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Issue 29 – Mid-March 2004

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Remember Tom Lake, the Cubmaster with a Webelos Crossover Ceremony about to happen and some parents trying to shove down his throat the notion that all boys should “cross the bridge” even if they weren’t joining a Boy Scout Troop. I recommended he stand firm and not let this happen. Here’s an update from Tom, and here’s what happened:

Hi Andy,

Well, the Blue & Gold Banquet is now over and I held fast to having only the Webelos Scouts cross over who were actually joining Boy Scouts. Turns out, even the son of the Mom-Pack Chair who thought all should cross, no matter what, decided that he wanted to go on to Boy Scouts after all! My wife is the Den Leader for the graduating Webelos Scouts, and out of twelve, ten joined Boy Scouts! Plus, we think one of the two remaining might yet join. I’ve “retired” from Cubmaster, and now I’m going to help the Troop our own son joined. Thanks for your help! (Tom Lake)

I couldn’t be happier! For you, unquestionably. But, even more, for the brand-new Boy Scouts and their parents! And, the best way to loop in those last two is to have the boys who have just joined the Troop call up the two straggles and invite them to a Troop meeting—then be their “buddy” at the meeting!

I’m happy for you that you chose—correctly—to stand your ground. Look what good came out of that! And, you leave a legacy of correctness for the next generation of leadership in the Pack. I hope you’ve made the time to get your replacement trained, and that you move on gracefully.

Very best wishes to you and your new Boy Scout son—you’re about to have some truly magical years!

Meanwhile, here’s another viewpoint about what I said to Tom…

Hi Andy,

I don’t agree with your advice to Tom Lake in January 2004 about Webelos crossovers and “holding back.” I’ve been at cross-overs as a Scoutmaster and in my capacity as Unit Commissioner, too. I always carry extra red shoulder loops, in case there’s a Webelos Scout who’s undecided on the Troop to join. Just last weekend, I crossed two undecided boys into Scouting—They talked at length with some of the Scouts from the Troops who came to accept new Scouts, and by the end of the afternoon, one lad had made up his mind on where he wanted to go. I find that sometimes family situations also play a role. We have military families in our area, and sometimes parents’ jobs require them to move, too. I’ve often seen youth who are waiting to join a different Troop because they’re in the process of moving and haven’t yet had an opportunity to find a Troop in their new locale. These youth have every intention of being a Loyal Scout, but sometimes the situation requires that they have a few months’ gap between the planned cross-over ceremony at the Blue & Gold and joining a Troop. I don’t believe that we’re being fair to these youth if we don’t cross them into Boy Scouting. I’ve found that many of these undecided boys will eventually join a Troop and be successful. I have several of them in my own Troop! Please rethink your answer. (Deb McCormick, SM-Troop 472, UC, Clinton Valley Council, MI)

My answer, for the situation you refer to, stands pat. Why? Because in Tom Lake’s situation, we weren’t dealing with Webelos Scouts who wanted to join Boy Scouts but were “undecided” as to the specific Troop. Instead, this was a situation of boys who were specifically NOT going on to Boy Scouting, and a Cubmaster who was being railroaded into having them “cross-over” to nowhere by parents who didn’t want their sons “left out” even though they were henceforth leaving Scouting out of their lives.

But, since you’ve raised some different sorts of situations than the one we recently managed—and quite successfully, too, according to Tom—I’ll go on with a few more thoughts…

In a situation of moving, I couldn’t agree more that a Webelos Scout who intends to join a Troop as soon as the family’s move is completed should definitely “cross over.” This not only affirms his decision but reinforces his intentions.

In a situation of earning the Arrow of Light award and still being “undecided” as to Troop, this has to be extremely rare if the AoL requirements of (1) visiting a Troop meeting with the Den; (2) visiting a Boy Scout-oriented outdoor activity; and (3) visiting a Troop he’d consider joining, with his parent(s), having a conference with the Scoutmaster, and filling out the paperwork to join are all met. In fact, the boy and his family would quite literally have to “walk away” from these visits and paperwork commitment in order to wind up “undecided”! So, what we Commissioners need to do (check out the Commissioner Training session on the “Webelos-to-Scout Transition”) is to assure that the transition occurs.

Deb writes back…

Thanks for your reply, Andy. I do agree that if a youth is adamant about not going to go on to Boy Scouts, then the crossover is nothing more than an empty ritual. Unfortunately, there are Webelos Leaders out there who only bring their boys to the bare minimum number of Troop visits (just to get them out of the way). I live in the suburbs of Detroit and there are a large number of Troops in our area. Therefore, unless the parent has done research and made an effort, they may not be happy with the Troop that was visited by the Webelos Den where the boys were told to turn in their application. I do my best to reach as many youth (and parents) as I can, and make sure they understand their options. I encourage all the boys who join my Troop to look at other Troops before turning in their paperwork to me. I believe I have the best Troop out there, but I want the boys and the parents to know what the options are first—This way they know that our Troop is the right one for them. I guess my main point is that once the boy has those red loops on his shoulders, it makes him “feel” like a Scout, and sometimes that’s all he needs to change his mind about joining Boy Scouting. I know that sometimes boys are crossed over into many Troops in our area and the boys decide (usually after that March campout) that they don’t want to continue in Scouting, even though they crossed over into the program. We don’t back them over a bridge to take that crossover experience away from them! (Deb McCormick)

Yup, I think you’re absolutely on the right track! Great approach to new Scouts and Troop selections. About the only thing I can add is that I’ve found it’s important to let both the parents and their sons know that no one’s “marrying” the Troop—If they find one they’d rather be in, GO FOR IT! But, there’s one other thing I need to mention to you—It’s subtle, but I see a possible “danger signal.” You made reference to “minimum requirements.” There are NO “minimum requirements” anywhere in Scouting. There are REQUIREMENTS. Period. Not more; not less. Please keep this in mind when you’re Scoutmastering and looking at rank requirements.

Dear Andy,

I’d like to know what belt loops the Tiger Cubs in my Den can earn after they earn their Tiger Patch. Could you please help me? Thanks. (Debbie, Tiger Den Leader, Red Hook, NY)

Great news! The Cub Scout Academics & Sports activities are definitely available to Tiger Cubs—belt loops and pins! My host, the U.S. Scouting Service Project, has an excellent description of this program. Just go here:

Also, check out your council’s Scout Shop for actual books and pamphlets on these programs and how to carry them out. Then have a blast! These are fun programs!

Dear Andy,

My Scouter husband’s a wonderful man and I love him dearly, including everything he does as a volunteer. Sometime, when he’s talking about situations he’s facing with the units he serves as a Commissioner, I try to offer suggestions, or ask him what he’s going to do about it, but when I do this he, he just goes “silent” on me! I’m trying to help, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Any advice? (LS, Vermont)

Most men, I think, like to be fixers and problem solvers. Sorta replaces their hunter-gatherer instincts and makes up for no more mammoths to slay or T-Rexes to escape from. So, when a woman starts giving him solutions, his “caveman’s ear” starts hearing a bid to “be the leader of the pack.” When this happens, he’s no longer “in charge” while you’re both facing that T-Rex, and his “problem-solving job” has been taken away from him! Instead of thinking, “I’m going to tell her how we’re going to escape with our skins,” he starts thinking, “Oh, now I’ve got to face that T-Rex and someone who’s bucking for my job, too!” Or, he thinks he hears, “If you don’t come up with a solution, and darned quick, we’re both gonna get et, and if that happens, it’ll be all your fault, and we wouldn’t be in this pickle if I hadn’t listened to you in the first place!” Now we know the woman didn’t actually say that (or, at least, we hope not!), but that’s what the man hears. But, if the woman says something like, “Hey, that’s a hungry-lookin’ T-Rex… What do you think we should do?” then—Ahhh, man at his best here!—the man can come up with a solution that’ll work! Like, “Race you to that tree over there!” If you start giving him solutions, you run the risk that he’ll start thinking, “Well, if you’re so smart, maybe we oughta sit here for a while and discuss the merits of your idea…” which will shortly be followed by a large gulp, the sound of crunching bones, and a look of satisfaction on ol’ T’s face.

Men have learned very few things across the millennia… Like, they still haven’t figured out that “We have to talk” means “I have to talk,” and he still thinks that “We’d better get this fixed” means “YOU’d better fix it, or else!” Be gentle… Men are sensitive creatures, much more fragile than they’ll admit, mostly because they don’t know they are.

So when he talks about a problem, just listen, and give him easy feedback, like, “Wow,” or “No kidding,” or “They cannot be serious!” Always remember that, when a man tells his very best friend about his very deepest concern, all he’s really looking for is for his best friend to say, “Well, how about them Yankees this year.”

Dear Andy,

I’m working on my Eagle Scout Project. I’ll be building an Ark to keep one of my synagogue’s Torahs in that the teenage youth group use. To raise money to build the Ark, I’m writing an article for the synagogue’s newsletter in which I will ask for contributions to pay for the Ark’s construction material. My question is whether I may say in the article that money donations for my Eagle project are tax deductible for the people that give me donations. Also, should I say that I’ll give the donors a receipt for their donations? (Adam Schuit, Life Scout, Troop 40, West Windsor, NJ)

Congratulations on making it all the way to your Eagle project! And it certainly looks like a worth-while one! When it comes to contributions such as the type you need, the “tax deductible” part depends in part on who contributors will be writing their checks to. Will they be to “Adam Schuit,” or to your synagogue, or to your Troop, or to the BSA? If it’s the synagogue or the BSA, then they’d turn the money received over to you, and you’d have to work this out with them ahead of time. If the checks are written to you, you’ll want to open an account that you can put the money in, so that it’s easier to keep track of, especially if you receive more than you need (and, by-the-way, what you’ll do with any extra money should be included in your project write-up!). (A parent can open the account with you, so that there’s an adult name on it, and then you’ll close the account after the project’s completed and all money accounted for.) Anyway, I think your safest bet would be to say: “Contributions may be tax deductible—consult with your own accountant or tax preparer.” That way, you’re covered, and you don’t have to be an expert in taxes! (And I don’t, either!)

Dear Andy,

I have two questions on Eagle Projects. I’ve been approached with by two different scouts with projects ideas, and I’m not sure whether they’re worthy enough to be Eagle projects. One Scout wants to build a wheelchair ramp at a house of a handicapped individual through an organization that helps the poor and homeless. The second Scout wants to build a lifeguard tower at a lake that’s owned by a non-profit homeowners association but has a public access. Any comments? Any assistance is appreciated—our committee has been discussing this for a month! (Bruce Blevins)

I can appreciate the trouble you’re having. Both project ideas are what I’d call “borderline.” When I’m faced with “Solomon’s decisions” like these, I make sure to re-read whatever National BSA language I can find on the subject. This helps me a great deal, and often saves hours of pondering. So, let’s begin by looking at what Eagle requirement 5, on the application itself, states (I’m going to capitalize what I think are the key words): “Plan, develop, and give leadership in a service project helpful to any RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION, any SCHOOL, or YOUR COMMUNITY.” Here, I’m taking “community” to mean the specific town in which the Scout resides. With this requirement’s exact wording clearly in mind, here’s how I, personally, would vote on these two projects…

The first Scout’s project is being done for a single individual, and however noteworthy it may be, this doesn’t fit the categories the requirement describes. If the ramp were built at the town’s community center, and there were multiple users (thereby benefiting the community as a whole), I’d vote “go for it” in a heartbeat. But that’s not what it is. Here, counseling with the Scout to see if his interest in building such a ramp might be gently redirected toward a more encompassing venue would be my next step.

For the second Scout’s project, a little more reading might be helpful. In the BSA publication, “Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures,” you’ll find this statement: “For ideas and opportunities…the Scout can consult people such as school administrators, religious leaders, local government department directors, or a United Way agency’s personnel.” It also states that “businesses” are excluded. Putting these two together, it becomes apparent to me that merely being “not-for-profit” is not the same as being a CHARITABLE organization. So, since most homeowners’ associations are, in effect, businesses being run on a not-for-profit basis, and not truly charitable organizations (that is, you can’t donate money to them and receive an income tax credit), they are just outside the realm of what the Eagle service project requirement has in mind. Now, if it turns out that the town owns the lakefront land on which the lifeguard tower would be built, then I’d think we’re OK. If not, I’d think that the homeowners’ association is a little too close to being a business and a little too far away from being a charitable organization to qualify as a recipient of an Eagle project.

Dear Andy,

I’m wondering what ever happened to the “Tom Watt Kit” fund-raisers that I did back when I was a Cub Scout? I can’t find any links or references to them any where on the Web. Do you have any idea what happened to them or where to find them? (Jason Smith, ACM, Pennsylvania Dutch Council, Quarryville, PA)

Yes, I remember those, too. Don’t know for sure what happened to them. My guess is that they got eventually replaced by the National fund-raiser for units and councils—Trails End Popcorn. If you’re looking for a fundraiser, Trails End is pretty terrific. Great product, excellent “return” to the units and the Scouts who sell, and helps the council, too! That’s sure a “Win-Win-Win” to me! Contact your council service center, and ask for the “popcorn colonel (kernel)” for your district!

Dear Andy,

I’ve recently discovered your cyber advice column and enjoy reading the old entries immensely. Thanks for all the time and energy you put in on this. My question concerns Wood Badge. I’ve noticed that sometimes people who get Wood Badge seem to gradually retire, unofficially, from active participation. Of course, most don’t, but some do. They seem to bask in the glory, so to speak. It magnifies their egos. I’d like to suggest that one’s Wood Badge certification expire after, say, three years unless they take a refresher course. Is this a crazy idea? (Bill Ewing, SC-361, Santa Fe, NM)

Ahhh, Wood Badge… Scouting’s oldest “Old Boys Club.” At least, for decades it was usually that way. But it’s been evolving into what it should have been from the very beginning: a TRAINING COURSE. Open to all (with some obligatory prerequisites, of course, like—currently—Leader Essentials, etc.). A training course—nothing more, but certainly nothing less. And the highest level available to Scouters—volunteers and professionals alike. A training course that, more than any other, builds on camaraderie and teamwork. When Wood Badgers get their beads, woggle and Maclaren neckerchief, some do think it’s “the end of the trail,” just like some Scouts think Eagle rank is the end of the trail. Perhaps we need to borrow a little from the Order of the Arrow: “You are not so much being recognized for what you have done, but for what you are going to do.”

If camaraderie is the key, as I believe it well may be, then Wood Badge-trained leaders may need some further injections of that spirit along the way. It rekindles the fire of their Scouting commitment, feeds the soul, and takes away the alone-ness that Scouters sometimes feel. Annual “Wood Badge reunions” are one way to provide these vital injections. Or perhaps a special “Wood Badge task-force” to take on a special project at the council’s summer camp facilities. Or something else, anything else, that will help these dedicated folks recharge their batteries.

But, don’t write to somebody—DO SOMETHING. Start a reunion in your council. Spearhead a Wood Badge work party at your camp. Run a one-day “Wood Badge Camporee.” In short, find a way to re-connect Wood Badge-trained Scouters with the essence of why they took this rigorous training (to say nothing of their tickets) in the first place! DO IT. MAKE IT HAPPEN. In my opinion, we don’t need more training so much as we need places where we can put that training into action. Atrophy only results from non-use. Keep on using the skills and there’s no atrophy. This is how to keep these dedicated folks from fading away.

Dear Andy,

I have a third grader who joined our Pack this past fall. He has completed the Bobcat and Bear requirements. He wants to work on the Wolf requirements so that he can receive that badge. Can he do that? (James McLain, CM, Pack 623, Concord District, Central North Carolina Council)

Cub Scout rank requirements are age-specific, and you’ll find BSA literature that advises against “going backwards.” It’s not recommended, because a now 3rd-grader will find the Wolf requirements considerably less than challenging. For a simple piece of cloth, it’s not worth the effort. What this Cub Scout should absolutely be doing is racking up lots and lots of Bear-level Arrow Points! That’s where his focus should be, and he should get as many as his Mom is willing to sew on his uniform! And, after he’s earned a ton of these, there’s the World Conservation Award, belt loops and pins for academics and sports, and big bunches of other stuff that he’ll find interesting and challenging. Point him FORWARD and help him to keep from going backwards!

Happy Scouting!


Got a question? Send it to me sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(Mid-March 2004 – Copyright © 2004 Andy McCommish)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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