Year of the Volunteer—Southern Region

As the Atlanta Area Council’s vice chairman for Multicultural Markets, Joe Arnold focuses on bringing Scouting to his hometown’s poorest neighborhoods—and on giving inner-city Scouts a complete Scouting experience. Since 2005, he has helped send dozens of underprivileged Scouts to the National Jamboree, the Philmont Scout Ranch, and the Florida Sea Base.

Unlike his older brother, Joe Arnold never had the chance to be a Boy Scout. About the time he was old enough to join his brother’s troop, the Scoutmaster resigned. When no one stepped forward to replace him, the troop dissolved.

Given that history, it’s no surprise that Arnold volunteered to be a den leader when his oldest son joined Cub Scouting. From there, he became a Friends of Scouting volunteer, joined the Atlanta Area Council’s executive board, and worked on the council’s $25 million capital campaign.

But Arnold’s passion is for urban Scouting. As the council’s vice chairman for Multicultural Markets (formerly Scoutreach), he works hard to grow Scouting in Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods, where the need is great and the challenges are daunting.

“Boys in poor communities can and will be attracted to things that don’t serve society well except where you offer alternatives,” Arnold said. “I think Scouting is a phenomenal alternative.”

The main challenge is recruiting quality volunteers. Parents who are struggling to survive simply don’t have the time to become den leaders or Scoutmasters, much less to attend training.

And that’s only part of the problem. “You don’t have a generation of folks who were Scouts in huge numbers,” Arnold said. “That contributes to the challenge we have in recruiting Asian and African American and Hispanic volunteers.”

If Arnold has his way, the next generation will be different. They will have experienced all that Scouting has to offer and will be eager to share Scouting with their children.

Since 2005, Arnold has helped raise the money to send 21 disadvantaged Scouts to the National Jamboree, 29 to the Philmont Scout Ranch, and 30 to the Florida Sea Base. Many had never been on an airplane; others had never seen mountains or the ocean. All were transformed by the experience.

Field Director Monique Taylor said Arnold’s commitment springs from his character. “I’ve never met a person who was more willing to go out of his way to help a friend,” she said. “He is honest, loving, caring, supportive, and inspiring to be around. He is the Boy Scout Oath.”

For his service to Scouting, Arnold has received the Silver Beaver Award and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award. But his real reward is knowing that he’s making a difference.

A few years ago, Arnold said, an inner-city Atlanta troop honored three new Eagle Scouts at the same ceremony. All three are now active leaders in the troop.

“Sometimes we have to put things in perspective, celebrate the small victories, and keep working toward the day when we celebrate much bigger victories,” Arnold said.

With volunteers like him involved, those bigger victories are sure to come.



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