Local Boy Scout council seeing increase in membership
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Boy Scouts of America is one organization that suffered greatly due to COVID-19 restrictions, but last year’s numbers show an uptick in interest in western Massachusetts.
“For I don’t know how long, there’s been a decline in membership in the scouts and this is just a good step forward again, coming out of the pandemic, to be able to say that we’re growing again,” said Art Lobdell, assistant scout executive.
Many organizations were hit hard during the pandemic and the Boy Scouts of America are no different, but in western Massachusetts, troop numbers are starting to pick back up.
“We were able to do recruiting drives at schools. We used a new tactic: the story walk. We also had an inflatable archery range that we were around to county fairs and things like that,” Lobdell added.
If you remember back in 2019, the Boy Scouts went co-ed with the hope that adding girls would not only create a more inclusive environment for the troops, but also increase the number of scouts in the program. Shortly thereafter, in 2020, COVID-19 struck. Lobdell told Western Mass News that the ones hit hardest were the youngest were the Cub Scouts.
“That’s from kindergarten to fifth grade. That program almost came to a standstill. The older ones were able to adapt much more and have outdoor meetings or have Zoom meetings,” Lobdell explained.
Now, two years later, things are starting to look up. Lobdell told us in 2022, the Cub Scout program alone grew by 20 percent. As a whole, registration for the Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts grew by eight percent. Right now, the western Massachusetts branch has just over 1,700 youth members and they hope to get to 2,000 members by the end of 2023.
Lobdells told us their teen exploring program is also starting to pick up the pace.
“We serve any vocational area, so we have a group at the airport, we have a group now starting with construction, we have a group and broadcasting, we have law enforcement,” Lobdell said.
Lobdell expects this growth to continue, but now that their numbers are on the rise, the biggest challenge the scouts face is a lack of adult volunteers.
“We could have an awful lot more scouts in our program if we had more volunteer leaders…There are more youth that want to join, but there aren’t necessarily as many adults that want to put their time into it to be able to help the program go forward,” Lobdell added.
Lobdell said that although recommended, you don’t need to have Cub Scout experience to volunteer. Registration for the Boy Scouts is open all year and if you’d like to join a troop near you, you can CLICK HERE for more information.
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