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Editorial: Reorg of Michigan Scout Councils

by Al Opdyke

We are experiencing exciting and challenging times in the Lansing area.  Whereas, the Chief Okemos Council used to encompass Eaton, Ingham and parts of Clinton and Shiawassee counties.

This area is now organized as the Chief Okemos District. One of the many districts in the newly organized council. We now have the opportunity to support scouts all the way to the Mackinac Bridge. My interpretation of the State of Michigan map, indicates that our new local council now includes these  additional counties.   They are Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Crawford, Oscoda, Alcona,  Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Clare, Gladwin, Arenac, Isabella, Midland, Huron, Gratiot, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Genesee, Lapeer, and St. Clair. In my layman's observation, this is roughly  everything from Lansing, east to Canada and Highway 127 from Lansing, north thru the junction of I-75 -  to the Mackinac Bridge. ( all counties north and east of these two lines!) We still include all of Ingham and Eaton Counties.  The main council office for this new "Water and Woods"  Field Scout Council is in Flint.

The stated vision of this new council is " To create an organization that focuses on Exceptional Scouting Programs in every community - ensuring that every youth in Michigan has an opportunity to join and participate. "

From my talks with a few other Chief Okemos volunteers, there had been discussion about closing the Scout Office by the corner of Waverly Rd. and Michigan Avenue, in  Lansing. The rumor was that the scout store in Flint was being designated as our local scout store.  ( I am not sure  that the Grand Rapids, Gerald Ford Council, store  is not a better drive for us.) The Grand Rapids Scout Store is an outstanding store, in fact the whole facility is grand. I just heard that the Lansing Scout Service Center & Store is being funded for the next year. I like to think that the Lansing headquarters was small because all the money went into the boy's program, whereas the others have facilities that are wonderful. But, it could be, that Lansing just didn't have the money to put into nice offices etc. for the paid scout employees. The Lansing District Office has under gone dramatic personnel reductions, and very quickly. The next local camporee is in the fall, at the Midland, Michigan Fairgrounds. Distances have become greater for Lansing scouters.

A year ago the Lansing Scout Office had five office people. A chief executive who met with the business leaders of our community to seek major funding. Four others ( office manager, scout store keeper, receptionist/secretary, computer input ( for unit record input to national headquarters ), these people kept the units informed, and current on the requirements set by national Boy Scout Offices. Three district executives had the responsibility to actively work with their units and unit sponsors to recruit boys and help provide an active program for their units.  Now, the three executives still exist and are responsible for the same units they initially had. But, they are out in the community and no longer at the scout office, unless, an appointment is made to see them. Also, there is now only one person at the scout office. This person  keeps the office,  the phones, the scout store and walk-ins, when not helping people like me out of my pack problems. While on lunch hour the scout office must close , no one is there.   This person also fields and answers questions from anyone (from council officials, unit volunteer leaders, to new families interested in scouting. ) I cannot imagine all the responsibilities that for twenty five years, five people tried to do, which is now being attempted by one person, and this person is great.  I think I heard,  Flint said they will handle any excess. The two remaining D.E.s have been directed to achieve monthly fundraising goals. This seems to be compromising  time spent with and for Troops and Packs. Lansing jobs have been recently been lost due to fundraising hurdles.

This reorganization was prompted by a panel's recommendation that the nine Michigan councils be merged into one large super council to save money.  As a result, in 2012, Michigan Crossroads Council was created consisting of four Field Service Councils: President Ford, Water and Woods,  Southern Shores, and Great Lakes. It looks like the Ford Council has about the same square miles as our new local council ( only they are on the western part of the state! ) The Great Lakes Council now has three counties ( Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne ). The Southern Shores Council has the remaining 9 counties at the bottom of the state. ( It looks like a part of Berrien and Cass counties might belong to an Illinois or Indiana Council .)  I understand Michigan's Upper Peninsula joined the Wisconsin , opted out and joined the Wisconsin councils.. I have heard that this creates areas which  have an equal number of boys of scouting age. But,  in our new council, the word local has a very new meaning, south to north it includes about 300 miles  ( Olivet  to Rogers City over a 4 hour drive! ). It was decided that "Flint", (the Water n Woods Council), could best advocate  and support scouting into the far corners of their territory.

As you seek and give donations for scouting, from  friends and businesses to which you have inroads,  please think about where you want the money to go.  While the pack treasury needs are modest, with an extra column in our bookkeeping  we could support Lansing scouting to a higher level. than we were able to in the past. In the end, every boy deserves a chance to be in scouting and every family should be given the chance to support to the level in which they feel comfortable.   Remember our pack 386 saying. " If we are not doing what we want to do... we must change, so that we ARE doing what we want to do."

This editorial contains personal opinions and observations  of Al Opdyke and not necessarily that of pack 386. I can talk to you at more length during the den and pack meetings.