For more than a century, The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been helping mold the future leaders of America by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. Located in Kansas City, MO, the Heart of American Council (HOAC) serves more than 31,000 youth and is known for having the highest number of scouts achieving the coveted Eagle Scout badge.
Each summer, more than 23,000 young boys attend summer camps run by the HOAC and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like sailing, archery, water skiing, space exploration and the shooting sports. Maintaining the grounds and facilities to support so many youth every summer is no easy task. Fortunately, Kansas City has a healthy population of skilled union members, many of whom are former scouts, have children in scouts, volunteer with the scouts or all of the above.
“There was a great need at our summer camps to take care of repairing or replacing some of the major infrastructure items in the area of plumbing, roofs and electrical,” said Mark Brayer, Director of Support Services and Professional Advisor to the Properties Committee of the HOAC. “With limited funds…we started to get offers from various union members to come down to camp and use their skills to help in these renovations.”
In response, the Properties Committee established a concentrated weekend effort called Skilled Trades Work Day, and promoted the event to union members. It was so successful, according to Brayer, it has become an annual event at both the Heart of America Council’s H. Roe Bartle and Naish scout reservations, with one work day each spring and fall.
On April 11, 2015, nearly 320 volunteers turned out for the Skilled Trades Work Day at H. Roe Bartle, which encompasses more than 4,200 acres in the Ozark Hills on Truman Lake. Together, the volunteers built new storage facilities, repainted a swimming pool, installed new water heaters, put up trail signs and markers, planted a 500+ tree nursery and completed a variety of other projects in preparation for the camp season. Among the volunteers were approximately 100 union members of the Greater Kansas City Building & Constructions Trades Council (BCTC) including electrical workers, plumbers and pipefitters, roofers, painters, carpenters and millwrights, sheet metal workers, laborers, ironworkers, and operating engineers, along with Bank of Labor staff.
A member of Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 8, Russ Burton is a perfect example of the strong connection between the union trades and the Boy Scouts of American in Kansas City. As an Eagle scout and Chairman of Skilled Trades Team for the HOAC, he has been involved with scouting for nearly 50 years and was instrumental in helping create the Skilled Trades Work Days, which he continues to manage with the help of Project Coordinator Rick McWirth.
Between labor, materials and equipment, the more than 300 volunteers at the Bartle Skilled Trades Work Day provided an estimated $178,000, which the HOAC can invest in future scout programs. According to Burton, much of the work completed would not have been possible without the skills provided by the union volunteers.
“We feel we operate the best Boy Scout Camps in the country, not just in terms of our program but also in the facility in which to offer that program,” Brayer said. “Having our camping facilities up to speed on maintenance items and putting in new facilities to support the program enables us to attract a larger number of our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts each year and provide them with a quality program in a safe, clean and well-kept facility.”
“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground program brings together skilled union members for conservation projects,” said Alise Martiny, Business Manager of the Greater Kansas City BCTC. “Here in the Kansas City area, we are proud that so many union members are putting their boots to the ground to support the BSA Heart of American Council, which leaves such a positive and lasting impression in the lives of so many local youth.”