Editor's note:This is the seventh in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
BY BECKY MALEWITZ
Rafael Diaz says his favorite part about being a Boy Scout is the camping and adventure.
The 15-year-old Garden City High School sophomore started as a Cub Scout at age 6 and has worked his way up to his current position as a Life Scout. These days, Diaz is working on his personal management badge and eventually will go on to do an Eagle Scout project in order to reach the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program.
"My mom heard of this at my elementary school, and she said it would be cool for me to join," Diaz said outside of his Monday night troop meeting. "I thought it would be cool to join, too."
The Santa Fe Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America, is hoping that with the help of United Way funds, it will be able to get even more kids involved in scouting at a young age. In 2014, the SFTC, BSA will receive $15,000 in funds from the Finney County United Way, a match of last year's United Way funding. The money will go toward outreach in the Hispanic community in hopes of getting more of the growing population involved in the scouting program.
"The United Way funds basically help us reach into the Hispanic community with materials, actual recruiting and buying of things for their program that they particularly need to kind of get them engaged in the process," said Michael Stewart, executive director of the Santa Fe Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America. "It's the growing youth market. All you gotta do is go to the elementary schools and just do a recruiting talk in the first through fifth grade, you will see they are already here, and you need to get aggressive and be able to serve their needs."
At the end of last year, there were approximately 2,400 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts over the 19-county area that the Santa Fe Council serves. Only 6 percent of those scouts were Hispanic.
Stewart, who worked for a similar BSA outreach program in California before moving to Kansas in February, says that even having the sign on the door that says welcome in Spanish can help reach out to the Hispanic community.
"We want people who need assistance with language to know that 'Hey, we have someone inside that can work with you.' Generally, parents want to get their children involved in a structured program, but language is something that can stop you from helping them do that," Stewart said. "In California, we did a lot out there with bilingual written materials. Like in the scout shops, things were bilingual, and having materials and people on staff that can speak the language, believe it or not, just the simple things like that make the great transformation that allow particular families to stay in this organization."
Stewart knows from experience that he can get more of the Hispanic youth involved in the scouting program.
"I know in the Hispanic community, it's all about family, and one of the reasons we were partnering with the Girl Scouts this year is generally when Hispanic families go out to participate in an activity or something, they do it as a group. Well, that means if you are going to recruit their kids, you have to have something for boys and you have to have something for girls. And so having Girl Scouts there at the recruiting meetings, we are able to take care of the needs of the whole family, and that's something that we share with United Way."
The local United Way is in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign goal. The goal for 2014 is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.
The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:
Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.