REFUGIO COUNTY – In the United States, one of the largest youth organizations at 109 years old has had major setbacks in Refugio County, and possibly points elsewhere.
Rickey Piwetz, Woodsboro Troop 188 scoutmaster, said it is primarily a lack of interest in sustaining the program in Refugio County.
He said the problem seems to be an apathetic attitude toward the program.
“Parents aren’t getting involved,” he said.
He noted that it was lack of interest that killed the program in Refugio for longtime Troop 72 years ago.
“They’ve got peewee football, junior high football ... Woodsboro didn’t have anything,” he said.
Then all the county’s scouting moved to Troop 188 in Woodsboro.
Then they were seen leading parades and checking people at the Refugio County Fair entrance.
Piwetz, the scoutmaster, and William “Bill” Houston Albert, the assistant scoutmaster, have led the scouting effort together in Refugio County for the past 28 years in a program that was created Feb. 8, 1910, in the United States.
Piwetz, as of March 3, logged 40 years as a registered adult leader.
“Four years of that was Cub Scouts,” he said.
Other reasons for the demise of scouting include organization structural changes, the cost and support.
The “boy” in Boy Scouts, for example, was dropped last year to welcome girls in the program.
Now, as of February, the official name of the organization is Scouts BSA.
The Girl Scouts program remains the same – just for girls. But Piwetz said girls are leaving that program to join Scouts BSA.
For camping in Scouts BSA, girls and boys are segregated.
“All can go to camp,” he said.
And when gays were allowed into the program, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) pulled away from the program and no longer sponsors troops.
Piwetz said the Latter- day Saints boys who still wanted to stay in the program joined other troops.
“It used to be back in 1979 that the uniform was $8 to $9, and registration was $5 a boy,” Piwetz said.
“Now, a shirt with patches is $52 to $55, and registration is $60 a youth. That is effective Jan. 1, 2020,” he said.
Also, the size of merit badges have increased so that only two in a row on a sash fits. The badges were smaller before, and three in a row could fit on the sashes.
The badges used to cost $2.49 and now cost $3.79.
Then there is local support from the church.
Pitwetz said all was well until Hurricane Harvey struck.
The Corpus Christi Catholic Diocese was self-insured until FEMA convinced the bishop to wait until federal help arrived, according to Piwetz.
Troop 188 is sponsored by St. Therese Catholic Church in Woodsboro and uses the old bingo hall as its storage place for equipment.
Now the equipment has to be covered inside the hall to protect it from the elements.
“Our meeting place is in there, too,” Piwetz said.
“There are two lights and no AC or heat,” he said.
Piwetz said another change is the bishop now signs all charters.
“He signed last year but apparently did not sign the charter agreement,” Piwetz said.
He explained the agreement calls for the sponsor to furnish a storage place, meeting place, and insurance for all.
“I’ve left word to call me. They never called me,” he said.
“One of the deacons went over everything, but I have not heard anything back,” he added.
Piwetz said he didn’t know what would happen to all the troop’s equipment.
“Most of it is mine,” he said.
“I’m willing to pass it on. I want scouting to survive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Piwetz told the boys in Troop 188 that there are good Scout troops in Sinton and Goliad.
“Just in case things don’t work out,” he said.
Also, recently making the highest rank in scouting were Trenton Payne, Justin Mann and Ryan Speis, who have passed their Eagle Board of Review.
“They have not had their ceremony,” Piwetz said.
Eagle projects are waiting for approval for three more boys, Carson White, Trevor Guillen and Hunter Guillen.
“And I am working with Braxton Ladner on his Eagle project,” he said.
Piwetz proudly said, “That’s a total of seven Eagle Scouts.”
“Dec. 31 is going to be my last day – Bill’s too,” Piwetz said.
“For four or five years we’ve tried to find young adult men to take over,” he said. But no takers.
“I’ve got other things I want to do. Bill does, too, in our later years,” he said.
Piwetz said he and his wife will finally celebrate her birthday in June with a trip.
He said his and Bill’s exit from the program will happen unless three people can form a committee and two others become a scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster.
“That’s five people going through the process,” he said.
He said the training involves an hour on a laptop.
“This has to go in for the recharter at the end of the December,” Piwetz said.
“Everything takes away from the family. BSA is going to keep on dropping the way they are going,” he said.
“I don’t know what is going to go on,” he said.
Piwetz said he was extremely concerned, having spent 40 years of his life giving to the program.
“I hope somebody will step up – somebody who wants their kids to be in scouting,” he said.
He noted that would be a great Thanksgiving and Christmas present.
“I will teach them what they need to know, and give them a jump on it,” he added.
Tim Delaney is the Refugio editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397, or at refugio@mySouTex.com.