Lodge Ledger: The OA and the unit: our keys to the future

Lodges often struggle to get units involved in such a beneficial program as the Order of the Arrow. Part of the Order's purpose includes helping units retain older members. Troop 457 of Greater Niagara Frontier Council saw a solution in a familiar program, the OA Troop Representative program. It all started with a spark of inspiration. Inspired by youth to help Scouts in the unit support such a program, Assistant Scoutmaster Ginny Conway became the adviser for Troop 457's troop representative program. Having an adviser was a key starting point for the program. The adviser communicates the aims of the program with parents of Scouts and explains events, coordinates travel to events, and supports the youth in all they plan to accomplish.

However, this program could have no purpose without the youth and would ultimately fall to the wayside. Enthusiasm brings the youth to the role as a troop representative. In Troop 457, the troop representative is a member of the patrol leaders' council to emphasize the importance of his role. He attends meetings to help inform unit members of the opportunities for service and fellowship in the OA.

From the enthusiasm of the youth, the OA program in Troop 457 quickly grew. In 2010, Troop 457 had no truly active members in the lodge to the point where other units knew the unit as a "Sash and Dash" troop in Ho-de-no sau-nee Lodge. With a strong troop rep program in function, more boys chose to go beyond just getting the sash. In 2012, eleven unit members sealed their bond in Brotherhood membership. Then in 2013, 53% of the unit's Arrowmen attended an activity other than their Ordeal, and that number has since risen steadily. Now, 35 of the 70 troop members are currently registered as brothers in the OA. Former troop representatives took on significant leadership roles in Ho-de-no sau-nee Lodge from 2014 to 2015. Noah Gould became a lodge chief and Anthony Rinaldo served as a lodge vice chief. Another active Scout in the troop, CJ Long, served as the NE-3A section secretary in 2014-15. Currently, four members serve on the 2015-16 lodge executive council.

These young men who became enthusiastic members helped the lodge grow, and if more followed their example across the nation, the Order's membership would rise in number. But for the units, what do they gain? For Scoutmasters apprehensive about the benefits of the program, Assistant Scoutmaster Ginny Conway defends the integrity of the OA in the unit program stating, "Anyone fearful of having an OA presence in their troop misunderstands the purpose of the OA. It is clear that the unit comes first. OA is not meant to replace the troop program, but compliment it. OA, like Scouting is what you put into it. It is an opportunity to go beyond your unit. The fellowship, training, leadership and service opportunities are beyond compare. As leaders it is our responsibility to provide our Scouts with access to all the opportunities that the OA and Scouting have to offer."

Those Scouts returned to the unit more dedicated and experienced than ever before. In fact, the unit reports that it has seen an increase in the number of Scouts who stay active in the program. One purpose of the Order of the Arrow is to develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation. Unit remains at the top of this list because it is the most important. Improving the relationship between the Order of the Arrow and the unit can provide both with better leaders and will ultimately benefit the Boy Scouts of America as a whole. This relationship all begins with a strong troop representative program.

For more information on the troop representative program visit the Troop/Team Representative program area.

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