For the first time, a troop has formed at the Residential Treatment Center (formerly Farmington Children’s Home), a program of Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services. Scouting skills dovetail with the mission of the Residential Treatment Center, which houses children with emotional and behavioral issues. Many have been traumatized by abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Although most Scout troops come from the school system, Rebecca Long, district executive of the Boy Scouts of America, wanted to recruit a troop in a non-traditional setting. She met with Cindy Warden, assistant director of the Residential Treatment Center, to discuss the possibility. The Boy Scouts of America offers programs for grades 1 through 5 (Cub Scouts), grades 6-12 (Boy Scouts/Explorers) and ages 14 through 21 (Venturing). Given that boys as young as 11 reside at the Center, Long and Warden decided to form a Boy Scout Troop. One problem remained: They needed the right Scoutmaster to facilitate meetings and guide the youth through the program.
Eventually, they found a Scoutmaster in Gene Bannister, who has volunteered as a Scoutmaster in Park Hills for nearly a decade. He has helped many of the local youth successfully complete Cub and Boy Scout training. Bannister founded this new troop in August of 2016 with help from two employees, Jonathan Thomasson and Sue Baird, at the Center.
“Troop 418 meets two to three times each month,” Bannister reports, “and it has been very successful. These boys are motivated and willing to learn. Through the last year, they have learned about citizenship, conservation, and first aid skills. Through camping, they are also learning teamwork and self-sufficiency.”
Donations of uniforms, handbooks, flags and flagpoles came from other scout leaders, volunteers and parents. These particular youth are limited in their outdoor activities and outings, but backyard camping, cooking, and flag ceremonies are available to them. Each youngster learns the Scout Oath and the 12 Points of the Scout Law. Developing a culture of respect and responsibility for oneself and others is a prominent feature of the program.
At the treatment center Warden explains, “Many of our residents come here after being traumatized by abuse, neglect or abandonment. These Scouting activities are fun and build up their sense of self-worth. It is so effective that we’ve started a Girl Scout troop, too.”
Recently the boys celebrated their first Thanksgiving together. St. Louis Area Council Field Director Jared White donated a turkey and a ham for the feast. During the dinner, Bannister presented scout badges and awards to the boys.
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