Scout leader Justin Kinker talks to a group of new Cuacj Scouts. Kinker is part of the ScoutReach program that just started up at Evergreen Elementary School. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has launched a new program called ScoutReach at Evergreen Elementary that makes it possible for young boys to become Cub Scouts. The program is free.

“This is a brand new program that just started last month,” said Justin Kinker, who works with the ScoutReach program.

“Were working with our local Cub Scout Pack 222. Its sort of a feeder program for Pack 222. Were bringing Scouting to the kids after school, rather than them having to go someplace else,” he said.

After each weekly meeting, the kids are bused home.

The program mimics regular Cub Scout programs and even includes campouts. “We open our meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Cub Scout motto and Scout Law and all the other requirements that kids need to advance in the ranks,” Kinker said.

“Were trying to instill the value of being part of a community and help them realize their own potential and how they can fit into their community and give back to their community,” he said.

Once theyve been in the ScoutReach program, the boys have enough scouting experience to join an official troop like Pack 222, he added.

“Being free can make a big difference to low income Peninsula families,” Kinker said.

Rob Haworth of Longbranch is the assistant Cub Master for Pack 222, the KP Cub Scout group that meets monthly at WayPoint Church.

Haworth explained that the ScoutReach organization looked at the local schools with the highest numbers of reduced lunch recipients and that Evergreen was “at the top of the list. So this is to help families that have boys who want to do Scouting, but dont have the financial means to do it,” he said.

Currently, ScoutReach is just for kids at Evergreen. “Its just a pilot program, but if this takes off we hope to do this all through the area,” Haworth said.

According to Michelle Smith, Lexas director for the Pacific Harbors Council of BSA, the basic concept for ScoutReach is to provide scouting programs in an after-school setting. Its open to all boys in first through fifth grades regardless of their background or ability to pay.

Smith has been involved with the program since January of this year.  During the summer, she made contact with the Peninsula Community Foundation that runs the Backpacks 4 Kids program at the Key Pensula Civic Center.

“They told me about the work they do out here on the Peninsula and the extreme poverty of many families in the area. There are a lot of homeless kids out here and I decided wed run the ScoutReach program during their hot lunch program through the summer. We just really wanted to be a part of helping these kids,” Smith said.

The ScoutReach program moved to Evergreen Elementary when school started. The program is funded through grants and individual donations. “Its a very expensive program to run,” Smith said. “It costs a lot of money to do camping and all the other Scout programs.

“But I feel very strongly that these kids deserve every opportunity that Scouting has to offer and we should not let the cost get in the way.”

By the second ScoutReach meeting in early October, 14 boys had already joined the program and were earning points toward their own Cub Scout uniforms and badges.

Joaquin Antoine, age 7, and Dylan Yeisley, 9, enjoyed a game of Frisbee during one after- school ScoutReach meeting.

“Its fun and its really easy to get points. You just have to do good things and when you get 50 points you get your shirt, and for a bunch of points you can get the whole uniform,” Yeisley said. “And your friends can join too and then you can really have fun.”

Smith said she knows there are “people out there who believe that the kids out here deserve to have these Scouting experiences.”

So she has scheduled a “Wine and Chocolate” event Nov. 8 at the Gig Harbor History Museum.

Jan Rogers is in charge of the event. “Were calling it ScoutReach with Heart Wine and Chocolate  Evening,” she said. “Its to raise funds for this ScoutReach program at Evergreen.”

In addition to “good chocolate and good wine,” there will also be a silent auction and a short program featuring a couple of speakers, she said.

“This is such an important program. Its for boys whose parents simply cant afford to be in Scouts. Their parents dont have enough money or their parents arent involved with them. Sometimes these kids dont even have enough to eat. They really deserve all the good things that Scouting can provide,” Rogers said.

For information visit pacificharbors.org and look for “Events.”

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