As the outgoing Council President who had the responsibility to pull together the combined Pathway Council, I hope the OSA newsletter staff will pass along my thanks to OSR staffers current and past who did so much to offer a top-class program during the time of my leadership. It took a year to plan the combination, and the past two years to merge the professional and volunteer ranks. And, we underwent the tough process of determining which camp properties would continue, and which would close. OSR came out very strongly in that process, and we have entirely turned around the uncertainty of several years back. OSR is heading toward its strongest market and attendance circumstance for decades because the combined council is now –hard to believe — growing strongly the Cub Scout program. After 20 years of sustained losses we turned the corner last year and net grew the number of Cubs. We are doing the same this fall by using the same marketing plan to have school nights on the same date across the entire huge territory we now serve.
A few thoughts about OSR, which you all love very much. The OSA should continue its current close communications with the new Council, because investments not seen n many years have occurred and will continue to be made. by the close of the year we will have probably invested $1.5 million in the OSR infrastructure. Most of it was items like roofs, electrical repairs and roadwork, but we did some spending on things campers would experience in the program areas. Some councils especially an increasing number of smaller ones, will no longer be able to operate their treasured camps. We all know the cost of maintaining our world-class facilities, but we are 37,000 members strong. Can you imagine running a camp for a couple of weeks a year for 300 Scouts. It can no longer be done. So, we need to get ready to serve an increasing number of Scouts from out of council, as well as a much higher number of our own Boy Scouts as our large number of new Cubs begin to graduate into Troops.
The Council committees with jurisdiction over camping properties and programs are doing more than just planning for the coming larger numbers. This summer we entirely rehabilitated and reopened the pool, program lodge and six campsite bathroom/shower houses at Camp Carlen. We used it for the most enhanced Webelos camping program we have ever offered. Let’s just say this was an advanced test drive for what will come at Camp Carlen in just a few years.
This summer the top professional who led the Camping program for the entire Council was Aaron Gach. We all have our personal list of effective professional scouters we have dealt with. Aaron is among the top people for me. He recruited good people, managed both OSR and Napowan (our other residential camp previously owned by the Northwest Suburban Council), and earned the respect of our unit leaders. He is very much in charge now, and has the full, absolute confidence of the Board.
On behalf of the Board, please accept our thanks for the sustained dedication of your Association to the maintenance and promotion of OSR. The recent cabin restoration is pristinely beautiful. And the less-glamorous repair weekends and camp promotions visits by Arrowmen are critical for our combined effort to fully restore our property and program. What I would ask you to do beyond that if you reside in the council is to personally renew a relationship with a local unit. Sounds simplistic and perhaps corny, but the ability of former staffers to inspire newer unit leaders and their Scouts — with even occasional engagement — cannot be overstated.
The management work-out I led in combining the councils is just about over. We concentrated on merging our business, financial, property, endowment and unit services activities. We concentrated on reducing expenses, and indeed wrung-out hundreds of thousands of Dollars we did not need to spend. However, the next phase is to focus on the large-scale fundraising that only those people who lead the largest economic and governmental entities in greater Chicagoland can lead. Therefore, you will be happy to know that this program year a new Council Executive Board will be named. It will be comprised of only those who are at the pinnacle of business in this country as represented in Chicagoland and NW Indiana. The current Council Operating Board will continue as-is, but it will report to the new Executive Board. A significant capital campaign to fully restore and endow OSR and Napowan will be a key portion of the Executive Board’s work.
As I depart my role in a couple of weeks I am nothing but pleased with the shape and direction of OSR. And, I am pleased that there is no longer a need to be concerned about a sale or reduction of operations. We will surely and collectively take the property is some new directions, which will give folks plenty of opportunity to debate, suggest and disagree. But that is a splendid circumstance to be in compared to the not-too-distant past. Each and every person I have encountered during my leadership has been well-intended and passionately dedicated to Scouting and OSR. I thank all of them for their advice and kindness.
See you at camp. For my wife, daughter and me that means Reneker cabin B-9 during sixth period.
Yours in Scouting,