Want to know how much the Boy Scouts of America has changed as an organization? Consider the fact that the Scout executive for the Quapaw Area Council in Arkansas is a woman. Also consider the fact that her three daughters are active in what we long called the Boy Scouts.

Shanna Richardson is one of just nine female council executives in the country and one of only two in the South. She moved to Arkansas from Florida with her husband and three daughters in January to replace Marcal Young, who retired after a 40-year career with BSA. It didn't take Richardson long to fall in love with Arkansas, its people, its natural beauty and the state's abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.

Richardson, a Utah native, began working in Scouting when she was a college student.

"I started in Ogden, Utah," she says. "I was running a small school and trying to be a college student at the same time at Weber State. They gave me a chance to work 12 hours a week for $18 an hour. For me, Scouting was all about camping and outdoors. I thought it would be fun."

She never dreamed it would become her career. Richardson later became a district executive at the Utah National Parks Council in Provo, where her work was about more than camping and the outdoors. One of Richardson's duties was working with Hispanic children in inner-city schools. Wanting to experience a new part of the country, she later moved to Florida to became field director of the Central Florida Council in Orlando.

Richardson met her husband, who had been an Eagle Scout and served in the U.S. Air Force. She later was assistant Scout executive at the Gulf Stream Council in Palm Beach. Richardson spent 16 years in Florida before taking her current job. Why Arkansas?

"The way of life and hospitality of the people appealed to us," Richardson says. "It's a great place to slow down, raise your children and focus on what's important in life. Scouting isn't just my job. It's who I am. This is a good place to do everything associated with Scouting. I'm convinced we can grow Scouting in Arkansas in a big way."

BSA youth membership has fallen from 4.8 million in the early 1970s to 1.2 million. As the nation recovers from the pandemic, Richardson believes parents will see the benefit of Scouting for their children.

"The pandemic did a number on our young people across the country," she says. "We pulled them out of the outdoors and put them inside in front of computer screens. Kids are struggling. We must find ways to get them back outside and teach them to take risks. We also need to teach them how to interact with other people rather than spending all of their time looking at screens.

"In that sense, Scouting has never been more important. We can't expect these kids to come to us, of course. We have to take Scouting to them, even if it's in the inner city. I'm committed to doing that in Arkansas."

As I pointed out in Wednesday's column, BSA has changed significantly in recent years. Boy Scouting, the flagship BSA program, became known as Scouts BSA in February 2019 when it opened to girls. Richardson says that even though her daughters are involved in BSA programs, she remains a supporter of the Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts organization was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912. It was organized after Low met Englishman Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, in 1911. Upon returning to Savannah, Ga., she telephoned a cousin and said: "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight."

"Girl Scouts is a phenomenal organization," Richardson says. "It's like comparing soccer and basketball. I like them both. We look different and have different goals and methods. But there's no reason girls can't do both."

BSA is struggling to recover from a scandal that has seen more than 92,000 former Boy Scouts report sexual abuses that occurred decades ago. In 2020, the national BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last December, the BSA's insurer agreed to pay $800 million into a fund for victims.

"Bad people choose good organizations to do bad things," Richardson says matter-of-factly. "We are 100 percent about restoring trust. We have the best youth protection guidelines out there. It's our responsibility to put things in place so parents can be confident that their children will never be targets."

Richardson says summer camps were so full this year that a fourth week of camp was added. She's a fan of the council's Gus Blass Scout Reservation, which is near Damascus. Owned by the Quapaw Area Council, the 3,200-acre property was acquired in the 1970s as part of a capital campaign chaired by business leaders Jack Stephens and Gus "Buddy" Blass. In 1998, what was formerly the Cove Creek Scout Reservation was named in honor of Blass' 52 years as a member of the council's executive board.

Another capital campaign, chaired by Little Rock business executive John Steuri, occurred in 1998. More than $7 million in improvements took place following that campaign. The reservation includes Camp Rockefeller, the 21,000-square-foot Donald W. Reynolds Scout Training Center (the center has a 300-seat dining hall, three classrooms and rooms that sleep almost 100 people), the second-largest outdoor pool in the state, the 500-seat William Nash Dining Hall, a 60-foot climbing tower and the Steuri Family Shooting Sports Complex.

Richardson describes it as the finest Scouting complex in the country. It was another of the features that drew her to Arkansas.

Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.

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15.10.2022

Want to know how much the Boy Scouts of America has changed as an organization? Consider the fact that the Scout executive for the Quapaw Area Council in Arkansas is a woman. Also consider the fact that her three daughters are active in what we long called the Boy Scouts.

Shanna Richardson is one of just nine female council executives in the country and one of only two in the South. She moved to Arkansas from Florida with her husband and three daughters in January to replace Marcal Young, who retired after a 40-year career with BSA. It didn't take Richardson long to fall in love with Arkansas, its people, its natural beauty and the state's abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.

Richardson, a Utah native, began working in Scouting when she was a college student.

"I started in Ogden, Utah," she says. "I was running a small school and trying to be a college student at the same time at Weber State. They gave me a chance to work 12 hours a week for $18 an hour. For me, Scouting was all about camping and outdoors. I thought it would be fun."

She never dreamed it would become her career. Richardson later became a district executive at the Utah National Parks Council in Provo, where her work was about more than camping and the outdoors. One of Richardson's duties was working with Hispanic children in inner-city schools. Wanting to experience a new part of the country, she later moved to Florida to became........

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