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Scoutmaster shows boys how to change their lives by being good leaders

November 22, 2011|By SHADAE PAUL
  • Anthony Holmes is Cub Master for Pack 75 at Memorial Recreation Center in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Special to The Herald-Mail

 

The wall clock at Memorial Recreation Center strikes 6 p.m. above the heads of young Tigers, Wolfs, Bears and Webelos.

It is Wednesday evening. The weekly Cub Scout meeting has just begun on time and well-prepared, as it does every Wednesday evening.

Before this meeting begins, Anthony Holmes, the Cub Scouts cubmaster, arrives at the recreation center to gather materials for the Cub Scouts meeting. Holmes, 50, of Hagerstown, leads Cub Scout Pack 75 in the Jonathan Street neighborhood and its surrounding community.

Holmes' packs of Cub Scouts are well known around Jonathan Street. Although young in age, their impact in the neighborhood is hard to mistake. Some of their efforts include collecting blankets and towels for the homeless, delivering donated food to food banks in the area and collecting donations of dog and cat food for the local pet shelter.

Most importantly, Holmes said, the Cub Scouts provide a unifying activity for young boys who live in Hagerstown's inner city.

Seven years ago, Holmes became involved with the Scouts when his son became a Cub Scout.

His leadership skills and enthusiasm for the Scouts did not go unnoticed. When the opportunity arose for Holmes to lead a pack of his own he was faced with a question: Where?

"I chose Jonathan Street because I knew it was a low-income neighborhood and I knew the boys in that area needed the help," he said.

Once the decision was made, Holmes soon became the Akela, or Cubmaster, of his own pack of boys.

Holmes' pack began with a few boys from the Jonathan Street neighborhood who heard about the growing Cub Scout pack and were interested in joining. Other boys in the neighborhood would see the pack and ask Holmes how they could participate, as well.

Soon, more boys joined. Then, more. Then, even more.

Holmes never turns anyone away. He now has 27 Cub Scouts signed up with approximately 17 Cub Scouts who attend every week. Some of the boys who participate in after-school activities cannot attend all of the meetings, but they come when they can and they make sure their fellow Scouts make the weekly meetings, as well.

"It's a positive step in the right direction for them to participate in the Cub Scouts. The boys learn safety, they learn to respect themselves and to be respectful to other children, adults and their parents," Holmes said.

Holmes has led this pack for two years. He tries to be the best Cubmaster possible, while holding down a full-time job.

"Before every meeting we stand up in front of the flag and do the pledge of allegiance. We do our Cub Scout promise to each other and to help others in the community wherever we may go. Then, I make a promise to the boys that I will always be there for them," said Holmes.

Holmes takes this promise seriously because he knows these boys have been disappointed before. Attempts over the years at developing a Cub Scout pack on Jonathan Street ended unsuccessfully.

But that was before Holmes' pack.

"A lot of the boys got tired of people quitting on them. But as long as I've got one Cub Scout, I'll keep showing up," said Holmes.

Not only does Holmes show up, he finds money to help boys who cannot afford their annual club dues.

Holmes also arranges special guests who come in during Scout meetings, from Kool Smiles dental office of Hagerstown to the local K9 Police.

They do cabin camping—; camping indoors instead of outdoors — and have Saturday-night sleepovers every other month at Memorial Recreation Center where they play games and watch movies. On Sunday mornings they all get up and go to church.

"Every time we have a sleepover, that's one of my stipulations —  if they sleep over on Saturday night they have to go to church on Sunday morning," Holmes said. "We all line up and march down to Zion Baptist Church on the corner of Jonathan Street and Bethel Street."

The Cub Scouts range from first grade to fifth grade as Tiger Cubs, Wolf Cub Scouts, Bear Cub Scouts, Webelos I and Webelos II, respectively. To join Cub Scouts, each boy must be registered in school and complete an application signed by their parents.

If they complete all of their activities and earn the necessary badges, they advance from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the sixth grade.

In May, two of Holmes' Scouts crossed over to being Boy Scouts. Each of them earned the Arrow of Light, the highest Cub Scouts award available, by the time they transitioned.

"We get nothing but praise about these young men," said Loretta Wright, executive director of Memorial Recreation Center. "It is so important for kids to learn character and responsibility, and I think Cub Scouts is good for that.

"We love him being here and look forward to him coming in," she added. "If we ever need a hand around the Recreation Center, no questions asked, he's always there."

Holmes grew up in Baltimore and was a Cub Scout himself, but remembers not finishing.

"I felt like it was a disappointment on my own behalf," he said.

Now, he wants to help these boys by letting them know that Cub Scouts is a good thing for them to do.

"I always tell the boys to do their best to be the best they can," he said. "In the future, I see us growing bigger and bigger."

Holmes and the Pack 75 Cub Scouts plan to sell Christmas Trees at the Walmart on Garland Groh Boulevard this week.

"My inspiration is seeing these boys happy. Seeing the smiles on their faces is payment enough. I enjoy what I do. All of these boys are my inspiration," Holmes said.

"I would never give it up for the world."

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