At 92, Scouts organization stays fresh with the latest technology

Mahoning County had a 6 percent increase in Scout membership in 2001.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The basics are still the same, but technology dramatically has changed the face of the Boy Scouts of America since the organization's birth in this country 92 years ago.
"Technology has made amazing changes for the average volunteer," said Gary Erlinger, council Scout executive for the Greater Western Reserve Council. "It used to be that they had to physically come in the office, mail in forms and payments. But the Internet has made it possible to order materials online. So many changes have happened because of technology."
Since everything is tied together online, it has made it easier for Scouts and troop leaders to communicate new ideas with one another and recruit new Scouts, he added.
History: The Boy Scouts were founded in England by Robert S.S. Baden-Powell shortly after the turn of the 20th century. William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on Feb. 8, 1910.
In the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in participation within the Scouts program in Ohio, Erlinger said.
Last year, eastern Ohio saw a 2.3 percent increase in its membership; the largest increase was in Mahoning County with 6 percent.
There are 77 traditional Scout troops in Mahoning County and 12 Learning for Life troops.
Erlinger has found that parents and families in the Mahoning Valley want programs that teach children values and that develop leadership.
Reaching minorities: "Scout Reach," one of the council's newest programs, has introduced urban and minority groups to scouting. In the fall of 2001, 14 new Scout troops were formed serving more than 400 minority boys in the Youngstown area.
There has been a lot of cooperation in Valley schools getting the scouting program out there Erlinger said.
The purpose of the Boy Scouts always has been to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship and to develop personal fitness, Erlinger added.
These days it's not always about the patches, but "high-adventure programs" and camping that draw youths to the program.
Scouting gives children the opportunity to backpack through New Mexico at camp, canoe, learn to sail and scuba dive as well as participate in other outdoor-based activities.
"One of the things people don't understand about the program is that they think it's purely boys," Erlinger said. In fact, 20 percent of the members are young women who are participating in the "Learning for Life," "Exploring" and "Ventures" programs.
These programs typically serve young men and women ages 14 to 20. They provide challenging high-adventure activities, sports and hobbies for teen-agers that teach them leadership skills, provide opportunities to teach others, and give them an opportunity to learn and grow, Erlinger added.

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