The Chief Cornplanter Council of the Boy Scouts of America is the oldest council in the U.S.
In 2013, it was also among the best.
"Through the hard work and commitment to Scouting of all the folks in our council, we ended as a Gold Council in the national rating system called Journey to Excellence," Scout Executive Kevin Bonner said.
Each year, every council earns points toward a final rating. At the end of the year, each is placed in one of three tiers - gold being the highest.
"This system rates councils in different areas of achievement," Bonner said. "These include fundraising, market share, membership growth, youth retention, cub and scout camping numbers, council leadership orientation and number of leaders trained."
The local council improved upon its prior year results.
"Our numbers were up in all these categories over 2012 year-end," Bonner said. "We also know where we fell a bit short - district leadership, commissioner visitations - so we have a goal for improvement for this year."
"The ratings are based on a point scale with Bronze councils receiving 0 to 700 points, Silver councils receiving 701 to 1,350 points, and Gold councils receiving 1,351 to 2,900 points," Bonner said. "We earned 2,025 points last year out of a total of 2,900 points to easily be Gold. The key things that helped us reach gold were our 5 percent plus in membership and year-end positive net assets."
In 2011, the council was the highest rated in the country on the Journey to Excellence scale, Bonner said. In 2012, the group missed the gold designation "by a few points."
There is no plaque, no VIP visit, nor other tangible reward for being a gold council.
"We derive our satisfaction from knowing that our efforts throughout the year to be the best Council we can be have paid off," Bonner said. "In the end, every boy in Warren County who joins a Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop gets a quality program and learns about patriotism, leadership, self reliance, self-esteem, a respect for the environment and a respect for the beliefs of others."
The award is greater than the sum of the points.
"Being a Gold Council means more than just accumulating points," Bonner said. "It takes at least 1,351 points to earn Gold and we would be dissatisfied with any point total under that."
"As long as we fall into that Gold range we know that we're in good company with the other successful Boy Scout Councils in America," he said.
Reaching the goal is largely a matter of setting out with sights set high.
"The way we approach it is to do the best we can in all areas of operation," Bonner said. "If you do that, the points sort of accumulate themselves."
"Though the criteria change from year to year, we never look at an indicator and say, 'We can't do that.' We see where the National Office sets the bar and do everything we can to jump over it," he said.
The council celebrated its 100th year in 2013.
"As anyone involved in Scouting in Warren County will tell you, we had an incredibly and unusually busy year," Bonner said. "Since it was our 100th anniversary year we had something planned for every month, things we typically don't include in our average years."
"This tended to make things hectic at times but our Anniversary Committee led by John Beard made things happen and we made some memories for Scouts and Leaders last year," Bonner said. "Some of the highlights included an advanced training program for adults known as Wood Badge Training, led by Dan Glotz, and held at Camp Olmsted. Nearly 30 adults participated in the course."
"We sent 25 percent of our registered Scouts to the National Jamboree last summer and they all had such a great time we're looking at sending many of them back to the Bechtel Summit Scout Reservation in West Virginia this coming summer to do many of the same events they enjoyed at the Jamboree - whitewater rafting, zip lines, etc. I doubt any other Council could say they sent as many of their youth to the Jamboree."
"Obviously we couldn't be this successful without three key ingredients:
"First - our Scouts. Parents need to know that when their boy joins a Pack or Troop in our Council we try our very best to give him a great Scouting experience."
"Secondly - our amazingly supportive contributors throughout Warren County, who know that Scouting builds character and good men. We simply couldn't afford to do what we do without the people who give to our annual Friends of Scouting campaign, the 'Warren Gives' effort, our local United Fund and who purchase popcorn, peanuts and candles from us in the fall."
"And last, but certainly not least, the hundreds of amazing, committed adult volunteers who give up their free time to help us bring the program of Scouting to our boys every week of the year."
"Those three groups are the real reason we're able to be a successful council," Bonner said. "I want to thank each of you for your commitment to Scouting and for everything you did in 2013 to make us one of the top councils in the country."
"Being a Gold Council is an expectation for us," he said. "We don't set our sights any lower because to do so would mean that we were trying to reach the goal of mediocrity. Here's to an even better 2014."