Boosting Boy Scout Councils (Phoenix, Lebanon, Parkersburg)

  • Local Projects
  • 2006

With 288 separate councils operating across the country with a great deal of autonomy, most philanthropic support for the Boy Scouts of America is local support. There have been important national gifts, like the donation by oil man and philanthropist Waite Phillips of 125,000 acres of mountain range in New Mexico to create the beloved Philmont Scout Ranch (see the 1938 entry on the Nature achievements list). Also the donations by Stephen Bechtel and others that recently carved out a counterpart high-adventure wilderness property in West Virginia (see 2013 Nature entry). But the lifeblood of Scouting is community giving.

This starts with volunteers: Nearly one million adults volunteered in local councils across the U.S. in 2015, with the average volunteer giving his Scout unit hundreds of hours of time per year. Millions more Americans wrote checks to their local Scout council. And it isn’t just the legions of small donors who focus on their home communities; major donors frequently also funnel gifts to localities they have special connections to. Ed and Jeanne Arnold, for instance, who had been loyal contributors to the BSA initiatives (giving $10 million, for instance, to help troops across the country attract more Hispanic boys into Scouting), donated $1 million in 2006 to bolster Boy Scout councils in three specific areas where they have family roots: Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Parkersburg, West Virginia; and Phoenix, Arizona.

A local Scouting experience has been important to many boys and men. Fully 181 U.S. astronauts were Scouts, including 11 of the 12 who walked on the moon. Six U.S. Presidents were Scouts, as were 18 sitting governors as of 2014, and 191 members of the 113th Congress. More than a third of the cadets at West Point have been involved in Scouting, and one out of six were Eagle Scouts.