AnnMarie Harmon has been involved in Scouting in The Valley since 2005 when her now 24-year-old son was in first grade and she was his den leader. She has served as a den leader, cubmaster and committee chair as well as a recruiter.
She’s concerned about the lack of adults willing to step up and volunteer with Scouting locally and also concerned about how few kids are signing up for Scouting, including many who need the life skills that Scouting teaches.
“When I first got involved in leadership, I was recruiting 40-50 kids per year and doing it in the schools during lunch. Around 2011, the former Superintendent Brigid Nease said I was not allowed to do that. I went to her office and pleaded and begged. She had interpreted a policy stating that there shall be no solicitation allowed in schools and she considered talking to kids about Scouting solicitation,” Harmon said.
She tried to make the case that she wasn’t promoting a business, rather to help educate kids in ways that were aligned with the school’s own goals. She also tried to work with the board on being allowed back in the schools but never succeeded.
The solution, the school district told her, was to put notices in school newsletters and parents’ bulletins.
“But that’s not how you recruit Scouts. Kids need to hear from someone like me talking about building fires, camping, using tools, fishing and bows and arrows. Then they go home and tell their parents they want to join Scouts,” Harmon explained.
Lack of access to local kids has meant fewer kids in Scouting and with fewer kids involved that means fewer parents and Harmon is concerned about the future of Scouting in The Valley.
In an October 25 letter to the editor to The Valley Reporter Harmon wrote that “Scouting provides the laboratory to try out the lessons learned in school and family life. It helps to reinforce how important it is to work together to achieve projects and to make things happen. It provides a sense of connection with the community while strengthening family ties,” she wrote.
In an interview this week Harmon said that there a real need for adults in the community to volunteer and help champion the cause of Scouting. She said that after she gave her notice that she was stepping down from Scouting a year ago in May she had a volunteer ready to become committee chair but that person didn’t work out and local Scouting organizers are still short of a cubmaster and committee chair. Fred Messer services as unit commissioner.
Asked what would be lost if local Scouting programs are not available, Harmon paused, and then responded.
“What will be lost, in my almost 20 years of experience, is the education. These kids, they’re coming to us with a lack of understanding of basic skills like baking cookies for themselves or planting a seed in a pot or making a bird house out of wood, how to use hammers and nails. They come not having the patience or fitness to hike more than a mile. They come to us not knowing the importance of drinking water or basic nutrition,” Harmon said.
Asked how many Scouts and leaders were needed, she explained that at least four Scouts are needed per den and there is one den per grade from kindergarten to fifth grade. Two den leaders are needed for each grade for a total of 24 adults, plus the cubmaster and committee chair and unit commissioner.