Boy Scouts kick off 100th anniversary celebration

ALBANY -- The Chehaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America ushered in the BSA's 100th year in the United States with a community breakfast fundraiser Tuesday which promises to be the first of many community events scheduled for 2010.

Although the Scouts were first founded by British Army General Lord Robert Baden Powell in England in 1907, the United States program wasn't incorporated until Feb. 8, 1910, when businessman William D. Boyce filed paperwork after being the beneficiary of an act of kindness by a Scout while in London.

Since then, Scouting has impacted an estimated 110 million boys in the U.S., with more than 4 million currently enrolled, Chehaw Council Scout executive Ray Allen said.

"Just by looking at the faces that were here today, you can clearly see Scouting's impact on our community," Allen said. "And it's like this all over the country."

Tuesday's breakfast was attended by a who's who of political and community figures.

Mayor Willie Adams, who joined the Boy Scouts as an alternative to what now would be described as a gang in Quincy, Fla., remembers fondly his time in the organization.

"It was a great experience for me," Adams said. "Growing up in poverty, I was like a lot of young kids and needed to have something to be in and believe in. You know, a group to associate with, and that group kept me out of trouble and headed in the right direction."

Even those who were not Boy Scouts as youths heralded the accomplishments of the organization.

"There is no finer organization for building character in our young men and, in terms of the Girl Scouts, young women," former Dougherty County District Attorney and current state Attorney General candidate Ken Hodges, who was at the breakfast, said. "Scouting obviously prepares these young people for life and gives them tools to succeed."

To mark the 100th anniversary of Scouting, the Chehaw Council has embarked on an ambitious goal to collect $260,000 to support community efforts throughout the council's four districts.

The keynote speaker for Tuesday's event, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, recalled his time in Scouting as one that shaped his life in a way that would ultimately lead him to public service.

An Eagle Scout, the organization's highest rank, Bishop spoke of being a part of Troop 201 in Mobile, Ala., in the 1960s.

"It was only after I became an adult that I was able to look back and truly understand the impact of those life lessons," Bishop said. "Public service has been my life, and if I trace it back to any one point, it was the day I was tapped out to join the Order of the Arrow."

The Order of the Arrow is a semi-secret brotherhood of the Boy Scouts reserved for older, honored campers. The "tapping out" ceremony is part of the "ordeal" that scouts must pass through before obtaining membership.

Following his speech, Bishop wrote a check for $1,000 to the council as is his usual practice, according to council officials.

Dakota Kirkland, a scout at the rank of Star, spoke to the audience Tuesday morning about the importance of Scouting and how it has affected his life.

"Scouting shows us why it's important, and how to become, a proper man," Kirkland said.

He'll be heading to Virginia in July with a contingent from the council to take part in the National Scout Jamboree.