While national scouting shrinks, Windsor-Essex grows strong

Ryan Percy
By Ryan Percy October 20, 2017 13:30
Front of the Scout Shop and Service Centre on Marentette Avenue in Windsor, Ont. Oct. 13, 2017. Photo by Ryan Percy

Front of the Scout Shop and Service Centre on Marentette Avenue in Windsor, Ont. Oct. 13, 2017. Photo by Ryan Percy

By Ryan Percy

Despite the drought nationwide of new youth into Scouts Canada, the Windsor-Essex area is doing well.

Fears of the Scout Shop closing are creating fears about the future of scouting, even though the area saw a three per cent increase in youth registration.

While Scouts Canada has not released their Scouts Annual Report for the 2016-2017 year, the 2014-2016 numbers saw a five per cent decrease in total youth membership on the national level, dropping from about 64,700 in the 2014-2015 year to less than 61,500 in the 2015-2016 year. This 2015-2016 report removed part-time participants from the numbers, which may account for the decrease.

Numbers given by Mike Cholubko, deputy nation commissioner for technology and innovation of Scouts Canada, put the Windsor-Essex area at a zero per cent change for the 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 years with numbers sitting at around 700 youths. From 2016 to 2017, Windsor-Essex saw a 1.67 per cent increase.

Area commissioner for Windsor-Essex Steven Blain pointed out the Tri-Shores area, which Windsor-Essex falls under, saw an overall increase to their numbers in 2016-2017. The area saw a 3.56 per cent drop in youth from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 but a 2.8 per cent increase during the 2016-2017 year. Windsor-Essex was on the increase side of the equation.

“At our last conference call [Tri-Shores] was up three per cent,” said Blain.

Victoria Green has been working at the Scout Shop on Marentette Avenue for nearly three decades. Her belief is that scouting is in a decline because the world has changed and given children more options when it comes to what they can do for extracurricular activities.

“It’s not just sports,” said Green. “Kids have much more choice of what to do after school or in the evenings or with their time.”

Cholubko said there are some factors that contribute on top of the time investment, such as monetary investment for some families. He said Scouts Canada has ways to help families out financially.

“When it comes to the youth side, in some cases, there’s the ability for families to pay,” said Cholubko.

“Certainly Scouts Canada has done its best to create programs that mitigate that challenge. We have the No One Left Behind program. There are other abilities to extend payment over a longer period…we’ve tried to be flexible.”

Blain said extracurricular sports seem to be one of the major forces taking youth away from joining scouting. When given the option between the two, children tend to favour sports over scouting.

“I think a big [reason] is sports,” Blain said. “Even if we get some youth that start in the program, once sports begin we lose them because they get involved in travel teams and don’t have time for both.”

Green suggested there may also be a certain loss of appeal to scouting since its effects on youth are not always immediate. She said it takes time for the ideas of scouting to mould youth for the future. She pointed to the Scouts Canada mission statement by saying the goal is to prepare youth in a well rounded manner for success.

“Maybe the benefits of Scouts are more long term,” Green said, “we’re all about improving citizens.”

Ryan Percy
By Ryan Percy October 20, 2017 13:30

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