“The Colonial Virginia Council has made a comeback. The council was inches away from going out of existence until its board and staff turned it around. Today they are thriving, they’re back, and they’re stronger than ever,” says Mike Serbaugh, chief scout executive of Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Serbaugh, who heads the organization at the national level, was speaking at the 2019 Annual National Meeting in Denver, Colorado. He identified the local council, out of the 272 total councils across the country, as being a perfect example of the resilience and perseverance scouting embodies.
It’s true that the area’s council was facing great financial difficulties several years back, and Serbaugh was right; it was close to going out of existence. This would have meant merging with one of the other 12 councils that make up Boy Scouts of America in this part of Virginia and North Carolina. The Colonial Virginia Council of BSA covers the Virginia Peninsula and the southside of Virginia, but also stretches as far north as Matthews County and southwest to Brunswick County.
“We have customers who come from two to two and a half hours away,” says Jennifer McPeters, manager of the Scout Shop in Newport News. The shop provides scouting merchandise and materials to the 4,000 kids and 2,000 adults who compose the Colonial Virginia Council. McPeters has managed the shop since July of 2015 and has watched the council rebound and become stronger than ever. “There was a time when we didn’t have the finances to keep the store stocked. Through the growth of the council, we went from being able to purchase $1,200 worth of merchandise per week to $2,500 per week. I’m pleased to say the shop has been a big part of the goodwill and the stability of the council growing,” she says.
The financial difficulties faced by the council caused it to temporarily lose its traditional charter from the national organization. “We were put on a transitional charter, which meant we were close to having to merge with another council. It was about 2013 when that was happening,” says Clinton Hammett, scout executive of the Colonial Virginia Council. As it slowly began to bounce back financially and grow its membership, it was given a transitional charter. “Then in March of this year the area came in with the blessing of our national organization and decided we had the financial stability and proven growth in our membership to a level that was on par with the rest of the scout councils in the area. We were once again given a traditional charter,” Hammett says.
It’s true that the Colonial Virginia Council of Boy Scouts of America lost a great deal through the difficult times, including its scout camp, called the Bayport Scout Reservation, as well as an 8,000-square-foot office in Newport News, and its staff was cut by more than half. However, things are really turning around and the future is as bright as ever. “Out of Area Seven in the southern region, which is made up of 12 Boy Scout councils, the Colonial Virginia Council is number one in membership growth,” says Hammett.
One of the ways the organization grows its membership is through partnering with schools. Staff and members talk with kids about the exciting programs offered and distribute flyers that give parents the information they need. Two days later parents and students can come back for sign-up night. Back-to-school night is another way that representatives from BSA interact with parents, letting them know about the benefits of participating. The goal is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational and career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations.
The Scout Shop on Canon Boulevard is another great way to learn more about Boy Scouts of America and about the Colonial Virginia Council. “We’re a family here at the shop,” says Hammett. “And we’re a family-oriented organization. What Jennifer has brought to the shop is that sense that you’re not just a customer, you’re one of us. We’re excited about scouting here in the Colonial Virginia Council. The struggles are behind us and we’re growing in membership and volunteers.”
TO THE POINT:
Colonial Virginia Council of Boy Scouts of America
Address: 11834 Canon Blvd., Ste. L,
Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Clinton Hammett, Scout executive