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Merger planned for Boy Scout councils in region

Apr. 16, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Tri-State Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America is planning to merge with the Charleston-based Buckskin Council this summer if members from both councils approve the merger next month.

Tri-State Area Council president John R. VanHorn is traveling around the region this week to discuss the plans with the public. On Tuesday, he was at the Enslow Park Presbyterian Church in Huntington.

VanHorn said the merger has been inevitable following declines in fundraising caused by several different factors.

"A number of years ago we commissioned a sustainability study that said, in reality, we had about 10 to 12 years then the forces of the market were going to crush us," he said. "Declining population, inability to raise money, etc."

But when a key executive, who helped organize fundraising in the region, left the council right before the 2013 fundraising season, the council suffered.

"We entered into fundraising season without his guidance and direction, so we were not as successful as we should have been at raising money," VanHorn said.

There were also issues with training adult volunteers and driving a positive marketing message. As the Boy Scouts faced negative press on the national level, such as the debate on whether to accept gay members, the local council wasn't "doing anything to offset that," VanHorn said. "We would do public events, but we wouldn't adequately publicize them."

The national organization took away the council's full charter and put them on a conditional one in May 2013. By late October 2013, VanHorn said it "became obvious" the council was not going to be able to correct its issues so talks began to merge with the Buckskin Council, which covers the majority of West Virginia, as well as parts of Virginia and Kentucky.

VanHorn said the merger will have little to no affect on the children currently involved in the Tri-State Area Council.

"They are going to have more opportunities. There will be more venues available to them," VanHorn said. "Right now, for example, we do one Cub Scout Resident Camp in the whole council on a certain date. Well, if a little guy's family goes to Myrtle Beach that week, he misses Cub Scout Resident Camp. Now, we have multiple camps. So if that little guy misses the camp in Ona, if mom and dad are willing to drive him to Chapmanville, he can go to that camp."

VanHorn said volunteers who work with individual units, such as packs and troops, shouldn't see much of a difference, and district leaders could see some minor changes, but most of the changes will affect regional leadership.

If the merger is approved, the Tri-State Area Council's properties, such as Camp Arrowhead, will be signed over to the Buckskin Council, but current camp properties will still be used.

VanHorn said more resources will be available for camp improvements and maintenance and the merger will reduce operating redundancies. He said between 25 percent and 30 percent of the Buckskin executive board would consist of people from the Tri-State Area Council, which would reflect their proportion of youth membership.

He assured the Scout Shop will remain open in Huntington and encouraged people to take advantage of the business as it needs revenue to continue operations.

Members of both current councils will meet May 29 to vote on the merger. After the national organization approves it, the new council will begin operations July 1.

VanHorn will be making two more stops to discuss the merger. They are planned for 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 16 at the Meacham Lodge, Camp Arrowhead, 4200 Scout Camp Road, Ona, W.Va.; and 6 p.m., Thursday, April 17 at the Community Room in the KYOVA Mall, 10699 U.S. 60, Ashland, Ky.

Follow reporter Kristi Murphy on Twitter, @Kristi_Murphy.

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