Closing office seems like a slap in the face

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2003

The news that the Boy Scout office in Suffolk is closing Friday comes as an unpleasant surprise.

As is so often the case, money – or the lack thereof – is the apparent cause.

Dick Collins, the Colonial Virginia Council’s executive director, has placed some of the blame on the South Hampton Roads United Way, saying that 12 years ago the agency set aside $45,000 but today there’s nothing. That’s quite odd that the United Way would cut off the Boy Scouts without even a dime.

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Stranger still is that, according to William Ashley of Suffolk, past president of the Old Dominion Area Council, the local United Way approved $14,489 for the Scout’s 2002-2003 budget. Franklin’s United Way got $14,500. Further, &uot;Friends of Scouting&uot; gave $36,000; popcorn sales yielded another $51,000; then there’s a matter of a $4 million trust.

Perhaps Mr. Collins was speaking figuratively to News-Herald staff writer Barbara Allen when he said the United Way apportioned $0. Maybe he meant that the $14,489 was so negligible compared to previous amounts.

Also, according to the local scout office secretary, Michelle Knight, she had been told the local office &uot;had been losing money for years.&uot;

Still, are times so tough to justify closing the Suffolk branch? Were alternatives first sought and discussed before taking this sudden action? Based on comments of people quoted in the story, that does not appear to be the case.

Understandably, numerous Scout leaders past and present are upset by the news. Troop 1 Scoutmaster Robert N. Baker III pointed out that smaller troops in particular would suffer. The expense (and inconvenience) of going to Newport News for uniforms, badges, tour permits and the like can add up.

For those of you new to the area, Suffolk at one time was part of the Old Dominion Area Council. Ashley said the group was told in the 1990s to merge with the Tidewater Council or else lose its charter. Was money again a factor? Or could it have been politics within the scouting administration to force such move?

Regardless, the absorption into another district has evidently proven to be a mistake.

Let’s hope that after a March meeting with Collins, the mistake can be corrected in time.