Local scouts persist as bankruptcy hits organization
TRI-COUNTY AREA--Local Boy Scout officials are saying that local services will not be affected despite the bankruptcy filing by the national organization of the Boy Scouts of America, Tuesday, Feb. 18. The bankruptcy was filed in response to a bevy of lawsuits from former scouts alleging sexual abuse during their time in the Boy Scouts.
"The Seneca Waterways Council, the administration group that oversees troops in Yates County, tell us there will be no change in local services," said Mike Donovan, the adult leader for Penn Yan Troop 44.
With seven boys currently in the troop and 12 more slated to join from the Cub Scouts this winter, Donovan said membership has been relatively stable over the years.
"This is my 40th year with the Scouts and I've had that concern that (the bankruptcy filing and the reason behind it) might reflect on us locally, but we are still going to stay the course and do the things that we do. We haven't had any problems and don't expect to," Donovan said.
Instead of being funded through the national organization, Donovan said that instead his troop gives money to the organization from money they raise.
"We pay for our services and fees through membership dues, collecting bottles throughout the year and local fundraisers," Donovan said.
Along with activities such as collecting bottles, Donovan said his troop is a valuable resource for Penn Yan.
"We do a lot of community service, there were once three or four troops in Penn Yan and now we are down to one but we have been in existence locally for nearly 100 years and plan to go as long as they will let us," Donovan said.
Boy Scout officials from Schuyler County and the Five Rivers Council, which oversees Schuyler troops and Camp Gorton in Dundee, have also publicly stated they do not expect services to be changed in any way.
"The national organization of the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to achieve two key objectives: equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue to carry out Scouting's mission for years to come," said Gary A. Decker, scout executive and CEO of the Five Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which oversees Schuyler County troops, in an email to concerned parties.
Decker added that local councils are all independent non-profits that are separate entities from the national office.
"(The councils) control their own programs and assets," Decker said.
With roughly 18 scouts in Troop 2674 in Watkins Glen, Troop Leader Rick Evans agreed and said he expects no changes.
"Our Council is legally separate, distinct, and financially independent from the national organization...This means that unit meetings and activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures, and countless service projects will take place as usual. In short, we expect no changes to the local Scouting experience," Decker said.
However, that position is not being echoed by lawyers representing plaintiffs in the abuse lawsuits in the media. Lawyers have publicly argued that local Boy Scout assets, such as camps, can be seized by the national Boy Scouts by canceling local organizations' charters which inherently makes local assets fair game.
"It's sad that there could be and maybe this national problem might have a bad reflection on us locally. I fully intend with this news to have a meeting with all my families to let them know that we are going to go forward same as ever," Evans said.
In regards to protecting children going into the future, Decker said the local Boy Scouts are constantly seeking to improve in that regard.
"Over many years, we've developed some of the strongest expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization. I can also assure you that our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe," Decker's email stated.
National issues have done little to dissuade local interest in the scouts, Evans said, as the number of scouts in Watkins Glen has remained stable over the years.
"If the boys weren't doing great things for themselves, family and community, I wouldn't be part of it," Evans said.