Clifton Park

Clifton Park Cub Scout pack growing despite nationwide enrollment decline

"Popcorn Kernel" Petra Holden, right, is seen with her twin 9-year-old daughters, Caroline, left, and Samantha on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Clifton Park. 
PHOTOGRAPHER:

"Popcorn Kernel" Petra Holden, right, is seen with her twin 9-year-old daughters, Caroline, left, and Samantha on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Clifton Park. 

CLIFTON PARK – A local Cub Scout pack’s enrollment doubled during the pandemic.

Its growth was in the face of declining enrollments in Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA programs throughout the country.

Cub Scout Pack 4044 consists of about 70 children in kindergarten through Grade 5 from Clifton Park, Halfmoon and Mechanicville.

At about this time last year, it had about 36 Scouts, pack chairman Ryan Fava said.

Fava attributed the increase to the inclusion of girls in Boy Scouts organizations beginning two years ago, as well as a general decline in activities for children during the pandemic.

“If you look at parents’ decisions, what do they do,” said Fava, whose daughter, 9-year-old Olivia, was one of the pack’s top producers in a popcorn fundraising effort.

“Do they go to a sporting organization with other risks that maybe bring COVID challenges? Or maybe they’ll say activities aren’t even happening. We’ve been going strong the whole time. We’re still a force here,” said Fava, whose 5-year-old daughter, Clara, recently joined the Cub Scouts.

Fava said the organization has continued to be active and drive a lot of community engagement. It recently put out door hangers asking for donations to a food drive to benefit a local pantry and with another troop, held a public Halloween haunted hike.

On Sunday, in its first in-person meeting since December 2019, about 50 of the Scouts arrived outside its faith-based sponsor, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, to hand off 600 boxes of Camp Master gourmet popcorn that it donated to local military members.

Scouts stood outside of Stewart’s Shops for more than a month to solicit donations, according to Petra Holden, who helped run the program as an aptly named “Popcorn Kernel.”

Popcorn is a traditional sale item of the Boys Scouts of America.

While other packs might raise money with bake sales and car washes, popcorn is Pack 4044’s only fundraising vehicle.

“We like to get it done early and then have the complete rest of the season paid for, and out of the 70 scouts, I believe over 50 sold enough popcorn to completely pay for their season, which would be $730 worth,” said Holden.

Several scouts, including Olivia Fava, sold over $3,000 worth, Holden said.

Master Chief Sgt. Richard Rueda accepted the boxes of popcorn on behalf of local military.

Generally, the popcorn goes to overseas military, but because of the pandemic, local donations were encouraged.

Rueda, whose sons are Boy Scouts, said this gave the children the benefit of being involved with the handoff.

“Now they get to see it actually go to troops, and give it to the military instead of just assuming that Camp Masters is going to make a military donation later on,” he said. “To me, that’s the coolest about this, having done it for many years.”

Elsewhere in the country, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts were jolted by unprecedented one-year drops in membership, due partly to the pandemic, and partly to social trends that have been shrinking their ranks for decades, the Associated Press reported earlier this year.

While both organizations insist they’ll survive, the dramatic declines raise questions about how effectively they’ll be able to carry out their time-honored missions — teaching skills and teamwork, providing outdoor adventure and encouraging community service.

Membership for the BSA’s flagship Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs dropped from 1.97 million in 2019 to 1.12 million in 2020, a 43% decline, according to The Associated Press.

Records show membership has fallen further since then, to about 762,000, the news agency reported.

The Girl Scouts say their youth membership fell by nearly 30%, from about 1.4 million in 2019- 2020 to just over 1 million this year.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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