- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - Mike Beer, Scout executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America Calcasieu Area Council, has been in Lake Charles for only six months, but the council has already seen growth during that time.

“We just got word that our council is the first out of 280 nationwide that has reached the year’s-end membership growth goal already,” he said. “Within one week, our own (council) became the fastest growing throughout the nation at this time.”

Beer received the good news Wednesday, as young men were at the council office eager to talk about their ideas. One shared his love of helicopter engineering, while a father watched his son as he browsed the 130 merit badges that could be earned.

With that kind of success, Beer said he has a serious commitment to Boy Scouts.

“This is a ministry for me,” he said. “We’ve truly been blessed.”

Beer said that nothing prepared him for life’s challenges like Scouting.

“Nothing compares to the success rate of producing and teaching priceless life skills, character and engagement like Scouting,” he said.

Childhood

Beer said he grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Daytona Beach, Fla., but that his parents taught him a “solid and honorable work ethic.”

“Our household income was $30,000 on a good year,” Beer said. “My dad has had over 55 jobs throughout his life; my mom cleans homes and offices for a living.”

Beer first donned a Boy Scout uniform when he was 7 years old, even though he wasn’t a Scout yet. He said NASCAR was his father’s favorite sport, and that anyone wearing a Boy Scout uniform could attend any race for free. One of his father’s co-workers had an extra uniform, and even though he was tall for his age, the uniform fit.

Beer said he and his father attended several races, but when he was 8 years old, he followed through on his curiosity and joined the Boy Scouts.

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today had I not put on that blue uniform at those NASCAR games so many years ago,” Beer said.

The guidance and structure of the Scout program, he said, helped Beer overcome his own personal adversities. His commitment and work with the Scouting program was instrumental in earning a full college scholarship, he said.

Looking back, Beer said he knew from an early age that he wanted to work with children. He said his first-grade teacher had a major impact.

“The one thing that was so impactful about her is that she made it a point to reach out to the kids,” Beer said. “I was going to be a teacher.”

Challenges

Within two weeks of arriving as head of the Calcasieu Area Council, Beer said there was a significant challenge to address.

“We were in a deficit,” he said. “I’ll never forget the bookkeeper coming up to me with a stack of bills and asking what to do with them because we didn’t have the money to pay.”

Beer credits his faith in helping him handle the situation the best way he knew how. After collecting his thoughts, he said his attitude changed.

“I started calling those closest to the organization,” he said.

Today, the office is fully operational and bills are being paid, Beer said.

“We’ve been very blessed by the leaders in our community that are helping to turn the ship,” he said. “Take any given community and three out of four of the business, civic or religious leaders were Boy Scouts.”

Beer said he will work to keep the momentum going for Boy Scouts and the Southwest Louisiana area.

“The community looks to Scouts to be leaders; that’s the expectation,” he said. ” And we’ve been riding on the bus instead of driving the bus. We’re going to be driving the bus now by being agents of change. Complacency and I are not good friends.”

Plans

This year is expected to be a busy one for the Scouts’ membership, according to Beer. He said they are working on partnerships with area schools. Through a partnership with Combre-Fondel Elementary, Beer said the Scouts are working on a robotics program that will teach students computer coding, LEGO robotics, and the skills to build their own computers.

“By having our presence felt, we can create the possibility of being the catalyst of change for one or many,” Beer said.

More than 600 people reserved spots at Camp Edgewood, the council’s camp, for the annual Mom and Me camp out, Beer said. The council will hold a golf tournament Oct. 23 at L’Auberge Casino Resort.

“Through the various fundraiser projects throughout the year, we can provide leadership skills by teaching and demonstrating that while learning invaluable skills, fun is always apart of our mission,” he said. “That in and of itself is character building.”

Other longtime Scouts have recognized Beer’s passion and determined work ethic since becoming Scout executive.

“Mike Beer is the finest Scout executive I have ever met,” said Rick Richard, a distinguished Scout member. “Not only has he lit a figurative campfire, it’s a bonfire and he is gathering everybody around to share its warmth.”

Beer was the last to leave the office Wednesday afternoon, but his day was far from finished. He taught Bible school before going home to his children.

Despite wearing many hats, he said he will always uphold the Scout’s honor.

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com


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