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Boy Scouts eye drive

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Faced with rapid growth, the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts of America is launching a campaign to raise $4 million.

Half the funds from the campaign will boost the council’s endowment, and the other half will renovate and expand its camp west of Mount Airy near Low Gap.

“We’re asking people to make a pretty large commitment to scouting, hopefully the largest gift they’ve ever made to the Boy Scouts,” says Mike Butler, the council’s scout executive.

Scott Bauer, chairman and CEO of Southern Community Bank and Trust, chairs the campaign, which has landed 30 to 35 gifts totaling nearly $900,000 in its quiet phase and will kick off its public phase by late June. Its lead gift is $250,000 from Wachovia Bank.

The council, based in Winston-Salem, serves 17,000 youth members and 4,000 adult volunteers in Forsyth County and seven counties to the north and west. Members include 6,500 co-ed students enrolled in the Scouts’ “Learning for Life” character-education curriculum in the public schools.

A key council goal is to build its endowment, now less than $500,000, to more than $7 million to meet a national Scouts policy that every local council have $430 in endowment for each youth member.

Income from a $7 million endowment would cover 10 percent to 15 percent of the council’s annual operating costs, totaling nearly $2.2 million this year, says Butler, former director of finance services for the Scouts’ Atlanta Area Council who on Nov. 1 succeeded Hal Murray as Old Hickory scout executive.

He says he hopes the campaign would boost a long-term endowment spearheaded by a trustee committee chaired by Harrell Hill, retired vice president for finance and chief financial officer at Western Electric.

The council, which in recent years has received commitments for deferred gifts totaling about $1.5 million, invests its endowment with the Winston-Salem Foundation, which kick-started it several years ago with a challenge grant to the council.

The remainder of campaign funds will finance new facilities and renovations at Raven Knob, the 3,200-acre camp the council bought in 1955.

The camp this summer will serve more than 5,000 youngsters staying one week each — triple the total it served seven years ago.

Despite funding cuts in some other communities because of a national Boy Scouts policy excluding gays, United Way support for the Old Hickory Council has held steady and even grown slightly, Butler says.

The United Way accounts for one-fourth of the council’s annual budget, down from two-fifths 10 years ago, but only because the budget has grown by nearly 80 percent to keep pace with a one-fourth increase in membership, Butler says.

“Our growth has been strong and consistent, the values of scouting remain strong and central to the values of this country, and our support has remained strong,” he says.

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