Commissioner’s Blog #9


John A. Hovanesian, M.D.

Council Commissioner Blog

“Want Great Unit Publicity?  Create A Committee Position”


The secret of organizing any unit’s volunteer efforts is spreading the work among many helpers. One important function that is often overlooked in units large and small is the role of publicizing the group’s good work.  The most successful packs and troops have learned the value of having a designated committee member who focuses his or her entire effort on attending every event with camera, pencil, and paper in hand, and to capture and to create a news story of the event.

What you do is almost always newsworthy.  Many of us think that some events are not worthy of space in the newspaper, but local media outlets are interested in even small community events.  A nature hike is worth a news story, especially if you learn something unexpected.  “Prickly Pear Cactus High in Vitamin C, Scouts Learn,” is a worthy and very printable title.


Some rules for a news piece that is most likely to get printed:

  1. Start in the first sentence or two with the essentials of who, what, when, why, where, and how.
  2. Keep paragraphs short.  A few sentences is generally enough for each paragraph.  The world need not know every detail about the background on the event.
  3. Include lots of names.  Get permission from parents first, but most will gladly allow their child’s name and photo to appear in the paper.  Mention key volunteers.  This is a great way to make them feel appreciated.
  4. Include photos of Scouts in action poses, not just posed group shots.  Close-ups of faces doing classic Scouting activities, like knot tying, first aid skills, and doing pioneering projects (and always in uniform!)  will get great placement in the paper.
  5. Edit the content carefully so it is as print-ready as possible.  It makes the newspaper editor’s job much easier.
  6. Keep it short.  Five hundred words would be long for a news piece on Scouting.  Two hundred to three hundred words could cover most stories and is more likely to be squeezed in to the ever thinner print issues of newspapers.
  7. Keep the supply of content regular.  Editors who begin to recognize your work as newsworthy and well-written will happily accept future submissions, ensuring prominent placement in their publications.
  8. Make it fun.  Include cute or funny quotes from kids, silly pictures, and anything that would make a reader smile.  Let’s face it, humor sells newspapers, so it’s appealing to editors.


Lastly, be sure to send any great news stories to Kathy Nguyen at the Orange County Council at  We might publish your story in Scout Week, or on a new public-facing electronic newsletter that will highlight the great scouting program in OrangeCounty.

Scouting for Food

Help feed the hungry of Orange County on SaturdayNovember 9th by participating in Scouting for Food.  Thousands of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and their volunteer leaders in Orange County will approach homes requesting food donations.  If someone is not home they may take their donation to the participating grocery store (To be determined).  Each Scout that participates can earn a patch; leaders can purchase the patch  for $1.00.   After your unit collects food in your neighborhood they will deliver the food to the their locations. The food will then be delivered to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County for distribution to the hungry of Orange County.

Sign up at Roundtable by turning in your commitment card to your Scouting for Food Chair, or email the information if you can’t make Roundtable. See list for email addresses if you cannot make Roundtable. Click HERE for the 2013 Scouting for Food Commitment Card and HERE for the 2013 Scouting for Food Grocery Store Sign-Up Form.

 SFF Patch

Commissioner’s Blog #8

“Eight Things That Should Happen at Every Great Scout Meeting”


John A. Hovanesian, M.D.

October 2, 2013

Scouting’s greatest experiences usually happen in the outdoors, on camping trips and hikes, day outings and multi-day excursions.  Meetings, though, are an essential part of our program as well, helping us prepare for those outdoor experiences, teach scouting skills, and recognize achievement.  Any well-run scouting meeting should also inspire and teach life lessons.  Here are the eight elements of an effective scout meeting:

1.  Before the Meeting.  Have the entire meeting well thought out and each “cast member” prepared with his or her role.  Arrive with enough time to set up so that the early-arriving scouts can begin the gathering activity on time.  Don’t run the meeting entirely your self. Rather, share leadership with youth leaders and parents. This keeps it fresh and everyone’s participation enthusiastic.

  • 2.  Gathering Activity.  Really a pre-meeting “appetizer”, the gathering activity is something that scouts can join whether they have arrived early or not, that immediately draws them in, is easy to join even after the activity has already started (for later arrivers), and that ideally somehow ties in to the theme of the meeting.  Examples of great gathering activities can be found at these websites. Boy Scout Gathering Activities and Cub Scout Gathering Activities 

3. Opening.  With everyone assembled, in uniform and at attention, a ceremony that celebrates our country or Scouting is always in order.  Try to break free of just parading in the flags and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  A poem, story, or song can really set the mood for the meeting beautifully.  The opening should bring people together, quiets down the tone, and mentally prepares participants for what is to come.  This site has some great ideas. 

4.  Program.  Program can be the learning of a scout skill, a demonstration from someone in or outside the pack or troop, a game or activity, but it generally accomplishes the purpose of teaching a scouting skill or lesson and it should be broad enough to apply to all the age groups in a meeting.  Alternatively, it can be broken into several subgroups, each appropriate to its audience.  Here’s a document, originally drafted in 1953, with lots of clever ideas that are still current.  Don’t look for anything about video games there, though. 

5.  Recognition.  Advancement is crucial to the success of scouts in our program, and publicly recognizing their achievements legitimizes their efforts and motivates the entire group to advance.  This should be handled quickly, but with appropriate attention to those deserving credit.

6.  Cub Master or Scout Master’s Minute.  This is an opportunity for the unit leader to tell a quick, literally one-minute story, with or without simple props, to illustrate the lesson of the meeting.   Many leaders like to stick close to the monthly program themes for cub scouts, but you might deviate from this pattern to illustrate a story in the news, a particular event that happened in the unit, or anything that inspires the audience.  Though brief, the Minute has big emotional impact for many meeting participants and is a universal favorite if done well.  Here’s a site that gives great ideas.

7.  Closing.  A song, poem, story, or simply reciting the scout oath or law again reminds participants of our purpose and puts a nice end cap on the evening.  Examples of closing ceremonies can be found here.

8.  After the Meeting.  Review with your key leaders how things went,  and make notes, mental or written, for next time you run a similar program.  Make sure everyone participates in the clean-up before leaving.

There are many variations on how to run a scouting meeting.  Some do recognition before program, others break the program into Advancement and Game for a little bit of learning and a little bit of physical activity.  Please comment below with your thoughts on making the most of scout meetings.