Matt Hart speaks to Rotary

Northwest Georgia Scout Council Executive Matt Hart tells Rome Rotary Club members that girls now make up a full 20% of the youth in the seven-county Scouting movement.

The Northwest Georgia Scout Council is making a strong comeback.

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic saw the seven-county council lose nearly 90% of its revenue and close Camp Sidney Dew for the first time since 1939.

Council Executive Matt Hart told Rome Rotary Club leaders Thursday the council is coming out of a tough year and he expects to be even stronger for it.

The council was not only impacted by the pandemic, but it also lost United Way funding as a result of a shifting of priorities at the entity.

Scouting serves approximately 3,000 families across the seven-county council and nearly 20% of them are girls.

“When you complete the fifth grade or turn 11, you go into the Scouts BSA. That is boys. That is girls. That is not co-ed,” Hart said. “Separate troops for the boys and the girls.”

A couple of other Scout programs for youth, Explorers and Venturing, are coed.

The Scouting movement, while remaining true to its mission, oath and scout law, has evolved through the years.

“When I was a Scout in the early ’80s working at Sidney Dew, we did not have a STEM program,” Hart said. “Merit badges like Rabbit Raising don’t exist anymore but Sustainability does. We’ve got to remain relevant to today’s youth.”

“We teach skills like first aid and swimming,” Hart said. “These are skills that can quite often save your own life, save a friend.”

Preparing young people to become productive and participating citizens is one of the key objectives of the Scouting movement, he noted.

Partnering with the education system is also a critical part of the mission for Scouts.

“If we can keep them in Scouting for five years, there’s a 99% chance that they’re going to graduate,” Hart told the civic club. “It’s no coincidence that 12 of the 14 people who walked on the moon are Eagle Scouts.”

In a normal year, the Northwest Georgia Scout Council would sign up between 800 and 1,000 new families each fall. Last year, only 35 families were added to the program because they couldn’t make the pitch to young people in schools because of the pandemic.

“We’re going to survive. We’re gonna be resilient and we’re going to move forward because young people need us,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of competition for young people today but I think parents see the value in Scouting.”

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