Scouts N the Hood
Wed, 9 Sep 1992 00:03:44 EST
Council representatives have been going door-to-door in the public housing
communities, sighning up boys for Scouting and pleading with parents to get
involved. The program is designed to help low-income parents pay for such
things as transportation and Scouting activities.
"I just hope what we're getting ready to witness and be a part of is an
amazing rebirth," says Louise Watley, longtime community activist and president
of the Carver Homes Tenants Association. "We've had some very active Scouting
troops in Carver Homes. Then, around 1985, when drugs, especially crack,
started to hit big, things just seemed to die.
"We definitely need something for these kids," she says. "Because the
drugs and violence are definitely claiming too many of them."
If a rebirth is to occur, Mr. Moffitt and others see Troop 685 as a
Chartered in 1978, the troop - like many in poorer neighborhoods - has been
plagued by lack of funds, low membership and community apathy over the years.
Mr. Beedle and Keith Matlack - who were working with a church weight-lifing
program at Bankhead - took over in 1990. At that time, only about five boys
were active members. Today, the Bankhead troop and its four Cub Scout packs
include more than 50.
Blessed with support from the council, Bankhead Tenants Association and men
(both black and white) from nearby Chapel Hill Harvester Church, the unit meets
weekly, participates in local Scouting events and goes camping each month.
The troop is also part a a larger religious and community effort in
bankhead that includes athletics, literacy and other programs.
Along with common Scouting teachings and ideals, Troop 685 gets heavy doses
of reality. Mr. Beedle and other adult leaders ask the boys about their
grades, career plans, girls.
"We've had talks with them about almost everything, from the importance of
staying in school to teen pregnancy to drug abuse," Mr. Beedle says.
An electronics technician, Mr. Beedle spent six years in the Army, leaving
in 1984 as a sergeant. He didn't get a chance to be a Scout.
So far, Mr. Beedle says, none of the boys in Troop 685 has been lost to
drugs or shootings. However, some had to leave after their parents were kicked
out of Bankhead on drug charges.
Thoough they sometimes get teased about their uniforms, the boys in Troop
685 say they don't mind.
"We don't care what other people say that much," says Virgil Perkins, 17, a
Harper High School student who dreams of winning an athletic scholarship to
college. "We all took the Boy Scout oath. We go by that. It's important."
It's also fun. They still laugh about the snake incident, when they came
across a 2-foot-long grass snake while hiking at Bert Adams Camp last year.
"I was walking behind them," Mr. Beedle recalls. "All of a sudden, they
were crowded around the snake, beating a the ground with sticks."
"Some of them had never seen a live snake before," says Mr. Beedle, who
saved its life after explaining that all creatures have a role in nature.
"I don't care," says James with a wide smile. "I still hate snakes."
Mr. Beedle can only laugh.
"I'd like to think we're all part of something special," he says. "None of
this would be possible without the parents and the boys, especially the boys.
"I like to think of them as a gang. A gang of good guys."
David Deitch, (GIS) Atlanta
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