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Boy Scouts partner with Better Family Life

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:08 am

The St. Louis community can change the path that is leading our young men to prison, to the graveyard or to a life of underachievement, said James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life, Inc.

“When you look at all the statistics, we have almost become numbed with analysis,” Clark said. “We know that the problem exists. We know who are the most vulnerable. The Boy Scouts are the best equipped and prepared to go into the heart of the urban core and give our young men what they need.”

In January, the St. Louis Area Council Boys Scouts of America appointed Clark to be its district commissioner. Last week, Keith Antone Willis, publisher of Who’s Who in Black St. Louis, became the new district chairman for the Boy Scouts. Together the two are working on a “new thrust” for the city of St. Louis.

Their first order of business is recruit 100 volunteers by Father’s Day.

“We’ve been working with Better Family Life since this summer,” said David Pettiford, district director of the St. Louis Area Council Boys Scouts of America. “Our young men are at a critical stage of development, and they need intervention to keep them from harm’s way. We have agreed that the Boy Scouts program is the vehicle to do that.”

Pettiford said the Boys Scouts organization itself is 101 years old. Throughout its history, the program has been more attentive to African-American young men at certain times than others, he said. However, the organization has always aimed to help boys transition into men.

“We are looking for individuals from all races, both genders, from all social and social and economic backgrounds,” Clark said. “We understand that everyone can help with this initiative.”

The Boys Scouts has a working presence in the urban core, but there is a strong need to energize what is currently there, Clark said. He points to a single mother who has already had one son murdered and another son put in prison.

“She is looking at her 12-year-old son who is already repeating that behavior,” Clark said. “That’s why the Boys Scouts is so important. We are looking to work with the clergy and we are looking to do effective neighborhood engagement and recruitment. We are excited about this opportunity to change the tide for the children in some of our more crime-ridden neighborhoods.”

Willis was the former executive director of St. Paul Saturdays, a black male leadership program founded at St. Paul AME Church in North St. Louis, and the executive director of Mentor St. Louis. For three years, he was the executive director of the Emerson Park Development Corporation and responsible for the daily operations for a $1.7 million dollar annual budget for Emerson Charter School. He was a Boy Scout himself, and his mother was a den leader. His sons were both in Boys Scouts.

Before joining the Better Family Life staff in 1997, Clark served as an administrative assistant to the first African-American mayor of the city of St. Louis, where he developed initiatives that provided employment, educational, and recreational opportunities for inner-city youth. He’s also been recognized for implementing role model programs in both the St. Louis Public Schools and St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center.

“Putting Keith and I together is a unique opportunity,” Clark said. 

“It’s about saving our sons,” Pettiford said.

The council invites all those interested in volunteering to attend meetings on the second Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 at 4568 West Pine Blvd. Volunteers must be 21 and older. For more information about volunteering, call David Pettiford at the Boy Scouts’ office 314-361-0600.

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  • guba08 posted at 1:53 am on Sat, Mar 17, 2012.

    guba08 Posts: 1

    I've wondered what role of our black churches played in reaching out to our children, not in church. It's nice to know that others are stepping up to the plate. God Bless you Thessalonian, West Side, Hopewell, Jerusalem and others in the Antioch District and others for working with our St. Louis Public School System (SLPS). To God Be The Glory.

  • Jeramie Mitchell posted at 7:58 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    Jeramie Mitchell Posts: 5

    When Men can't even be involved in THEIR OWN children's lives w/o fear of interference from female- biased "family"' courts and DFS, I think you can forgET about any help with OTHER people's children.

    All it takes is one allegation, and a person will have their name and photo printed on the front page of every news outlet in Saint Louis County.

    Most men are open to to constructive criticism of their parenting, but the bottom line is that in order for a Man to be a Man, he has to be able to BE a MAN. Which can NEVER happen as long as they are hen- pecked and brow- beaten by people who never CAN be MEN: WOMEN.

    The reason street gangs get these kids is because the kids WANT to be brought into manhood, but the only people who are willing and able to do it, are those who are not afraid of the law. Because the female- biased courts make us afraid to be MEN.

    If you want a bunch of pu55y whips, just keep goin' the way you are.

    If you want a bunch of young men, you better get the he|| out of the way and let us tell these punks to eat their vegies, drink their milk, pull up their pants, turn off the smart phones and pay attention.

    The eye of The Master fattens the calf. (Not the mistress).

  • momaflo posted at 2:34 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    momaflo Posts: 1

    [wink]I am glad to hear this. This is a long time coming. I was born and raised in the heart of StL. I have now moved to Ga with my son and family because of him choosing to join the Army at 34. He is now 38. He was born and raised in STL also, alumi of Pruitt Military Academy and Cleveland ROTC, I was involved with the scouts from 1980 and 1990, It is a great GANG to Join. Hats off and will be praying for your success with this partnership.

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