Month: March 2016

District Pinewood Derby

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Don’t forget that the District Pinewood Derby is Saturday, April 16th at 10 am.

More information here.


Calling all COR’s, Chairs, Cubmasters, & Scoutmaster

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At Spring Camporee, District will hold its first Annual Unit Key 3 Conference. This will take place a Camp Kikthawenund on Saturday, April 23rd from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.

It is very important that your unit be represented.

We will be discussing plans for District, resources available for units, training opportunities, and unit operations.

We will also have some guest speakers stop in and discuss council issues.

You can make your reservation online.

Recruit youth leaders for ILST at Camporee

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At the spring camporee, District will be offering Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops. The facilitators will be Aryman Gupta, Troop 56, and Tony Ketner, Troop 69. These young men will teach patrol leaders and senior patrol leaders and future leaders the basic of troop leadership on Saturday, April 23rd.

Please recruit your scouts to participate.

This class is a prerequisite for White Stag/NYLT. We plan on having a SPL from the summer White Stag course and may be a course director come and visit to discuss what White Stag offers them in June and July.

Make reservations here.NYLT_4k

More effective unit committee meetings

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Bobwhite Blather is a blog written by a long-time troop committee chair. He has some wonderful insights on better managing the adults in units.

His most recent post focuses on more efficient pack/troop meetings.

One of the key points is to encourage committee members to bring a short written report with details. Then their oral reports can focus on the highlights with details available for individuals to review outside the meeting.

One of the most important tasks that a committee chair can fulfill is encouraging brevity and succinctness. One of the tried and true methods is having a written agenda with each point of conversation having a short time budget. This written agenda should be offered for review and approval by the group BEFORE the conversations begin. That way the group is invested in the proposed schedule.

For example, let’s say the chair offers an agenda that says, in part, “Discussion of next campout (10 minutes).” He starts the meeting by reviewing the minutes from the previous meeting and reviewing the agenda. “You all have my proposed agenda? Any amendments that we need to make? No? Ok, let’s get started.” Then the emphasis in the budgeted time should be clarifying who is in charge and who is assisting, summarizing the outing agenda created by the PLC, identifying resources needed, and identifying known problems. All other details should be delegated to a person or small committee to resolve within the agreed parameters.

Once the 10 minutes is expired, that does not mean that the committee chair needs to abruptly end the conversation. It does create a natural point for the chair to interrupt the conversation for a minute, saying, “We had budgeted 10 minutes for this conversation. Those 10 minutes are now up. Is there anything that we must address as a committee left. If so, how much time do we want to spend on that conversation?”

Surprisingly, keeping participants aware of the clock and asking for their input for any extensions of time is extremely effective at wrapping up wandering conversations. Often there is no further discussion to be had and the matter is quickly closed.

If there is a need for further conversation, the participants then have some sense of control over how much more discussion will take place. They become more sensitive to the need for brevity. When the next time period expires, it is usually best to resolve the matter or refer it to a small group to work through details. The unit committee is not the best place to do extensive detail work.

Please note, nowhere did I suggest an emphasis on Robert’s Rules of Order, formal proposal of motions, seconds, and votes. An effective meeting can be and often should be run without such formalities. Even so, a good chairman knows how to work within these formalities.

To fully develop this idea is a potential topic for a future post. For now, suffice it to say that knowing how formal meetings can be run allows a chair to understand the chair’s proper role in managing a meeting. The chair can make points consistent with formal procedure without reciting the magic incantations for formal procedure. The chair can say, “I see that we are out of time on this point,” rather than the more formal, “The chair finds that time is expired for debate on the question before the committee; I, therefore, call for a vote on the question.”

Committee meetings are more effective when the chair comes to the meeting with an agenda with a proposed time schedule and that time schedule is honored.

REMINDER: April Committee Meeting

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Just a quick reminder that the April committee meeting is coming up on Thursday, April 7th at 7:00 pm.

Related to that Camporee Chair Stu Bowes will hold a Spring Camporee Organizing Meeting at 6:30 pm at the same location. All troops are invited to send a representative to that meeting.

Spring Camporee Invite

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Dear Scouters,SuperScout Weekend

2016 North Star, Spring Camporee

Camp Kikthawenund

7651 W 500 N.

Frankton, IN

April, 22nd to the 24th



Please find information HERE about the 2016 North Star Spring Camporee. I would encourage everyone to register online to take advantage of an adult discount. If you don’t know your total number attending, please try to give an accurate estimate (you can change it later online). If you have any question about the Camporee or know what activity your unit would like to host, please contact Stu Bowes at


The online registration link is

What is a Commissioner in boy scouts?

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This week marks the anniversary of my learning what a commissioner in boy scouts was.

As I have learned the job of being a District Commissioner, I have had to teach it to many other scouters and parents.

Unit Problems I Witnessed in Scouting

About six years ago, I was stepping down as the Cubmaster of Pack 61 in Washington Township. My son had changed schools, so it was not practical for me to continue in the position, since my scouting time was being spent elsewhere. The pack had struggled with being properly staffed. The parents were loyal to scouting but I had struggled to recruit them to serve as leaders. Many were exhausted having been through Cub Scouts with two sons many years apart. They had been doing Cub Scouts for approaching a decade with these same staffing problems.

I called the District Executive and asked for help. He proposed a meeting with the Chartered Organization Representative and the Committee Chair. If I could find a proposed Cubmaster, he suggested I invite them, too.

I did as he suggested.

We held a meeting and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the pack, what our goals were, what our roles would be, and what needed to happen.

Then the District Executive shared some bad news with us. He was overwhelmed with duties and could not give us the time that we probably needed. He told us that the District was understaffed, so he was loaded with duties that he ideally should not be.

The conclusion of the story is that the pack folded within 9 months of that meeting. I was frustrated and confused about the matter. I had felt let down. The District Executive had been honest with us. I just did not like the story that he told.

Two years later, I was serving as the Chartered Organization Representative of my son’s troop. His scoutmaster was the scoutmaster who had handed my mother my Eagle pin several decades earlier. Suddenly, the scoutmaster died in a traffic accident.

Our troop pulled together and managed itself with great aplomb through the difficulties that followed. We had little contact from District or Council, aside from Scout Executive Scott Clabaugh’s presence and willingness to help. Scott was going above and beyond his role.

Three years later, I sat in the room hearing Stroh Brann tell us that North Star District might be dissolved. Council Commissioner Rick Tardy was present and offering his services. I had never met Rick. I had no idea what his job in scouting was.

Yet within five weeks, I was sitting on Rick’s Commissioner Staff, wondering what I had just got myself in to.

Learning What a Commissioner Is

During that five weeks, I had gone to Unit Commissioner Basic Training in Greenwood’s Pathfinder District. The instructors were wonderful. They taught me what a Unit Commissioner was and what the mission of the Commissioner Service was. Now my learning had begun.

I learned that Unit Commissioners were volunteer scouters. Their mission was to help units thrive and grow. Unit Commissioners are the ombudsmen of scouting. They visit packs, troops, and crews to see how they can help the units. Commissioners help primarily by having the Unit’s Key 3, committee members, or other staff identify a problem. The commissioner then either offers advice or seeks expert help from members of the District Committee.

Essentially commissioners try to deal with many of the types of problems that I had already experienced in scouting.

Commissioners advise on recruiting adult leaders. One of the hardest parts of the job for new Cubmasters or committee chairs is being able to describe the role and duties of different positions. Commissioners assist by bringing their experience or network of contacts in to help, when requested by the unit Key 3.  This prior experience allows them to be more effective recruiters.

Commissioners help units reorganize in times of difficulty. In units that have lost historically-significant leaders, such as when Cubmasters follow their sons into boy scouting, the unit may need to reorganize. The pack committee chair may need to become the Cubmaster. The treasurer may need to become the committee chair. The commissioner helps the committee define its vision and keep the process moving forward. This is often done by bringing the Chartered Organization Representative into the picture and recruiting resources from the Chartered Organization to help with the transition. The Commissioner’s experience and resources often create a sense of calm because the unit does not feel so alone.

They help units celebrate successes that the unit may ignore. Units often do not realize what they are doing well because their only frame of reference is their own experiences as an adult and sometimes as a youth. Unit leaders may think that they are failing if things don’t go as planned. A commissioner helps bring perspective. Most commissioners serve more than one unit and/or have years of experience in a different unit. Commissioners also meet monthly to discuss the issues of the day. They end up with the perspective of many units across the district. All of this exposure to different units means that Commissioners can often see successes that the unit does not.

Special tasks

The commissioner service also handles the strange departments.  Continuing education and rechartering are imperative to the health of units. Consequently, they fall into the commissioner service domain.  Special round table commissioners can be appointed and are needed to administer and run the Boy Scout and Cub Scout roundtables.

This past year we were blessed with the assistance of Mat Gerdenich in serving to lead  rechartering. He has chosen to make that his specialty as a commissioner. I’m delighted to report that he will be returning for 2016.

Teaching What Commissioners Do

As I am reaching my first anniversary in the position of North Star District Commissioner, I have had contact unit leaders in all of our packs, troops, and crews. I have helped boys make Eagle in ways that I never imagined. I have seen struggling units solve problems. I have seen misunderstandings be fixed quickly. I have seen volunteers having more fun because they are less distracted by misunderstandings. I have seen volunteers move into positions that fit their personalities and passions better. I have seen volunteers at District find their positions to be interesting and exciting.

For all of these people, I have had to teach my role as the District’s chief ombudsman.

Thanks All Around

I have received thanks from many leaders. Yet for me it is not only the thanks from the wonderful scouters that makes this job rewarding. It is seeing Cub Scouts from Pike Township enjoying the hospitality and friendship with Pack 358’s Eagle Creek Park hayride. It is seeing unit leaders light up in seeing new opportunities for fun and adventure with their boys that they had not considered possible. It is seeing more scouters see increased volunteerism as  they become better at recruiting and describing the vision for their unit.

While we still need more unit commissioners to expand our reach and effectiveness, I am delighted to report that we have 10 active commissioners in place or coming online. We have three more that are looking to retire.

I would like to make a special thank you to Troop 358 for making a special effort to help staff the commissioner service fully. They have several candidates for future positions.


 As we look to recruit more commissioners and bring new units on line, we need your help in finding more commissioners. A twentysomething Eagle Scout or a recent retiree both make good recruits. They do not need to have experience in scouting. A businessman with a good network of contacts may be able to bring resources to the district that a young eagle scout cannot.

One of the ideal recruits is a father whose son has recently aged out of scouting. He may still be interested in volunteering but is not as interested in participating in troop activities on a weekly basis. This father could be very helpful unit commissioner.

Please keep your eyes open and let us know if you find good future commissioners for us.

Zionsville’s Scouting for Food

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Scouts in Zionsville have picked up and run with the Scouting for Food Program.

For other packs and troops that are interested in promoting Scouting for Food, this is what Zionsville Scouts are doing.

Take a look and see what you could do to support such a worthy program.

Hey Zionsville Scouts!
It is that time of year – the time when we show how a Scout is Helpful 🙂  Time for the annual Scouting for Food Drive!
Each Cub Scout Den/Girl Scout Troop is asked to sign up for one or more neighborhoods in Zionsville to canvas for donations (trick or treat style works best) and then bring and sort those donations to the Zionsville Food Pantry.  The dates for delivery this year are April 9 and 10th.  1-3pm.
Scouts wishing to participate in the Eagle Elementary, PVE, Stonegate or Boone Meadow school districts please go to the signupgenious for neighborhoods — Scouts participating in the Union Elementary neighborhood please contact Cub Master Jeremy Morin [email omitted] for instructions.
Boy Scout Troops are asked to either volunteer at the pantry for service hours Saturday or Sunday between 1-3 or have Patrols sign up for neighborhoods.  Whichever works best for your scouts.  If volunteering at the Pantry please send Sharla Merrick [email omitted] a list of volunteers and hours expected to work prior to that weekend.

District Appreciation Dinner

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North Star 2015 Awards DinnerDistrict Appreciation Dinner Chair Tucker Herbold and Advancement Chair Mark Pishon are proud to announce the Dinner to recognize scouters and scouts for high achievement in 2015.

You can download a copy of the North Star 2015 Awards Dinner Invitation.

UPDATE: link in flyer is wrong. It should be I am having trouble fixing flyer today.


Farewell and Good Luck to Rob Hemmelgarn

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As noted in another post today, Council’s Director Field Service Rob Hemmelgarn played an instrumental role in the past year in helping North Star District rebuild.

image_14272987390_1827We have received word that Rob just received an appointment to become the new Scout Executive for the LaSalle Council in the South Bend region. He will be leaving Crossroads of America Council this month.

We would like to thank Rob for his efforts in keeping North Star going and wish him luck with his new job.