Successful ScoutingThe Herald News - Joliet (IL)March 9, 2003 | Denise M. Baran-UnlandJerrie Davis laughs as she talks with some of her kids in her Cub Troop at pack meetingat Fairview Community Center. Anthony Stallings, on ladder, helps hang decorations forhis Cub Scout troops Blue and Gold banquet. Jordan Rent, 13, gives directions at theirmeeting place, Fairview Homes community center. Scoutmaster Jerrie Davis talks toSean Denoyer (center) and Kim Hughes, representing Boy Scouts of America.Scoutmaster Jerrie Davis doesnt know the meaning of theword "cant." "Im a positive person, and I dont believe in`no as an answer," Davis said. "When Im given a project,I try to see it through." And Davis has done what otherscould not do: Shes made Scouting succeed in thebuildings of the Housing Authority of Joliet."Theres so much that the children here can do that from Day One Ive told them, `Dontbring me the word `cant because (in the dictionary) `can comes before `cant. Justbecause you live in the projects doesnt mean you are poor.
"These boys are just kids, and someone took the time with us when we were kids," shesaid.Through the years, the Housing Authority of Joliet had initiated several attempts atbringing the Boys Scout experience to these boys. These attempts failed until threeyears ago when Davis, family site manager for the Fairview Center, agreed to become aden mother and Scoutmaster to Cub Scout Packs 73 (Fairmont homes) and 74 (PooleGarden homes), part of Rainbow Councils Greater Five Rivers District Scout ReachProgram.Cassandra Bouie of Joliet and a Fairview community aide, Vanessa Wells, assist Davis.Poole Garden community aide Gloria Sheldon runs the Poole Garden den, her first yeardoing so."We made our program fit their needs, and these ladies do it well," said Kim Hughes,Greater Five Rivers District commissioner. "Its given the boys a sense of responsibilityand a sense that there are things out there other than playing around in the streets."Boys advanceOn Feb. 28, at the packs second Blue and Gold Banquet and first awards banquet, all21 boys advanced in rank, with several of them receiving their Arrow of Light award andmoving up into Boy Scouts.Davis, who suffered a stroke two years ago (she has high blood pressure and insulin-dependent diabetes) and runs herd on her own five children, will oversee Boy ScoutTroop 74, as well.Boy Scouting has become such an important part of these boys lives that Davis refusesto disappoint them. They meet every Friday night to work on their badges, in addition totheir participation in field trips and community service projects, even though the troop istoo poor to buy uniforms for the boys. Housing authority regulations prohibit the boysfrom organizing fund-raisers, Davis said.
Still, the hard work, dedication and commitment from leaders, parents and Scouts haspaid off; these Scouts are experiencing a lot of "firsts." On March 22, the boys willcompete for the first time in a Pinewood Derby. In the past, these Scouts have madeand raced the model wooden cars that they hand-carved and decorated themselves,only during their regular meeting times.Camping Scout styleAnd this spring, these boys will take part in their first Cubmobile event where they willmake and race their own cub-sized vehicle. Also, this summer, the boys will get a tasteof camping, Boy Scout style, at the Rainbow Council campgrounds in Morris.So far, the only Boy Scout camp that 13-year-old Larry Parrish has experienced are thesleepovers at the community center. Any place that has swimming is fine with him, said9-year-old Anthony Stallings. Ten-year-old Donald Thomas doesnt mind what activitythe pack chooses. He likes them all: swimming, biking, bowling and skating.But, through Scouting, Donald is also learning the value of "giving back" to onescommunity. "I liked collecting things for the poor people at MorningStar Mission,"Donald said, referring to the care packages his pack assembled during the holidays.But he knows that charity often begins in ones back yard. "I like helping Jerrie, too, likeif she has to carry things out to the van," he said. "I just jump right in and do it."Door openBecause the boys rely heavily on her strength, Davis makes herself available to them asmuch as possible. "My door is always open," Davis tells the boys. One day, she said acertain Scout knocked on her office door and asked, "Mrs. Davis, can I talk to you? CanI close the door?"It turned out that, through his own fault, the boy had low grades on his report card andfelt badly about it. But what encouraged Davis is that he also took the initiative to fix the
problem. "Mrs. Davis," she recalled him saying, "I want to be a good Boy Scout. Imgoing to study."Davis said, "He brought those grades up tremendously, from a 1.7 grade point averageto a 2.4."Both Brian Davis, 15, and Aaron "AJ" Kemp, 9, also said that Scouting has inspiredthem to become better people, while Lenell Green, 10, said it has taught him that its OKto be himself.Part of becoming that better person is to learn the Cub Scout promise, understand whatit means, and, hardest still, live it.Both Laurice Green, 11, and Jerome Abbott, 13, found learning the promise difficult but,with perseverance, were able to make it a part of their lives."We would break up into groups and say the promise to each other," Laurice said.Jerome also practiced it at home, mindful of the responsibility that comes with the fun ofbecoming a Boy Scout. "I represent my center," Jerome said. "I want to be as good andnice to people as I possibly can."Male role modelsThat can be a challenge without a few male role models to show them the way, Davisconcedes, since the boys at her center all come from single-parent, female-head-of-household homes. Oftentimes, the maintenance men at the community center pitch inand help the boys with their projects.But male mentors may also be coming from other sources. Davis said that the JolietPolice Department wants to get involved. Hughes said that an East Side Elks group alsohopes to work soon with the boys, too.