Matches Made at the Range
When the call came to help supply a Scouts BSA camp with .22 rifles and ammunition so campers could learn to shoot and handle rifles safely, the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance stepped up to help.
by PJ DelHomme
Some things in life just go well together. Peas and carrots. Beers and brats. Summer and camping. It’s that last combo where a partnership between union members in the Kansas City area, Scouts BSA, and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) all worked together to make their communities a better place—and it all starts at summer camp.
The 4,200-acre H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Missouri is a Scouts BSA playground. It’s where upwards of 4,000 Scouts will converge this summer to get their hands dirty and learn outdoor skills like canoeing, camping, and shooting. It’s where the smell of sunscreen mixes with bug dope and gunpowder thanks to new shooting facilities there. What naturally goes well with new shooting ranges? New rifles, of course. This summer, those Scouts will be greeted with an arsenal of shiny new .22 Savage rifles and a pile of ammo because a bunch of union workers like to get together and have dinner.
Good Times, Great Cause
Union members in the Kansas City area know how to have a good time, and that incorporates raising money for causes near and dear to their heart, which happens to be helping kids experience the great outdoors. For the past eight years, the USA and Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) have hosted an annual fundraising dinner where members share a meal and a drink or two.
“The dinners are all about union folks having a good time,” says Tom Johnson, senior vice president for the Bank of Labor, which is a founding partner and key supporter of the USA. He first visited the Bartle Reservation as a Scout in 1964. Four years later, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. “The dinners here in Kansas City are full of good, hardworking union members raising funds for the USA.”
After expenses, half of the money raised at a dinner goes to the USA general fund and half stays within the market for a conservation project selected by the dinner committee.
The committee is always looking for the right project, but some years they don’t find one, says Alise Martiny, business manager of the Greater Kansas City BCTC and head of the USA’s Kansas City Dinner Committee. When they do find a great project, you can bet the committee is all in, which is exactly what happened when Martiny got a call from Russ Burton.
Find a USA Conservation Dinner near you, and help raise funds to support conservation efforts in your community. Click HERE.
A Worthy Project
A retired plumber, Air Force veteran and chairman of the skilled trades team, which organizes union work days at the reservation (see sidebar), Burton spends many days at the camp volunteering his expertise. He went there himself as a kid in the 1960s and earned his Eagle Scout in 1970. Burton told Martiny the story of a lady who donated a generous amount of money to help build and reconstruct shooting ranges at the reservation last year. If only the Scouts had some new rifles and ammunition to go with them, he said. Could the funds raised from the conservation dinners help purchase guns and ammo? To answer that question, Martiny knew exactly who she should call.
“She asked me if something like this meets our mission,” said Sam Phipps, USA conservation programs manager. “I said absolutely it meets our mission.” With that, Martiny took the ball and ran with it, according to Burton.
With nearly $26,000 in funds raised at more than a few Kansas City dinners, the team bought 50 Savage Mark II .22 rifles. “And I want you to know that the folks at Savage gave us a great deal,” said Martiny. If you’ve been to a sporting goods store in the past two years, you’ll understand how finding that many rifles is a feat unto itself. Ammo could have been an issue, too. Those Scouts run through 125,000 rounds each year. How would they possibly track down that much ammo? Phipps says finding the ammo was really no big deal. He just called up Fin Feather Fur Outfitters, and they filled the entire order.
And just like that, those 4,000 Scouts attending camp this year will have all the tools they need to learn shooting safety and marksmanship. Well, not exactly just like that. The reality is that these kinds of wins don’t happen with just a wad of cash and a few phone calls. You might say this project started back in the 1960s when Johnson and Burton started going to the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation as kids themselves. They’ve got history there, along with hundreds of other union members around Kansas City. The trades, Scouts, the great outdoors—they all go together. Think back to peas and carrots. “The partnership between Scouts and Labor is amazing,” says Johnson. “We are all trying to make better citizens. We’re trying to make a world we’re all proud to live in and leave it a little better than we found it. Labor and the Scouts are doing that big time.”
Camp Days, Union Style
With more than 500 buildings on the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation complex, there is a never-ending backlog of maintenance needs. That’s where the union members volunteer their time and labor to help out. “They have skilled trades day at the camp, and we count on the union to do building upgrades to help us out all year long,” says David Riker, the reservation director. “We have carpenters, plumbers and electricians who were Scouts themselves here on the reservation. It’s a way for them to give back.”
This connection is thanks to people like Tom Johnson and Russ Burton who have worked to connect the Scouts with the Kansas City Building Trades Committee. For instance, when the reservation needed new metal roofs on some of their buildings, the camp hosted sheet metal apprentice classes there to work on the buildings. “They stayed at the reservation in the living quarters,” says Johnson. “The apprentices got service hours and got to hang out. It was a great learning experience.”
USA’s Sam Phipps says union members are everything you could ever want in a volunteer. “Our members are not your ordinary volunteers,” he says. “They build stuff for a living. They are the most trained and qualified volunteers of all time.”
Riker agrees and hopes to see that relationship grow. “One of my personal goals is to build a building there where we can teach some skilled trades for those merit badges—plumbing, electrical, home repairs,” he says. “We couldn’t have summer camp without those union members.”