For the past 70 years, Troop 107 has instilled the spirit of the Boy Scouts of America’s motto, “Be prepared,” into the hearts and minds of local young boys. Scouts learn not only to be prepared during camping trips and in pursuit of merit badges, but also learn about responsibility, leadership and maturity.
Troop 107, chartered by the Christ United Methodist Church, recently celebrated its 70th year. Former committee chair Jim Hester said 29 percent of the 125 boys no longer active in the troop earned Eagle Scout status, the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve. The national average for achieving an Eagle Scout rank is approximately 5 percent.
“If you ask me why do we have 29 percent of our boys reach Eagle versus the 5 percent national average is, we are not an Eagle factory, we just offer a ton of opportunities and a ton of support and a ton of guidance, I think,” Hester said. “I think we try to do a really good job of providing resources and support to the boys to enable them to reach their Eagle versus do it on your own.”
By the end of 2018, out of 125 boys no longer active in Troop 107, 36 had become Eagle Scouts. Currently, 68 boys are active in the troop and three of the active members have already achieved their Eagle rank. Troop leaders expect at least four more boys to reach Eagle Scout rank by the end of the year.
Throughout the past decade, the troop has focused its projects and activities in Westfield and tried to attract more youth into its Cub Scout program.
“We get requests it seems like daily to go do something in Scouts, (such as) ‘Hey, come downtown for the Circle Luncheon, come down here and do that,’” Hester said. “And now, I really (decided) we are going to focus all of our service and our efforts right here in Westfield. Westfield Scouts helping Westfield families is kind of the mantra we adopted.”
Some of the organizations Troop 107 helps in Westfield include Christ United Methodist Church, Open Doors Food Pantry and the Amanda Strong Foundation. The troop also conducts countless Eagle Scout projects around the city, such as clearing invasive species out of Cool Creek Park, constructing little free libraries and building benches.
Immediate past Scoutmaster Kevin Mershimer said Troop 107 also has focused on recruiting, specifically at the Webelo level. In elementary school, Cub Scouts progress from Lion to Bobcat to Tiger to Wolf to Bears. When a Scout reaches the Bear rank, he can become a Webelo, which is the last Cub Scout rank before becoming a Boy Scouts. Webelos are invited to troop meetings and campouts and other activities.
Out of the boys who leave Boy Scouts before earning their Eagle, most times they leave shortly after passing from the Webelo rank. Most leave within their first year of becoming a Boy Scout.
“Some of them love the outdoors, but there’s a lot of changes with camping in the cold and eating outside (compared to Cub Scouts),” Mershimer said. “So, I think we put a higher effort on maintaining those boys so we don’t lose them.”
To become an Eagle Scout, a boy must progress through all Scout ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life. They also have to earn 21 merit badges, 13 of which are required. Eight can be picked from a list of 150 badges offered. Boys also must complete an Eagle Scout project.
Girls joining the Boy Scouts
With the recent addition of girls being able to join the Boy Scouts, Troop 107 is acting somewhat as a trailblazer.
Girls can participate in Cub Scouts, which are co-ed. When girls reach the Boy Scout rank, however, troops aren’t co-ed but participate in co-ed activities.
Former Scoutmaster Kevin Mershimer, Scoutmaster Barry Simpson and former committee chair Jim Hester said the logistics are still being worked out but there will soon be a girls-only Boy Scout troop, to be designated Troop 1070, in Westfield.
Simpson has a daughter in elementary school who is a Lion Scout.
“She’s super competitive and doesn’t care it’s boys, she just wants to go have fun,” Simpson said. “At that age, it’s about having fun and learning things.”
Adult leaders aren’t trying to take away the importance of Girl Scouts. Rather, they are offering an alternative for girls who may be searching for something different.
“We support Girl Scouts for ladies 100 percent,” Hester said. “We just know kids involved in programs do better. Boy Scouts only serve about 10 percent of available boys in the United States and Girl Scouts only serve about 10 percent of Girl Scouts, so there’s a lot of opportunities to serve more kids.”
“There’s no way it’s just for boys,” Mershimer said. “If we can instill the same value system in girls, why not do it?”