CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — In the wake of COVID and allegations of sexual abuse cases, the Boy Scouts organization in our region now seeks to rebound with reorganization and revitalization of the program which now includes young girls as well.
The Boy Scouts have a proud legacy dating back to 1908 as a moral, youth leadership skills organization. But now the organization's leadership in our area is looking ahead with a regional knot-tying. The Greater Niagara Frontier Council covering Erie and Western Niagara Counties is merging with the Iroquois Trail Council in Eastern Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and even Livingston Counties to form the Western New York Council,
The new combined council will now have over 6,000 scouts ages 5 to 20 and about 1,000 adult volunteers.
James McMullen, who is a scouting executive, says, "We now stretch from one great gorge - the Niagara Gorge. And we also take in now all of Letchworth State Park as part of our territory. There's a great opportunity there for both to co-mingle. Scouts from the urban areas and from the rural areas are going to get the benefit of each other and learn about each other's lives."
They say the consolidation provides greater staff, resources, and property coordination. There will also be more programs including technology and community service which are now open to young girls as well. In fact, girls now make up ten percent of the local scout's organization.
And then the Boy Scouts organization is emerging from darker days and highly publicized sexual abuse cases. Leaders stress this local merger move is not directly tied to the $2.46 Billion dollar national organization's Bankruptcy settlement to pay for those cases. But obviously, there is some effect as WNY Boy Scouts CEO Gary Decker explains, "The bankruptcy by the national organization allowed two things to happen. One was to equitably compensate victims of past abuse and that's very important. But it also made sure that scouting continues for generations to come. And so this is a new day for us. This is the new day for scouting in Western New York. "
And for parents Decker emphasizes these points.
"It's safe. It has been safe for generations. There have been bad people who have used it as an opportunity to get access. Unfortunately, that's happened. It should not have happened. We have systems in place to make sure that kids are safe. It is also a program that parents - we want parents to be actively engaged with their children."
Some Boy Scout properties including their large camps here in Western New York and around the country were sold off to help pay for the national settlement. But Camp Southaven in Freedom, Cattaraugus County, and Camp Sam Wood in Portageville, Wyoming County will still operate.