WEST WARWICK — With one foot planted in the traditions that have defined Scouting for more than a century and the other stretched out ahead, West Warwick’s Pack 1913 is eager to forge its own path as a brand new Cub Scout unit within the Narragansett Council.
“We’re all really excited about it,” Chris Black said Monday of the fledgling Scouting unit, founded last month. “It's a new adventure.”
Black, whose son Griffin is a Wolf Scout in Pack 1913, helped establish the co-ed pack alongside several other local families who he said were eager to “venture off and do [their] own thing.”
Named in part for the year West Warwick was incorporated — the name also pays homage to the year of Scouting BSA's first National Act of Community Service — Pack 1913 is open to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Most participants hail from West Warwick, though a couple come from surrounding towns including Coventry.
“We’re really trying to bring it all back to West Warwick,” Black said, adding that Pack 1913 will put a strong focus on supporting the local community.
The pack, which will meet weekly on Friday evenings at Emanuel Lutheran Church, had planned to hold its inaugural meeting on April 3. That meeting was canceled, however, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused social distancing measures to be implemented.
But despite the abrupt change of plans, Black said things have gotten off to a great start.
The pack last Friday met for its first virtual den meeting. From their own homes, nearly 20 Scouts recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Scout Law before delving into other business and eventually taking a few minutes of “free time” to hang out with one another.
“They were just so happy to see each other,” Black said of the meeting, held using the Zoom video conference service. “We’re just trying to keep them engaged and keep them active however we can at this point.”
The Scouts have also been given regular activities to work on with their families from home — this week, their task is to make rock candy. Scouts last week were challenged to recycle plastic soda bottles into flower planters.
In the first video ever posted to Pack 1913’s YouTube channel, Assistant Cub Master Frank Capaldi stands outside next to a table, the materials needed for the project spread out across it. Touting the importance of “reducing, reusing and recycling,” Capaldi walks viewers through making their planters.
The hope, Black added, is that while they’re stuck at home, families can still get outdoors as much as possible.
“We’re going to hopefully encourage each Scout to go out for a virtual hike in their own backyards or in their neighborhoods,” he said.
While online den meetings and YouTube tutorials aren’t exactly what the families had in mind when they decided to establish Pack 1913, Black said this time has offered a unique opportunity for the pack to build a solid foundation.
As vice president of membership for the Narragansett Council, Black said he’s become familiar with the trends that successful Scout units often follow. One thing the units that do well have in common, he said, is that they tend to “stay ahead of the times.”
“I think that some of the units kind of say, ‘well, this is the way we’ve always done it,’ and I think they’re missing the boat,” he said. “Although scouting is rooted in traditions and values that sometimes we think of as having gone by, we also want to stay relevant.”
It’s important for the traditions that over the years have shaped Scouts BSA to be blended with more modern trends and technologies, Black added.
“We have to stay moving forward,” he continued, “and I think units like ours and others in Coventry and Warwick that are embracing this time will do great.”
Among the traditions that the new pack does plan to carry on is the strong emphasis on family involvement.
“We want to create an environment where the families actually become friends,” said Black, who’s been involved with Scouts BSA for some 15 years and counts his fellow scouting families among his closest friends.
And while they wait to finally have their first in-person meeting, the families of Pack 1913 are busy planning for activities beyond social distancing.
“We’re still trying to plan forward with expectations that these [plans] might not happen,” Black said.
Through the pack’s high adventure club, a number of hiking and camping trips have already been scheduled for the summer months.
“We really want to give these kids something that they’re not getting in school,” Black added. “One of the greatest things about scouting is you can learn and you can fail and you can learn from that failure.”
Those interested in checking out a virtual Pack 1913 meeting are invited to register through the pack’s Facebook page. People can also visit pack1913.org to learn more.
Black said he hopes by making it easy for families to check out an online meeting the pack can draw those who otherwise might not consider joining Scouts.
“Everybody’s welcome,” Black said. “Our goal is to keep as many kids as we can in Scouting.”