Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

October 23, 2012

South Georgia Boy Scout Councils approve merger plan

Valdosta — In an effort to better serve youth, the Boy Scouts of America across South Georgia will undergo some major changes. A new business model, designed to better serve the youth of South Georgia, has been adopted that will offer great opportunities and resources to the volunteers and Scouts of the area. In a combined vote of 49-1 the voting members of both councils approved a plan of merger which creates a single Boy Scout Council.

Since May, a study committee comprised of members of the Executive Board of the Chehaw Council, headquartered in Albany, have had several meetings to investigate the viability of the Chehaw Council, BSA as an independent scout council. The conclusion that “business as usual” was not in the best interest of the youth of the 17 counties served by the Chehaw Council (Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Crisp, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Schley, Sumter, Terrell, Tift, Turner, Wilcox and Worth).

Coinciding with this timeline, the Executive Committee of the Alapaha Area Council, headquartered in Valdosta, recognized the need to also look at a better way of doing business, based on available resources; decreases in traditional funding, to include United Way support; and the fact that in the business world, smaller is not always better. Volunteers on the Alapaha Area Council Executive Committee reached out to the Chehaw Study Committee with a proposal to merge these two territories into one new council, providing the chance to better serve more youth, increase the number of volunteers and decrease operation overhead caused by duplication of services for the two areas.  The Alapaha Area Council’s service area encompasses 12 counties (Atkinson, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Lanier and Lowndes).

Seven “Fireside Chats” were held in numerous locations in both council territories to provide the volunteers delivering the Scouting program with information related to the discussions and answer any questions they had regarding the potential merger. The response from the volunteers at all meetings was very positive and they anticipated greater opportunities for their Scouts as a new council.

Questions arose from Board members of both councils, as well as unit level volunteers, related to the future of both councils’ camp properties. Scout camps are where the promise of outdoor adventure happens for Scouts, and both properties are near and dear to the hearts of volunteers in their respective areas. All parties were assured that there are no plans to sell, or otherwise dispose of either property. In fact, having two different locations for the combined new council to hold weekend camping activities for units as well as district or council events will only enhance that promise of outdoor adventure for all.

So what’s next? Effective Nov. 1, the new council territory will be temporarily called the South Georgia Council. Volunteers and Scouts will have an opportunity to submit ideas for the name of the new council, as well as the new council shoulder patch that all Scouts and volunteers will wear on their uniforms. Also beginning Nov. 1, the process of merging internal records related to membership, advancement and accounting will begin.

Scouts and their adult leaders meeting weekly in Scout units all across the territory will see no change to what they do each week. What they will see, however, is more opportunities for program options, expanded training opportunities for adult leaders, and a greater chance to enhance those Scouting memories that last a lifetime.

Business and individual donors to their local Scout councils can be assured now that their charitable dollars will be maximized in those program and training enhancements for the Scouts and volunteers and not spent on unnecessary overhead in duplication of services, etc. A contribution to Scouting in the new council will definitely have a greater impact on Scouting for youth than ever before.

Matt Hart, current Scout executive and CEO for the Alapaha Area Council, will serve as Scout executive for the South Georgia Council.

Scouting, now it its 103rd year, has seen many changes, but the principles of duty to God, duty to country, and duty to other people taught in the Scouting program are timeless and maintain their importance today. Some say that these principles are more important now than ever before.

The new South Georgia Council will serve approximately 5,000 youth annually in 120 units across the 29-county territory.

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