Scouting into Alberton

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Logan Thiele, Frank McKinney and Tyler Thiele work on a cleanup project along a bike path in Missoula for their Baden-Powell Service Association scout group. McKinney is the scout leader for a new branch of the organization in Alberton.

ALBERTON – A new scout group the whole community can enjoy has come to Alberton through the Promoting Excellence in Alberton-area Kids Foundation.

The 16th Alberton Gorge Scout Group is part of the Baden-Powell Service Association. This is an organization where anyone can join as men and women, ages five to adult, are welcome. The group also welcomes everyone regardless of race or religious beliefs.

According to Frank McKinney, the scout leader, BPSA teaches woodcraft while raising the leaders of tomorrow and refining the leaders of today. Woodcraft was described as skills for surviving in the forest as well as information about forest plants, animals and settler traditions. The groups also seek to improve the communities they are based in with various projects.

The group’s first meeting was on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Alberton Community Center. McKinney said they had three families attend as they discussed how the new group would operate.

McKinney was not surprised the first meeting was small and looked forward to bringing in more people.

He wants to spread the word through the schools and eventually set up groups to meet before or after classes. The hope is for word of mouth to spread interest among the families of the community.

According to McKinney, their first meeting was focused on getting members signed up. Eventually the scouts will begin to improve the community and go on camping trips. With so much open forest right out people’s back doors, there are boundless opportunities for new experiences.

This group is good for families who struggle to get kids outside more because most of their activities will be held outdoors. The outdoors become a classroom as the leaders teach about survival and leadership skills. McKinney said the organization also worked to mold members into better people and members of society.

The new group is still relatively small. McKinney said they have four kids and three adults enrolled at the moment. He is confident the group will grow quickly as more people hear about it.

“I think we’ll see them trickle in as people catch wind of this and time goes on,” McKinney said.

At the moment the members are all male. More female members are expected to enroll soon. McKinney’s granddaughter is expected to join the group once she is old enough.

BPSA is a lifetime organization and members can stay on into adulthood if they wish. This is different from similar organizations like Boy Scouts of America, where only youths can be scouts. McKinney himself is still considered a scout while being the group leader.

“In this organization we have all ages under one umbrella of leadership,” McKinney said. “Right now that encompasses five-year-olds through adults.”

Another difference is in the certification badges. Where Boy Scouts have badges for everything from starting a fire to computer programming, BPSA focuses on woodcraft and survival skills. Some of the badges offered by the new group are things like first aid, woodworking and construction projects.

BPSA has also begun to look into having programs for kids under the age of five. McKinney said it was a good organization for people who wanted to do things as a community.

The group is open to everyone from the county. McKinney said he would encourage anyone to join, so long as they were willing to drive to Alberton.

The group’s next meeting will be on Thursday, March 13, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Alberton Community Center. Regular meetings will be held on the second Thursday of the month.

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