As the scout executive and chief executive officer for our local Pee Dee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), I have seen firsthand the difference that United Way’s support makes in our scouting program and in our community.

Our affiliation with United Way allows us to bring the nation’s foremost program of values-based youth development and leadership training to our community in an engaging, affordable way.

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

The Scout Law contains 12 points that should guide one’s actions like a compass: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. In the Pee Dee Area Council, we bring these principles and all of the benefits of scouting to young people in the Pee Dee.

The Pee Dee Area Council is based in Florence and is overseen by an executive board of community members, including Porter Stewart, who serves as its chairman. As a locally incorporated organization that is financially independent of the national Boy Scouts of America, we rely on support from donors like United Way to deliver scouting programs to local youth.

The Pee Dee Area Council partners with United Way of Florence County, Dillon County United Way and the United Way Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties. In 2019, these partners provided a combined $26,434 in support, or 4% of our operating income. With this support, last year our council was able to bring scouting to 2,623 youth in our communities and provide 27,650 hours of community service.

Support from sponsors such as United Way help the Pee Dee Area Council offer the best in outdoor activities and educational programs at facilities like Camp Coker in Society Hill. Camp Coker opened its doors in 1929 and has since welcomed thousands of Scouts who have learned teamwork, gained new skills, participated in incredible adventures and boosted their self-esteem. Featuring Lake Westwood, 11 campsites, cabins, a dining hall, field games, boating, shooting sports and STEM activities, our programs serve the needs of youth as they advance on the trail to Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. Last year, 61 of our local Scouts earned the Eagle Scout rank, joining generations of Pee Dee Area Council Eagle Scouts, including Rob Colones, the chief executive officer of McLeod Health, and Lawrence Kellner, the former chief executive officer of Continental Airlines.

It is important to know that safety is ingrained in everything we do. It is our absolute top priority. That’s precisely why over many years we’ve developed some of the strongest expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization. From mandatory youth protection training and background checks for all volunteers and staff, to policies that prohibit one-on-one interaction between youth and adults and require that any suspected abuse be reported to law enforcement, our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe.

As a father, I do my best to model the 12 points of the Scout Law to my daughter and all of the youth in our programs at the Pee Dee Area Council. I am confident that the young people in our community are better prepared for the future thanks to the United Way and all of the generous sponsors of local scouting.

With your continued support, I look forward to seeing what United Way and our Scouts accomplish in 2020 and beyond.

Michael Hesbach is the scout executive/chief executive officer of the Pee Dee Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

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