The aim of Boy Scouts of America targets character development and much more, as advocates see it. The aim of Scout Noah Hubbard is impressive enough to target him for praise among his fellow members of East Columbus United Methodist Church’s Troop 549.

At a recent meeting, the 12-year-old Northside Middle schooler pulled out the Camp Atterbury firing range target from his shooting merit badge work. Ammo holes peppered the paper, especially near the bulls-eye, almost as if he were a trained sharpshooter.

Hubbard mentioned that the Scout troop has helped him find a place to overcome a tinge of shyness and develop into a leader.

“I think I can see that it’s definitely had an impact,” Hubbard said.

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He will be among hundreds of local Scouts participating in Scout Sunday services unfolding in Bartholomew and surrounding counties Feb. 7 and 14. The day helps fulfill Scouts’ pledge to be reverent to God, according to Scout leaders.

“And I think church members enjoy seeing the youth (visibly) serving,” said Roger Schaefer, Troop 549 Scoutmaster who has been involved in Scouts for 52 years.

That serving includes Scouts ushering, distributing bulletins and presentation of colors. At other times of the year, some local troops perform service projects in and around the church.

More than 1,500 Scouts participate in troops in the Hoosier Trails Council’s Lenni Lenappe District in Bartholomew, Decatur, Jackson and Jennings counties, according to Jon Ocheltree, senior district executive with the Bloomington-based Hoosier Trails Council. The biggest portion of that total — 775 members — are in Bartholomew County.

The church element remains a huge component of interest levels, since churches sponsor 90 percent of local troops, Ocheltree said.

“I think that it (faith) gives them more of an identity,” Ocheltree said. “And it gives them someone and something to turn to.”

Fourteen-year-old William Likens, in his third year in First Christian Church’s Troop 552, sees Scout Sunday as significant, when the group will be offering home-made baked goods as a gesture of goodwill.

“It (Scout Sunday) is important because we want to be able to practice a part of our faith,” he said. “A lot of people still think Scouting is pretty much all about only camping.”

For Likens, his involvement has made him a better person far beyond a single Sunday worship service, as he sees it.

“Scouting really has helped me build better character and learn basic leadership skills,” Likens said. “Since I’ve joined Scouts, I’ve had to learn to get out of my comfort zone. It also has helped me be more determined in my schoolwork (at St. Peter’s Lutheran School).”

Schaefer can tell story after story of seeing young people positively influenced by Scouts. His own link between Scouts and church runs so deep that his high school drafting drawings of East Columbus United Methodist’s youth center location and layout became the guide that church leaders actually used for the project years ago — a few years before Schaefer became a draftsman.

So whether he’s connected to Scout Sunday or some other activity of the youth agency, Schaefer said he is as committed to the work as he is his faith — with no plans to stop.

About Scout Sunday

The Boy Scouts of America designates the Sunday that falls before Feb. 8 (Scouting Anniversary Day) as Scout Sunday, which is the primary date to recognize the contributions of young people and adults to Scouting. However, each chartered organization can use either of two other options to celebrate this special day.

An organization can adopt a specific Sunday to celebrate. In the instance of the United Methodist Church, Scout Sunday is celebrated on the second Sunday in February. It also is permissible for a local church to celebrate on the Sunday most acceptable to the pastor and congregation.

Famous Eagle Scouts

Famous Eagle Scouts include former President Gerald Ford, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and astronauts Neil Armstrong and  James Lovell.

Scouting programs

Cub Scouting

Tiger Cubs: first grade.

Cub Scouts: second to third grades.

Webelos: fourth and fifth grades.

Boy Scouting

Boy Scouts: ages 11 to 18.

Varsity Scouts: ages 14 to 18.

Venturing: co-ed high-adventure programming for those ages 14 to 20.

Source: hoosiertrailsbsa.org

How to join Scouts

Contact Jon Ocheltree at 812-336-6809 or send an email to jocheltree@bsamail.org or go to beascout.scouting.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.