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Scoutmaster earns longevity badge

Alberta Reed, 76, has guided boys for 40 long years.

By BRENDAN WATSON, Times Staff Writer
Published November 9, 2007


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BELMONT/JACKSON HEIGHTS 

Lymon Reed gave his wife a piece of advice in 1968 that has come in handy in her nearly 40 years as a Cub Scout master.

"You know how we do as ladies?" Alberta Reed said, thinking back. "We would sort of give in sometimes when the boys would do devilish things."

But her husband advised against it. "He'd let me know you can't let them get away with that."

With that, Reed became the leader of the Cub Scout troop she helped organize at First Baptist Church at College Hill.

Now, at age 76, she's still there.

Reed oversees 49 Cub Scouts, and her story was featured this year on the back of Trail's End popcorn, which the Scouts sell nationwide as an annual fundraiser. The Scouts national office chose her for the honor after seeing a profile on the Internet by a local TV station.

In bold, the popcorn box says, "How one lady can influence so many."

Reed's fellow Scout leaders at First Baptist say her warm smile and upbeat attitude earn everyone's respect.

"She's like your own grandmother," said Diedre Richardson, who has helped Reed run the troop for four years. "Everybody knows she cares. Even the adults. It's not just the kids."

Alberta Reed was working as a food services manager at Young Middle School when her pastor asked her to organize the troop. She didn't have an opportunity to say no. Someone from the local Scout council office was already on his way to see her at work when the pastor called.

She agreed to organize the troop, but never imagined herself as the scoutmaster.

"I thought that was a man's job," Reed said.

The troop has had male leaders over the years, but only for brief periods.

In 1985, for instance, Samuel Joyner brought his son for Cub Scout registration and noticed Reed holding down the room of 6- to 11-year-olds by herself.

They were getting out of hand. Joyner quickly got their attention for Reed, who begged him to stay and help with the troop.

He stayed for a while, until his son moved on to Boy Scouts. Joyner then became a Boy Scout master for 14 years.

Reed and other women have largely led the church's Cub Scout troop.

It's not unusual for women to lead Cub Scout troops, said Jon Ralston, program director for the Scouts Gulf Ridge Council, the regional Boy Scout office in Tampa.He also said that others involved in Scouts have served as long as Reed - some for 30, 40, even 50 years - but mostly at higher positions. It's usual to have that longevity in troop leaders.

"To work with the kids, where the rubber meets the road, that takes a different kind of energy," said Ralston. "Ms. Reed is certainly unique."

The Scouts learn discipline, citizenship and basic life skills, like communication and budgeting. As they learn, they earn merit badges and advance to the next level.

Joyner said that today's youth aren't motivated to advance in the Scouts. Teens, he said, would rather be athletic superstars. Joyner said he burned out and doesn't know how Reed continues to remain so dedicated.

"I don't know how she keeps going," he said. "But she just has such a passion for the kids."

Reed said that she has raised three generations of Scouts, including her own son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When attendance was low, or the kids particularly challenging, she questioned if her effort was worth the trouble.

It was the fathers - her former Scouts - who returned to the troop with their children that made her conclude it was.

"They say, 'You know, when I was growing up, Ms. Reed would take time with us and we had so much fun,' " Reed said. "They say, 'It made such a big difference in my life.' "

But Reed admits that it's getting harder to keep up. Managing the Cub Scouts takes about 10 hours a week, including meetings and organizing activities.

She used to enjoy activities like camping with the Scouts, but that's becoming overwhelming.

"I went once last year, but sleeping out is kind of hard for an old lady," she said.

Reed promised herself she'd leave the Scouts when she turned 75. A year later, she says she'll do it as long as she is physically able.

She hopes Richardson will take over, but Richardson said she doesn't have Reed's leadership skills or the time.

Joyner said he thinks Reed doesn't want to retire because she's not sure the troop could continue without her. But Reed insists that's not why she stays; she just loves the Scouts.

"When you enjoy what you're doing, it's not hard," she said. "Really, you just keep doing the same things. But there's got to be a love there."

Brendan Watson can be reached at bwatson@sptimes.com or 226-3302.

 

Fast facts

Alberta Reed

Age: 76

Home: Belmont/Jackson Heights

Volunteer activities: Cub Scout master, First Baptist Church of College Hill Choir since age 12, Middleton High School reunion president (Class of 1948), Meals on Wheels volunteer.

Accolades: Cub Scouts Silver Beaver Award for "distinguished service to young people"; profiled in elementary school civics book for her work with Meals on Wheels.

Advice to live by: "When you enjoy what you're doing, it's not hard. Really, you just keep doing the same things. But there's got to be a love there."

 

[Last modified November 8, 2007, 07:17:02]


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