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.


Anniversary of a Scary Meeting

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This past week North Star District marked the anniversary of a scary meeting. It is worth taking a moment to consider what has happened since that meeting.

For the sake of clarity, allow me to begin with a definition. In scouting, we use the phrase “Key 3” often without defining it as a term. Since 2008, every level of scouting has identified three people who are important for assuring that scouting functions as designed. At the unit level, the Key 3 consists of the Chartered Organization Representative, the unit committee chair, and the unit leader (e.g., the Cubmaster, the Scoutmaster, the Venturing Advisor, the Varsity Team Coach).*

On March 1, 2015, the North Star District’s unit Key 3’s and regular volunteers at the district level received an email from Crossroads of America Council Vice President for District Operations Stroh Brann. He said, in part,

You are receiving this [email] because you are a key scouter in North Star District. You are probably aware that for the past months the district has been without anyone in a number of important district committee positions, including District Chair and District Commissioner.

The role of a district in scouting includes primarily three areas. District committee members serve as the voice of the district’s units (the scouts and scouters we serve) in helping formulate the Council policies. Districts deliver the scouting program to the units in the district. And third, the districts provide ongoing support to the scouts, scouters and their units. Without the key leadership, a solid committee and a strong Commissioner staff, none of these goals can be accomplished.
The role of Council’s District Operations is to support the districts, to assist them in finding the resources needed, and to help them achieve the goal of delivering on the promise. The current state of the North Star district organization has me concerned. Over the past few weeks I have been talking with a few North Star scouters to gain a better understanding of where you are as a district. Their feedback has been helpful and encouraging. This concern has also been a topic of conversation in my regular meetings with Rob Hemmelgarn, Director of Field Service and Staff Advisor to District Operations. Rob shares my concern regarding the future direction of North Star and has been very supportive in the efforts to help the district find the best solution to the leadership issue.
We have arranged for a meeting of key North Star scouters to be held on March 11, 2015 . . . .

The purpose for this meeting is to layout the process required to fill the leadership void in the district; to solicit your input and your support for this process; and to take the first steps toward solving the problem.

At that meeting, Stroh introduced several council representatives. These representatives were the Council Commissioner Rick Tardy (whose role many attendees, including myself, wondered about), Director of Field Service Rob Hemmelgarn, and others (whom I apologize for forgetting a year later). spoke plainly about the problems in the North Star District, its loss of membership, and its flat disfunction. We had about 20 registered district volunteers (excluding Merit Badge Counselors) of whom most were inactive. We had no functioning Commissioner’s Service.

Stroh then dropped the hammer. He told us in no uncertain terms that we had to either get our act together or else Council was going to dissolve North Star District. That got some energetic responses.

Stroh then told us that the path to avoiding dissolution required that we hold a Nominating Committee meeting as soon as possible and fill the vacancies for District Chair and District Commissioner immediately. Rob told us that we were without a district executive and none would be hired for us until we demonstrated that we were serious about reorganizing. We had until late June 2015 when Council would start making final decisions about the District’s fate.

As we look back on that fateful day with the advantage of a year’s experience, we now have a District Commissioner’s Staff at 45% of capacity, a District Committee that is nearly 60% staffed, and a veteran District Executive. All of our units rechartered last year. We had one of the most efficient rechartering systems in the Council. We had nearly 90% of our units earn Journey to Excellence recognition with the District receiving JTE Gold. Our membership losses were cut in half based on year-over-year comparisons. We had a wonderful fall recruitment campaign with many Boy Scout Troops contributing staffing for Cub Scout Packs.

We have had a great year!

Thank you to the volunteers in North Star District for demonstrating what a wonderful district we have.

* At the district level, the Key 3 consists of the District Chair, the District Commissioner, and the District Executive (or Professional). At the local council level, the Key 3 is the Council President, the Council Commissioner, and the Council Scout Executive. At the national level, the Key 3 is the National Council President, the National Commissioner, and the Chief Scout Executive.

March Eagle Report

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Congratulations to the Eagles from the March 9th boards of review:

First Name

Last Name

Troop #

Joseph Busse 358
Samuel Keedy 174
Gregory Oldiges 174
Joseph Ricks 174
Samuel Tanner 73
James Shields


March 9th will be their date of rank, once the National Advancement Team ratifies the approval.

UPDATE 3/16/16, 11:33 AM: James was accidentally omitted from the list. Our apologies to him for the error.

New Facebook Page

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In an effort to make the District current in its social media, posts from this website will now post to a Facebook page, too.

We realize that many individuals and units rely on Facebook as their primary communication method. For those units, families, and scouts, distributing valuable information easily through Facebook is highly desirable.

If you find an article timely or interesting, please “Like” the post. This will increase the number of people who can receive the same value.

As we enter the Fall Recruiting season, we will be using social media to push information to prospective families and scouts to learn more about what we offer. Sharing good posts for those audiences will allow us as a district to leverage information shared to persons who would not normally see our posts.

For example, a mother may have a new Tiger Cub in Pike Township also on a new soccer team. She joins a Facebook group for the soccer team. As a result, the new friends on Facebook may see a link to a photo of her son in a scout uniform. The next week, the new friends may see that the Tiger Cub mom liked an article about an upcoming hayride for scouts. The next month, they see an article about how scouting improves a boy’s cheerfulness and trustworthiness.

All of these examples are useful marketing for us. Very few took more than a few “Like” clicks for the young mom.

So, please have your unit’s Facebook page “Like” our new page. We would love it!

April Camporee Planning

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Remember as the weeks tick by we approach Camporee.

We need to set a theme in the next week or two. If your troop would like to contribute their idea, time is running out. We need to order patches and inform troops how to prepare.

April Camporee is also where the Order of the Arrow tap-out and invitations occur. Remember to encourage your OA candidates to attend the Camporee.

Your prospective troop leaders can also benefit by attending the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops and Crews. This is a prerequisite for National Youth Leadership Training also known locally as White Stag.

Adult leaders who are Scoutmasters, Cubmasters, Committee Chairs, and Chartered Organization Representatives should plan on attending the Unit Key 3 Conference from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on Saturday, April 23rd at Camp Kikthawenuend for Camporee, too. We will review and summarize district plans for recruitment, programming, events, administration, rechartering, and unit support. Mark your calendars now.

2016 Retention Campaign

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At Tuesday’s joint Council Commissioner Staff and Membership Committee Meeting, Council Membership Committee Chair Tony unveiled the outline of a campaign to improve membership retention within the Council.

Tony reported that 2015 saw Council cut its membership drop rate in half. The goal for 2016 is to have a net increase in membership.

Year-over-year council has had consistent recruitment night attendance.

Sticking with a basic premise of marketing that retaining a customer is cheaper and easier than finding a new customer, Council is focusing its membership committee efforts at making the first 6 months of a new scout’s and his parents’  experience better. That way the new scouts stays long enough to become a veteran scout.

The outline of this plan focuses on giving the district electronic communications to allow better information flow to the new parents and new den leaders. Since so much of the current training focuses on national’s online training, we have lost some of the local component that training had historically provided. As a result, the new leaders feel more stranded.

The goal of this plan is to give districts and in turn units tools for the new parents and new den leaders to feel part of something larger and more local.

There will be more details about this plan at the April 19, 2016 semi-annual operations meeting for the council to teach the districts.

Tentatively, North Star District is planning to offer a Unit Key 3 Conference at Spring Camporee at Camp Kikthawenund on the morning of April 23, 2016. We will be able to share more details with Cub Packs at that time.

Similarly the Ideal Year in Scouting presentation at the May roundtable at the Scout Center will provide even more ideas on how these elements fit together.

January 2016 Eagles

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Congratulations to the following new Eagle Scouts. There official status is “prospective” Eagle pinbecause their rank has not yet been confirmed by National Council. When the rank is confirmed their official date of rank will January 13, 2016.

  1. Matthias Benko, Troop 174
  2. Rhodes Lacy, Troop 18
  3. Lars Olson, Troop 343
  4. Mitchell Thompson, Troop 358.

Congratulations again!

NOTE: As a part of District's new efforts to confirm the scouts' service hours, Eagle Board Coordinator Jerry Simon will be reporting the man-hours reported by the Eagle reports to District Executive Con Sullivan. This will be used as a means to make sure that each troop is adequately reporting their service hours to national council and local council. This may result in emails to the Troops where underreporting appears to have occur in any given quarter.