MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – In a time when the some of the national news about the Boy Scouts of America is negative, local troops in South Orange and Maplewood are thriving through active Scouts, community service and a dedication to community in general.
Troop 60 of South Orange and Maplewood has doubled in size over the last 18 months, according to Scoutmaster Bob Renshaw, bringing the troop to 40 active Scouts.
Although Renshaw could not speak specifically for other troops in the area, he said he believes that scouting membership in general is increasing in the area.
“Much of our troop’s growth has come from an influx of Cub Scouts from Pack 3, which has also experienced great growth over the last several years,” Renshaw said.
Pack 3 is a Cub Scout pack that also serves the Maplewood area.
In order to recruit new members, Troop 60 reaches out to local Cub Packs by holding events with their second-year Webelos, the rank just before entering Boy Scouts from Cub Scouts, such as joint camping trips, Renshaw said.
According to Renshaw, Troop 60 camps overnight nine months a year, which includes basic woodland camping and more adventurous activities, such as canoeing 20 miles on the Delaware River.
Troop 60 also gives back to the South Orange and Maplewood community by participating in service projects.
“We’ve recently volunteered at the New Jersey Food Bank,” Renshaw said, “and helped our charter organization, the South Orange Elks, build a vegetable garden, the produce of which is given to food banks.”
Although the troop’s last group of Eagle Scouts, scouting’s highest rank, have left the troop, there are currently several scouts working on their Eagle project proposals, one of the last requirements before attaining the rank, Renshaw said.
As the numbers of his troop have increased, Renshaw does admit that Scouting has changed in recent years due to an effort by the Boy Scouts of America to integrate new technologies into Scouting.
“They recently introduced a robotics merit badge, a youth leadership position of webmaster, and have featured geocaching in both Boys Life and Scouting Magazine,” Renshaw said.
He said parents are still able to get involved in Scouting as well.
“There are a wide variety of things for adult volunteers to do that vary greatly in time commitment,” Renshaw said. “I find that even very busy parents will make time to help with specific tasks or projects.”
Troop 60 meets weekly in the Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.