Scouts on rebound in Marion County

By MARK ROGES,

Boy Scouts are on the rebound in Marion County.
Chris Pfalzgraf, district executive of the Pine Burr Area Council, Tall Pine District, based in Hattiesburg, spoke with the Marion County Board of Supervisors about the programs for area scouts. The Columbia Water Park, which is managed by Marion County, is now the site of local meetings.
“It’s good to see them in the Water Park,” District 2 Supervisor Terry Broome said. “I hope they’re enjoying it.”
Pfalzgraf spoke about the Scouts and the need to restructure in the county.
“There are some areas that we fell off on in the council and some areas that we’ve done well on,” he said. “We had a little bit of rebuilding to do in Marion County. As soon as I came into this position almost two years ago, our priority was to see that we get Scouts back up and running and very strong here in the county. I knew quite a few people from here in Columbia from going to USM and PRCC and some of them were Scouts who were very involved.”
The organization started with rebuilding from the younger ages, according to Pfalzgraff.
“We’ve done some great things this past year,” he said. “We started a Cub Scout pack. We’ve been meeting at the Water Park for the past few months now. We’ve recruited between the school districts, more than 60 kids. It’s a remarkable number – that’s the Cub Scouts only. Next school year we’ll be starting up the Boy Scout troop again. I know that Columbia and Marion County have produced a lot of Eagle Scouts in the past and that’s something we want to try and strive for.”
In 2017, the council had more than 4,200 Scouts in all of the different areas of scouting.
“We led the nation in membership growth last year and the year before with more than 17 percent,” Pfralzgraff said. “That growth is something that we are really proud of. It’s all over the council from the Coast to Hattiesburg. We achieved 74 Eagle Scouts this past year and had a great banquet in Hattiesburg. One of our big focuses is diversity and I know that Marion County is diverse in population.”
The area council is continuing to add new programs for the local Scouts, according to Pfalzgraf.
“We’re going to be revamping our entire aquatics area at Camp Tiak,” he said. “We have canoeing, swimming and life guarding and we’re adding a mountain biking program that will be ready for this summer. We have some exciting things that we are doing.”
Pfalzgraf said this year’s focus will continue to be on Marion County.
“I think we’re going to do some great things here,” he said. “I have leaders lined up for this next school year. I think we’re going to get back to the point where Columbia was. For a long time they had several Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout packs, and we want to get back to that point. I think we are making our way there.”
Pfalzgraf said that with all the local programs, the Boy Scouts needed assistance.
“Not just in Marion County, but we do support a lot of scouts in the area,” he said. “We raised funds to fund our budget, but also to help areas of need, whether it is paying for kids to do Scouts or paying for uniforms. We actually used a lot of those funds here in Marion County to make sure the programs continue. We used a lot of those funds to pay for registration, supplies and uniforms to get them off the ground. One that will really fit Columbia is called Exploring. They can sample careers. It’s popular with law enforcement; they’ve done it in Hattiesburg and other surrounding communities. We thought, ‘Why not Columbia?” These things help kids pursue careers.”
Pfalzgraf also asked the Board for financial support for its effort.
“Through Friends of Scouting we’re working to raise funds to provide all of these things,” Pfalzgraf said. “Most of our counties give a minimum of $2,500. We receive contributions from Covington County, Lamar and Forrest counties. We don’t have any activity in Jefferson Davis County, but that will be a big focus area going into this next year as well. Throughout most of the council we get support from the counties we have activities in.”
Broome said the Board would consider the request at budget time later in the year.
“We’ll look into it,” he said. “They have really made an all-out effort. They have 40-50 kids, and that’s just in Cub Scouts.”