Hurricane Maria: An update on BSA members in Puerto Rico. Ways you can help.

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Bryan on Scouting has just posted this article on how to help after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

To my view, the most important part of this article is that the councils and units affected have been slow to report their needs. This creates a risk of their needs being forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the BSA.

This slow response to state needs makes a lot of sense. First, the BSA is built on a diffused organizational system. National Council needs information from local councils. Local councils need information from districts. Districts need information from units. Units need information from unit leaders. Unit leaders are busy caring for their families, work or businesses, and places of worship.

Now the information trickle is beginning. The BSA has created several central clearinghouses of information. Units can make direct appeals for help. The BSA has created a central fundraising website. Now we know where to look for what is needed.

So the next question seems to be, “What can our unit do?”

What you can do is still limited by BSA regulations. Let’s take a quick look so that these are all fresh in mind.

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Thoughts on Uniforms for Recruiting

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As I have noted earlier, our recruitment numbers for Tiger Cubs are down for Washington and Pike Townships.

Thinking about ways to increase our free-marketing opportunities, I realized how few times in the modern era that scouts are seen in uniform outside of scout meetings.

In my review of the history of scouting in Central Indiana to track the history of my home troop (which was founded in 1915), I learned a lot about scouting practices in the early 20th century.

What caught my attention is how often the scouts were out at public events in uniform. Some at neighborhood events. Some at scouting events open to the public. Some of these are antiquated ideas, but I find old things a great means of sparking the imagination and brain storming.

In the pre-WWI era, a common neighborhood practice was the “Yard Party.” A family or group would hold a party in the yard of a member’s home or the local church. They would publish an announcement in the local paper and invite the neighborhood. It seems the only idea was to entertain and socialize. No fundraising. No other complications.

For scout troops, this was a way to be seen as actively participating in the local neighborhood. Houses were in walking distance of each other in the city, and neighbors would see the neighborhood boys working together for the good of the community.

Now we look at the activities we do. How many times are your scouts in public without their “Class A uniforms” on? Would non-scouts know that you are doing scouting from a distance? How many times do you do activities away from your usual secret-hideaway meeting location?

These are all opportunities lost to market ourselves at no cost.

We need to be finding ways to put on our uniforms and be seen near our neighborhoods – near our meeting locations. That will start conversations and introduce us again to our neighbors.

The mystery of the neckerchief – resolved

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In last week’s post, we opened the mystery of who introduced the neckerchief to scouting. The neckerchief and campaign hat or iconic emblems of Lord Baden Powell. Yet he did not invent the neckerchief.

We also discovered last week that BP came to use the neckerchief because of his friend Fred.

So who was Fred?

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Whose idea was the neckerchief?

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We all know that Baden-Powell gave us the neckerchief. It is such an emblematically British accoutrement, right?

Or is it?

Baden-Powell had taken to wearing a neckerchief before the famous Siege of Maefking, where the journalist Win

Baden Powell

ston Churchill helped make the general famous.

In fact, Baden-Powell made the neckerchief and his famous campaign hat part of the South African Constabulary (law enforcement department) when he was re-assigned to South Africa later. The newly formed Canadian Mounted Police visited Baden-Powell in South Africa and adopted the campaign hat as part of their new uniform.

But where did BP come up with the neckerchief and campaign hat?

BP had become friends years earlier with a chap he had met while BP was serving in southern Africa. This chap was named Fred. BP was taken with Fred because Fred was an extraordinary army scout. Fred was able to bring back robust and detailed reports on the movement of the enemy, the lay of the land, and other useful intelligence.

While BP had already written a book on military scouting, BP still learned many skills about scouting from Fred. In fact, as a result of many of these lessons, BP went back and revised his previous army manual to issue the new Aids to Scouting. This book is what later attracted so many young boys to BP when BP returned to England from Maefking.

BP had been impressed with Fred’s technique, but he was also impressed with Fred’s ubiquitous campaign hat and neckerchief. Fred would explain that the hat and neckerchief were very useful for a scout. The neckerchief kept the sun off the back of his neck and allowed him to stay cool. The hat kept the sun out of his eyes and off of his head.

So who was this Fred to whom we owe the iconic hat and neckerchief?

More on this mystery next week . . . .

Journey to Excellence Patches

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Since our District did so well on Journey to Excellence for 2015, we now get to celebrate our success.

Please make sure to order your JTE patches from the Scout Shop to give to your scouts and scouters. They can put it on their left sleeve (Cub, Scouts).

This is very important for the long-term success of your unit. As I often repeat, we wear patches of recognition for personal recognition but also — and I think more importantly — as an invitation to tell a story.JTE

If you see a scout wearing a Philmont patch, you are more likely to ask about his adventure. If you have been to Philmont, too, you will share your story. This creates a personal bond between strangers.

If a new parent visiting your unit looks at your JTE patch on your sleeve, they may ask what that means. “Gold” or “silver” sounds impressive. It is an invitation for you to brag about the strength of your unit.

If you are at summer camp, other scouters may ask you questions about what your unit does. They may never acknowledge the patch, but they find your unit’s experience more powerful. This is a quiet way for us to support other units.

So, please, make sure that your unit has and wears their JTE patches.

Last note: if you also have 100% Boy’s Life subscriptions, that is a slightly different JTE patch.


The Scout Staff

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I am fascinated by the old use of the Scout staff or walking stick as part of the scout uniform. The scout was expected to be able to use his staff for many uses. Take a look at this article on ways to use the staff and use scout craft.

The scout staff is also the way that a scout can make his uniform his own. He can add handles. He can add medallions.

In Del-Mi District, many troops give a Webelos crossing over into scouts a scout staff at the cross-over ceremony.