The Cooke County United Way “2011 Campaign Kick Off Luncheon” is getting closer as Sept. 3 comes up on the calendar.
Pacesetter teams are still in action, raising money and hopefully preparing some fun and entertaining skits for the luncheon crowd as they present their funds and campaign pledges to the United Way — money that will help agencies to reach far into the local communities.
One of the 18 agencies the CCUW serves is the Boy Scouts, which in Cooke County is part of the Longhorn Chapter and the local Frontier Trails Boy Scouts.
For one century now, Boy Scouts have been busy with innumerable projects in about as many cities and towns, meant to build their character, train them in leadership and citizenship and to prepare them for a successful adulthood.
Those cities and towns include Valley View, Muenster, Gainesville, Lindsay and Era, who participate with Boy Scouts of America with 13 “Boy Scout” units that serve approximately 400 to 450 boys.
Joe Belanger is the District Executive of Frontier Trails and oversees the Cooke County and North Denton County area. An Eagle Scout himself, Belanger has a lifelong involvement in scouting said the program has positive and far-reaching results.
“The purpose of scouting is to teach them leadership and to be involved in community,” he noted, “to think beyond themselves and to learn all those values that would make them more successful later on in life.”
Belanger related that he has seen many instances where involvement in scouting made a huge difference in individual lives. Two of those individuals are friends he grew up with who had no fathers in their life.
“Being involved in the scouts taught them things they wouldn’t have learned otherwise,” he said. “Now they are fully functioning adults. Without scouts, they could have gone down the wrong path.”
After all these years, Belanger said he and his friends still keep in touch with their Scout Masters and his friends still consider them father-figures.
Generally speaking, scouting is a year-round program and serves youth from first grade (age 6) to the age of 20.
There are several different programs in Boy Scouts and some are co-ed. The basic categories include Cub Scouts for first to fifth grade boys and Boy Scouts for fifth grade to 18 years of age. The Ventures group serves boys and girls from the time of their eighth grade graduation to the time they are 20 and activities include high adventure outdoor activities such as rappelling and rock climbing. The Explorers group also serves boys and girls from the time of their eighth grade graduation to the time they are 20 and focuses more on vocational type of activities such as fire department posts and police department posts.
Belanger has been a volunteer scout leader for many years and though he is now employed with the BSA, he is also currently a volunteer Den Leader for his nephew’s Cub Scout pack.
“I’m still learning,” Belanger said of his Den Leader experiences. “I’ve always loved the scouts. I started when I was in first grade and have tried to stay active since then. I’ve always felt a strong connection with the scouts and the program.”
As a professional liaison with BSA, Belanger said he now provides support, information and guidance for the many adult leaders who serve the scout youth in this area.
One of these adult leaders is Kim Bell, Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 1653 in Gainesville, which is organized through the First United Methodist Church.
Bell said she has been involved with scouting since her oldest son was in the first grade. He is now in the 10th grade.
“I’m in it for who knows how long. He has four more brothers on the way up,” she said of her oldest son. “Right now that means two sons in Cub Scouts and two sons in Boy Scouts, with the youngest only 17 months old.”
The Boy Scout curriculum is established to bring fundamental experiences for participants, Bell said.
“Even at a very early age, we teach them to be leaders,” she noted. “We teach them to be self-sufficient. We teach them how to handle things and to be a positive person. They learn to think on their feet and to know what they’re doing.”
The older scouts also help to mentor the younger scouts and become role models for them, Bell added. She said this teaches the older scouts leadership skills and helps the younger scouts learn the skills for their own age group.
CCUW Executive Director Angie Hare said she feels strongly about benefiting the youth in the local communities through agencies such as the Boy Scouts.
“Kids and youth gain a lot of confidence through these programs such as Boy Scouts,” Hare noted. “These agencies for youth help them build character, learn valuable skills and become successful adults.”
CCUW is working to raise $360,000, their goal for this year’s annual fundraising campaign.
The community impact areas for United Way are: Helping Children & Youth Succeed through the Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, Boys Baseball, Cooke County Youth Fair, Girl Scouts, and Muenster Youth Council; Promoting Health, Well-Being & Independence through the Area Agency on Aging, Camp Sweeney, Home Hospice of Cooke County, Meals on Wheels, Reading & Radio Resource, Substance Abuse Council and TAPS; Assisting with Basic Needs/Providing Crisis Intervention through Abigail's Arms, American Red Cross, CASA, Child Welfare Board and VISTO.
For more information about these agencies or the Cooke County United Way, contact their office at (940) 665-1793.
Editor’s Note: The Cooke County United Way serves 18 agencies and the Register will spotlight each of them between now and the end of the year. The United Way community campaign kicks off with a luncheon on Sept. 3.