The 2010s was a time of challenge and change for the Boy Scouts of America, but the organization’s Wilkes District finished the decade with two years of strong growth.
In fact, the Wilkes District outpaced the other Old Hickory Council districts (serving Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Surry, Yadkin, Stokes and Forsyth counties) in multiple categories in 2019.
Drew Armstrong, Old Hickory Council executive, shared this news during the Wilkes District’s annual banquet Saturday night at the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church fellowship hall.
In any organization, leadership sets the pace and expectations for success. Led by a combination of veteran and new adult leadership, Scouting in Wilkes is benefitting from a new surge of energy from the top.
Armstrong started as council executive in mid-April and Hunter Day has been executive for the Wilkes and the Blue Ridge (Watauga and Ashe) districts since August 2018. Both are fulltime professional Scouting positions.
Armstrong was in a small troop in Boonville while growing up, served on staff at the Old Hickory’s Camp Raven Knob in Surry County for 13 summers and began his professional Scouting career in 1996 as a district executive in the Old Hickory Council. Since then, he has been a district executive in Oklahoma, a council program director in Tennessee and a council executive in New Mexico.
Day’s formative years in Scouting were in Winston-Salem and Thomasville, but his father is from Wilkes and he has other family here. Day has a business management degree from Appalachian State University and was program director at Camp Raven Knob for four years before taking the helm for the Wilkes and Blue Ridge districts.
Armstrong announced Saturday night that the Wilkes District achieved “Gold” status in the BSA “Journey to Excellence” plan in 2019. This is based on points earned in 16 areas, including new member recruiting, member retention, advancement, fundraising, camping, community service, district committee size, unit leader training and more.
The Wilkes District accumulated 2,125 out of a possible 3,000 points in these 16 categories, up from 1,500 points in 2018.
Ninety new youths were recruits for packs and troops in 2019. Youth membership grew by more than 5% with a net increase of 18 more youths in the Wilkes District.
Ninety new youth members were recruited for packs and troops this past fall.
Armstrong said there was a 2% decline in youth membership nationwide in 2019.
The Wilkes District also ended 2019 with one more unit than the prior year. Cub Scout Pack 336 was re-started and the first girl troop (also 336) was started. Both are sponsored by North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church.
A new unit was started at St. John’s Catholic Church in North Wilkesboro.
The Wilkes District raised $38,846 in donations in the Friends of Scouting drive in 2019, which exceeded the goal by 9%. Popcorn sales raised $21,700, which help fund Scout units. Another $6,250 was raised through “camp card” sales, which helps pay the cost of attending Camp Raven Knob in Surry County in the summer.
Fifty-seven youth attended the Wilkes District’s Cub Scout Summer Day Camp in 2019, up from 30 the prior summer. Wilkes District commissioners made 109 visits to packs and troops in 2019.
For anybody wondering, Scouting is alive and well in Wilkes County.