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New program ventures to help area’s young people

An adventure program designed to provide leadership developmentand teach responsibility to young adults got its official startThursday night during an organizational meeting at a localrestaurant.

Venturing is a youth development program of the Boy Scouts ofAmerica for young men and women between the ages of 14 and 20 toprovide positive experiences to help young people mature and toprepare them to become responsible and caring adults. It is beingsponsored locally by the “O” Foundation, which hosted Thursday’smeeting at Polly’s Soul Food Restaurant.

Venturing is based on a unique and dynamic relationship betweenyouth, adult leaders and organizations in their communities, saidMichael Culpepper, southern region executive supervisor for the BoyScouts. Local community organizations establish a Venturing crew bymatching their people and program resources to the interests of theyoung people in their community.

The goal of the program, he said, is to help young adults learnto make ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in themsolid values; experience a program that is fun, challenging andfull of adventure; and the opportunity to become develop intostrong community leaders.

“There’s no problem getting the children,” said “O” FoundationPresident Charles Powell. “They get excited and they’ll comerunning. The problem is getting the adults.”

A minimum of four adults per crew is required, Culpepper said. Acrew can consist of an unlimited number of children, although ittakes five registered youth to form an active crew.

“Venturing is a take-off of the old Explorer program,” he said.”The Explorer program became more school-based, and this wascreated to take its place. Each organization sets up its owntrips.”

Although Venturing is a Boy Scouts program, each crew’sstandards and goals are set by its adult leaders, Culpepper said.However, they must at least meet the Boy Scouts minimalstandards.

Each adult leader volunteering for the program will have tosubmit to a criminal background check for the protection of thechildren before they can lead a crew, he said.

“We talk about these programs, but they never materialize,” saidBrookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson, who said he attended themeeting on both a professional and personal basis. “We needsomething like this and I commend you.”

Professionally, Henderson said he was asked to consider allowingthe police department to sponsor a crew – perhaps to instruct youngadults looking into a career in law enforcement.

The chief expressed some concern, however, in the legality ofsuch a crew and in the liability of the department should a childbe hurt.

Mayor Bob Massengill and Henderson listened intently asCulpepper explained the insurance coverage provided by the BoyScouts to all its members and sponsoring organizations andexplained how such crews were being operated in othermunicipalities.

“The way you have this set up, I think we can work with this,”Henderson said, although he did not commit the police department toa crew Thursday night.

Other elected officials present for the meeting included SheriffSteve Rushing and Constable Charles Ralph Smith. Ministers andinterested citizens rounded out the attendance.

Several attendees committed themselves to the program Thursdaynight by filling out applications to become adult leaders.

Walter McGee, a member of Pine Grove M.B. Church in Sontag, saidhe and his wife, Pamela, were hoping to start a crew at theirchurch.

“We’re trying to give them something to get involved in,” hesaid. “In rural areas especially, sometimes children feel there’snothing to do.”

Venturing, McGee said, would give the children opportunities topursue adventuring trips, such as scuba diving, hiking or rockclimbing, while learning important moral and civicresponsibilities.

Other crews may be more professional in nature. Rose Powell saidshe hopes to start a crew with an interest in the media andcoordinate with local outlets for a periodic television broadcastor newspaper articles conducted or written by the crew.

For more information on Venturing, contact Charles Powell at(601) 695-3658, Rose Powell at (601) 835-2268 or Culpepper at (601)248-9243.