostered locally through Helias Catholic High school by leader Steve Wilson!
In 2016 the five-county Five Rivers District had 22 Eagle Scouts. In 2017 we have several Scouts working hard on their projects and boards of review so that they too can achieve the rank of Eagle. Their projects are not just building a bench -- these youth have undertaken a wide variety of service projects including; charity landscaping, designing state-wide traveling World War I museum displays, constructing trails, building picnic tables for the Samaritan Center, creating a shotput range for Calvary Lutheran High School and assembling 100 “Begin Again Backpacks” for children coming into foster care.
The United Way of Central Missouri is an important partner for the Boy Scouts of America. Their financial support provides scholarships that covers the cost of national membership dues, uniforms, books and camp costs for youth that otherwise would not be able to join Boy Scouts due to financial strain. It is thanks to this vital support by the United Way that all boys in our community have the opportunity to be a scout and learn the leadership skills and life lessons that will make them successful and allow them to achieve their full potential.