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Friday, 15 April 2016 11:02

Despite controversy, Glacier's Edge Council Boy Scout troops thrive

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Members of Roscoe Troop 620 build a fire during an outing over the winter at Camp Indian Trails, a Glacier’s Edge Council facility along the Rock River in Janesville. Members of Roscoe Troop 620 build a fire during an outing over the winter at Camp Indian Trails, a Glacier’s Edge Council facility along the Rock River in Janesville. Troop 620 photo

ROSCOE -- Alex Tyms Jr., Scout executive of the Glacier’s Edge Council, says area troops continue to grow despite the controversy over the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay adults as Scout leaders.

Glacier’s Edge membership has increased by 4 percent during the past year, which includes Cub Scout troops, Boy Scout troops, Venture troops and Explorers groups, Tyms said.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in December ended its relationship with the Boy Scouts over the change in policy.

Following the decision, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Janesville decided to not renew the charter of Pack 455.

"Unfortunately, they were chartered for about 60 years in the Janesville area," Tyms said. "We’re sad it had to close, but we respect (the synod’s) decision."

Despite that, Tyms said he feels the increase in membership will continue simply because of the activities that Scouting offers.

"We’ve grown our programming and invested more money in our camps," Tyms said. "Kids can go camping. They can learn how to build a camp fire and they can learn how to make the largest pocket knife that their mom will allow them to have."

Tyms said the council also has seen an increase in members becoming Eagle Scouts.

"We see nationally that 6 percent of members become Eagle Scouts. I think one in 100 Scouts become Eagle Scouts," he said. "They see when they become an Eagle Scout it helps them out later in life, in their pr­ofessional life, home life and personal life."

The Glacier’s Edge Council is headquartered in Madison with a service center in Janesville.

The council serves 16 counties, 276 Scouting units and about 7,400 Scout members in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

The council offers several camping areas including Indian Trails located northeast of Janesville and the Ed Bryant Scout Reservation located near Mauston, Wisconsin.

Scouting has a rigorous training and screening process to ensure the safety of the Scouts under their supervision.

All adult leaders and volunteers must pass Youth Protection training every two years. The training explains Scouting's policies regarding how adults and scouts interact, as well as how to identify and report abuse.

Scouting has a system called two-deep leadership on all outings, which requires two adults on any outing. One-on-one contact between adults and scouts in prohibited.

Mark LaMonica, Scout master for Troop 620 in Roscoe, said there continues to be a strong interest in Scouting. He said his troop currently has 50 active members.

"I think Scouting is starting to grow. I think we’re starting to see a mix of younger boys and older boys. We’re seeing a lot of new members who are just turning 11, and we’re seeing older boys joining," LaMonica said. "It’s a fun thing to do and they will learn life lessons that they won’t get anywhere else."

LaMonica said he feels the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synods’s decision will have little impact on the future of Scouting.

"It hasn’t affected our troop. I don’t think it would be a big deal," LaMonica said. "We do whatever we can to make it safe for all our members, no matter what their preferences are. Safety is our No. 1 goal."

Troop 620 participates in outdoor activities and several community-service projects and fundraisers.

"We do whatever the boys come up with," LaMonica said. "Whatever activity the boys dream up of, we try to make it happen."

LaMonica said many of the troop members achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

"We have a huge tradition of success of members obtaining an Eagle Scout within our troop," LaMonica said. "I think that’s because we have a lot of adults who give good direction to our troop."

LaMonica has been the Scout master for Troop 620 since July 2013.

"I like watching our boys grow and making sure they are well led," LaMonica said. "I enjoy seeing as many members get to Eagle Scout as possible. I enjoy giving back to Scouting as it’s given me."

Gregory Bergenske, Scout master for Boy Scout Troop 511 in Janesville, said being involved in Scouts helps members learn life skills.

"Scouting takes them from being a young man and guides them into becoming a gentleman and to become good citizens and students," Bergenske said. "I think that’s an important part of them growing up."

Bergenske said several members have gone on to become Eagle Scouts. He said two members currently are working toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

In order to become an Eagle Scout, a member must obtain 21 merit badges and complete a service project, according to Bergenske.

"The service project takes between six to eight months," Bergenske said. "They work on the planning and show leadership for the project. It could be a project for their community, church or school. It has to be approved. They have to prepare an Eagle Scout book, which highlights how they achieved their merit badges, how they completed their service project and how many hours it took. They have to take ownership of what an Eagle Scout is. Each rank has time built in for a good deed for rank advancement."

Bergenske said members of the troop enjoy being a part of Scouting and helping out in the community.

"It’s a small troop. It’s in the Fourth Ward (in Janesville). My boys want to be here. I show up 10 minutes early for the meetings, and there’s kids that have already shown up to get in because they want to be here," Bergenske said. "Last year, every member moved up in rank, and I see that happening again this year."

Bergenske has been Scout master for Troop 511 for about two years. He said he is one of the few Scout masters in the troop’s history.

"Troop 511 is one of the oldest troops in southern Wisconsin. I think we’re one of the oldest troops in the Midwest," he said. "We’re 84 years old, and during that time we’ve only had nine Scout masters."

Bergenske said he has learned many valuable skills by being involved with Scouting.

"I had a very positive youth experience when I grew up," Bergenske said.

LaMonica said he has been involved with Scouting since his youth, as well.

"I am a product of the Boy Scouts, and I’m an Eagle Scout," LaMonica said. "They develop social skills, and they learn to work with people. It’s education, enrichment and entertainment. It’s real-life opportunities they won’t get anywhere else."

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