When the new year begins, the Boy Scouts on both sides of the river will be in one large council.
Representatives from the Lewis & Clark Council and Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts voted Wednesday night to approve a merger under the St. Louis name, putting more than 65,000 Scouts under one governing body and creating what some have said will be the largest youth organization in the region.
“We are excited about this new chapter and are steadfast in our conviction that this collaboration will bring about an even more robust Scouting experience,” wrote Lewis & Clark Council President Bob Graebe in a letter to area Scouting families. “The economies of shared resources will also ensure that our combined Councils remain on a path of financial and programmatic strength long into the future.
“This merger will also result in more resources for volunteer services, funding for capital improvements, financial support to ensure that Scouting will continue to provide guidance and inspiration to all our youth as they prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow.”
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There are approximately 280 local councils chartered by the Boy Scouts of America. This merger takes place less than a decade after two Illinois councils merged: The Trails West and Okaw Valley councils merged in 2009, forming the Lewis & Clark Council, which covers most of the metro-east in Southwestern Illinois.
We are excited about this new chapter and are steadfast in our conviction that this collaboration will bring about an even more robust Scouting experience.
Bob Graebe, council president
Lewis & Clark is the largest council in southern Illinois and includes 15 counties, including both Madison and St. Clair. It is the governing council for more than 19,000 Scouts in 328 troops on the Illinois side. It employs 23 staffers on a budget of $2.6 million per year.
The Greater St. Louis Area Council covers much of the metropolitan St. Louis region, with more than 47,000 Boy Scouts. It covers a territory as far as Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with 77 staffers on a budget of $10.7 million.
After Lewis & Clark executive director Alicia Lifrak resigned in February, the United Way urged both councils to consider a merger. Four study committees reviewed field operations, properties, finances and administration, and committee members included Eagle Scouts, executive committee members and others who volunteer for the BSA.
Last week, the executive committees of both districts voted “overwhelmingly” to recommend the merger. On Wednesday, the voting members of each district made their final decision in a special joint meeting.
According to documents on the Lewis & Clark site, no one would be laid off due to the merger, and the council members on both sides of the river will continue to serve. By consolidating administrative efforts, however, it is believed the council will save more than $400,000 in costs during the first year. Those resources could then go to grow Scouting in urban and rural areas, and “camperships” for low-income youth to participate in Scouting, officials said.
Scouting leaders also stated that while they would review which of the eight Scout camps owned by the two districts would be maintained, the Scout Shops and service headquarters would remain open, including the Belleville shop most often used by metro-east Scout troops.
The merger officially takes effect Jan. 1.