Boy Scouts of America’s Middle Tennessee Council Thrives During Pandemic
The longtime motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be prepared.” We at Nashville, Tennessee-based 4Patriots couldn’t have said it any better.
That’s why we’re so happy to be associated with the Middle Tennessee Council of Boy Scouts of America.
Recently the Council held its 20th Annual Extravaganza fundraising event. Despite the event being held virtually for the first time ever, it raised more funds (grossing over $100,000) for the organization than any previous Extravaganza.
Normally the event is a formal gala with hundreds of people in attendance and approximately 200 auction items placed around the room.
Virtual Fundraiser Exceeds Expectations
“Due to COVID-19, we realized early on that we were not going to be able to hold an in-person event,” said Zach Ross, Director of Development for the Council.
“But the online auction was fantastic. With the event being virtual, we were able to cast a wider net.
“Among the higher ticket items were a golf trip to Juno, Florida in a private plane, a one-week visit to a private house in France and a trip to Lake Tahoe.
“We also received some great preparedness items from 4Patriots that were very well received. Including a solar-powered generator, tactical flashlights, power banks, emergency weather radios, personal water filters and survival food.
“The money we raised will go a long way toward benefiting Scouts in Middle Tennessee.”
Mission and Vision Prepare Scouts
The mission of the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
The vision of the Council is to foster the character development, citizenship training and physical fitness of these young people through an emphasis on outdoor program experiences.
Together, the mission and vision help prepare them to be responsible, contributing members of society throughout their lifetime.
Variety of Programs
Scouting programs for youths ages 5-21 break down as follows:
- Cub Scouting – kindergarten through grade 5, or ages 5 to 10
- Scouts BSA – grades 6 through 12, or ages 11 to 18
- STEM Scouts – co-educational, grades 3 through 12, or ages 8 to 18
- Venturing – coeducational, ages 14 to 21
- Exploring – coeducational, ages 14 to 21
Each program uses unique and proven methods of youth development. All programs have a foundation of leadership, community service, self-reliance and a duty to God and country.
The Middle Tennessee Council, BSA youth membership is 18,640. This represents a membership increase of 24 percent since 2015.
Scouting programs are neighborhood-centered and led by trained adult volunteer mentors. There are more than 5,000 registered volunteers.
In 2019, 359 young people earned the prestigious Eagle Scout rank, while 10,445 earned rank advancements.
Scouts and their leaders recorded 56,098 hours of service in projects at churches, schools and other local nonprofit organizations.
Four Camping Sites
The Middle Tennessee Council utilizes four different camping sites, each of which the Council owns and operates.
They are the Parish Reservation at Rock Island, the Grimes Canoe Base on the Buffalo River, the Boxwell Scout Reservation on Old Hickory Lane and the Latimer Reservation on Cumberland Plateau.
“These sites are spread out, which helps because we serve 37 counties,” Zach said. “If units want to use a facility, they don’t have to travel far to do that.
“The Parish Reservation is for primitive camping and Boxwell is where we hold our summer camp. Latimer is more about high adventure including climbing and the Grimes Canoe Base is about canoeing.”
Need-Based Assistance Programs
Although membership fees are reasonable, sometimes they pose a challenge for lower income families. That’s where the Council’s special assistance program comes in.
In 2019, more than 2,060 youths and 168 adults received some type of assistance totaling nearly $150,000. Even more was budgeted for 2020.
“The Special Assistance program and the Scoutreach Initiative (engaging at-risk children in Scouting programs) have grown,” Zach said.
“We’re raising more money to fund these programs and growing our membership. We also receive grants from foundations that can only be used to support this initiative.”
Wanting to Leave a Legacy
Zach was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. He played baseball at Milligan College in Elizabethton and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
After working in retail as a store manager, he moved to Wyoming and spent two years as a ranch hand.
“There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, so I started a co-ed softball league and some Little League baseball and softball teams,” Zach said. “I saw what it did for the kids, so when I returned to Tennessee I wanted to do something with a purpose that would leave a legacy.”
He was hired by the Boy Scouts of America in early 2014, starting as a district executive and working in fundraising, as well as membership and volunteer recruitment.
Zach has now been in Scouting for almost seven years with three different Councils. With the Middle Tennessee Council, he oversees fund development and marketing.
Battling COVID-19 Challenges
As with nearly every organization, the pandemic presented challenges Zach and others had to work around in 2020.
“Summer camp was cancelled in its traditional sense, but we did Merit Badge Days in one day at Boxwell, instead of a week-long camping experience,” Zach said.
“We took all of the kids’ temperatures when they arrived and kept them in clusters of 20 or fewer.
“Whichever merit badge a kid was trying to earn, they stayed in that area and we brought lunch to them. We did the same thing for the fall and winter camps.
‘Hope Is on the Horizon’
“Normally, day camp involves arts, crafts, and outdoor activities including shooting BB guns and archery,” he continued. “But this year we did ‘Day Camp at Your Doorstep,’ collecting materials and shipping them to Scouts’ homes.
“We also had social distance courts of honors and earning merit badges through online video conferencing.
“The older kids are pretty acclimated with Zoom so they planned some of their own activities. It was a little more challenging with the Cub Scout level, especially getting them to stay in front of a camera for a while. But Scouting is adaptable.
“2020 was the 100th anniversary of the Middle Tennessee Council and we had to postpone several special events for that.
“But hope is on the horizon. 2021 will be the 100th anniversary of the Boxwell Reservation, so our plan is to celebrate both the anniversaries.”
One thing is for certain. Young people who go through the Scouting program will be better prepared for whatever life throws at them.