A Scout is helpful. It’s the third point of the Scout Law. And to help other people at all times is part of the Scout Oath.
Scouts help others every day. Service is part of our rank requirements, and troops and packs do service projects regularly. Service to an organization outside of Scouting is a requirement for Eagle.
As the holiday season approaches, we find ourselves helping out in many ways – collecting food and clothing for the needy, staffing holiday shops at hospitals and churches, caroling in nursing homes and running errands for senior citizens.
You might think that helping with one of the most visible and iconic service projects in America would be right up our alley. In fact, every holiday season, it seems I see at least one group of otherwise well-meaning Scouts in uniform ringing the bell and tending the red kettle of The Salvation Army as they collect cash donations for the underprivileged.
As beneficial as this activity is, though, it’s not permitted for Scouts in uniform to help out by asking for donations to The Salvation Army or any other organization. Our members are prohibited by the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America from raising money for other organizations – or even soliciting donations for Scouting or our own units – while identifying ourselves with the BSA. It’s stated specifically on the Unit Money-Earning Application:
Youth members shall not be permitted to serve as solicitors of money…in support of other organizations… Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts and leaders should not identify themselves as Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts or as a troop/pack participate in The Salvation Army’s Christmas Bell Ringing program. This would be raising money for another organization. [Emphasis added]
What this means is that we cannot get together as a patrol, troop, pack or den and take a shift ringing the bell in front of the local mall or grocery store, and we certainly cannot do it in uniform.
However, because A Scout is Helpful, it’s certainly OK to man the red kettles – just not as a Scout! Go ahead and volunteer with your church, school club, honor society or on your own. But no uniforms – not even a troop or pack t-shirt.
Being helpful to others is always a good thing, but it’s especially welcome during the holidays. Plan a project with your unit to brighten someone’s day by doing a good turn – but, as A Scout is Obedient, be sure to check first to make sure you’re following the rules!