Life is still busy, even during the pandemic. And a packed and busy schedule often means that certain activities — usually those that don’t directly affect our quality of life — must take a spot on the back burner. Unfortunately, community service is one of those types of activities for many.

It seems ironic that we’re writing to explain the benefits of community service, a key value with the Boy Scouts of America. It is, after all, supposed to be a selfless act, and should be appealing simply based off the inherent instinct to do the right thing. Many Scouts, however, are still in the process of developing such instincts, and the activities they participate in during childhood and their Scouting experience can greatly affect their development. Community service comes in many forms, but no matter the application, it teaches our Scouts the value of service to others. If that’s not quite enough information to convince you, here are some other reasons why volunteering is important as a child:

  1. It encourages empathy and compassion.

Kids’ world views are limited, especially if they grow up seeing only a single way of life. Whether it’s the less fortunate or other volunteers, community service grants the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life and humanizes individuals who kids otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to know.

A lot of times, these skills are almost impossible to teach on a moment-to-moment basis and must be learned through hands-on experience with others.

  1. Volunteering is an opportunity to bond with family, friends and other community members.

If you want to teach your kids something, teach by example. Especially for younger children who still need support in new environments, it’s important for kids to see that their parents not only approve of what they’re doing, but are doing it themselves, too. Plus, family time is always beneficial to children — studies show that kids that value time spent with their family are the happiest.

Another study, conducted by DoSomething.org, revealed that the main determining factor in youth volunteer work was if they had friends who also volunteer. Turns out, it’s crucial to establish a community of friends and family who all share an interest in volunteering – hence the Scout’s own den, patrol, crew or ship members. 

  1. Volunteering shows kids that they can make a difference.

Community service can often produce visible results: a smile on a stranger’s face, a food basket out for delivery, or even a purring shelter kitty can register with children as positive outcomes of a job well done. Not only that, but because most volunteers in the world are adults, community service gives kids the chance to work with people older than them, legitimizing their voice as individuals.

  1. Volunteering prepares kids for college.

According to research done at Tufts University, kids who volunteer are more successful in school and more likely to graduate from both high school and college. Kids often learn to plan and manage their own time while volunteering and become accustomed to interacting with those from different backgrounds — soft skills that play a crucial role in not just higher education, but life in general.

How to Get Your Scout Involved in the Mount Baker Council’s Summer of Service Project Good Turn.

Being a member of the Boy Scouts of America and the Mount Baker Council is one of the best ways to ensure your Scout is consistently encouraged to give back. It allows them to volunteer with fellow Scouts regularly, but also encourages parents and community members to volunteer alongside them as Scout Leaders. Scouting teaches the community that giving back is more than just an obligation — it’s an activity in which the benefits work both ways.

This summer, the Mount Baker Council will be coordinating a council-wide Project Good Turn called the Summer of Service.   In this issue of the Echo and also on our website, your Scout and your unit can learn how they can be part of our effort to give back to our communities through service.  Just say yes to service and Scout On!

Kevin Nichols, Scout Executive