LINCOLN – Pack 1 Manville is recruiting new members after shrinking by roughly three-quarters over the course of the pandemic.
The pack is hosting a free community movie night this Friday, Aug. 20, at St. James Church at 7 p.m. There will be snacks and drinks for sale, as well as temporary tattoos and glowsticks (the first is free if you bring a canned food donation).
Scoutmaster Ariane Lepore said this is a first-of-its kind event for the pack in an effort to drum up recruitment. There are other events in the works, including a bike rodeo and a gaga ball pit.
“We’re just trying anything we possibly can. Scouting has taken such a hit, mostly due to COVID,” she said.
Her troop went from about 45 members to 13 over the last year.
“We’ve just started to gain a few back over the course of the summer so we’re up to 16 or so,” she said. “It was a serious, serious hit.”
One of the challenges is finding committed volunteers to help lead the pack, she said.
Working as an assistant manager at a local department store when COVID-19 hit, Lepore said the first aisle of the store to be wiped out of merchandise wasn’t the toilet paper section.
“It was games, exercise equipment and camping gear so they could camp out in their backyard … everything that families could do together. And that’s exactly what scouting is,” she said. “When COVID hit you went back to the great outdoors and spent time with family. That’s exactly what we do in scouts.”
For Lepore, Scouting captures that feeling.
“This is not a ‘drop off your kid and leave’ type of program. It’s a family-oriented program. We want families to be involved with their kids,” she said.
The organization began accepting girls into its rankings several years ago.
Lepore said that inclusivity allows the program to include the entire family.
If a parent/guardian decides to step into a leadership role, she said they have an opportunity to “really mold the program and make it what you want for your kids.”
“There’s a lot of really fun, fun stuff,” she said. It can be challenging, though, to spread that message to tentative parents.
Lepore started with scouting in 2008 as a parent volunteer, working her way up through the ranks to cubmaster, a role she has served for the last five or so years. Her own children have aged out of Cub Scouts, but Lepore is still searching for someone to take over her position.
Scouts BSA is different from Girl Scouts of America, she said, in that each Cub Scout troop feeds directly into another troop as they rank up.
“When there are no kids left in the Cub Scout pack and they crossover into the troop, the pack will die,” she said.
In the case of Manville Pack 1, Lepore said, “when we were at 13 kids, 11 would have crossed over this March, and we would have been a pack of only two.”
She’s hoping Friday’s free event will help drum up some interest in the program. They’ll be showing a surprise Disney movie.
For Lepore, witnessing the personal growth of each scout has kept her dedicated to the organization for more than a decade.
“I really love what it does for the kids. I’ve watched them go from kids that might be unsure of themselves or lack self-confidence, to independent, self-reliant and confident people,” she said. “It just works. They don’t even realize it’s happening.”
Over the years, she said they often take on additional roles and step outside of their comfort zones.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’m caught off guard by it … I get tears in my eyes,” she said. “To just watch them strive and obtain all of these goals and accomplishments over the years is so incredible.”