By Darryl Alder
Jan 25, 2015

Be Prepared Through Personal Growth and Learning to Serve – Service


Scouts performing service after a local disaster

In January we explored our first pillar of being prepared – testimony, and how youth themselves can promote this. This month we are covering pillar two which is:  “Be prepared through personal growth and learning to serve others through charity and doing a good turn daily.”

The Good Turn is a hallmark of the BSA.  We were, in fact, started through an act of service when William D. Boyce was lost in the fog and was helped by a boy who offered to take him to his destination. When they arrived, Boyce tried to tip the boy, but the boy refused and courteously explained that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn.

Lost in fogIntrigued, the publisher questioned the boy and learned more about Scouting. He visited with Baden-Powell as well. The idea of Scouting captivated Boyce—so much so that on February 8, 1910, he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.

The “unknown Scout” who helped him in the fog brought Scouting to our country with his Good Turn and established a brand for our organization that has lasted for more than a century.

What is a Good Turn?

A service project is a special Good Turn that puts Scout spirit into action.    —The Boy Scout Handbook, 12th Edition, page 84

Some Good Turns are big—saving a life, helping out after floods or other disasters, recycling community trash, or working with others on conservation projects. But Good Turns are often small, thoughtful acts—helping a child cross a busy street, going to the store for an elderly neighbor, cutting back brush that is blocking a sign, doing something special for a brother or sister, or welcoming a new student to your school.

In 1928, James E West, Chief Scout explained it this way:

james-e-westWhile Scouts should not be expected to ‘parade’ their services, it would be helpful if Scout Leaders, parents, and others would encourage boys in the doing of Good Turns, and recognize the difference between normal household and other chores, and actual Good Turns.   Selfishness is almost a universal evil.  Certainly it is overcome by the Scout Program, which is based upon the development of service for others, and the Daily Good Turn is an important factor in the development of a habit of service and attitude of mind which offset a tendency to selfishness.


Scouts should be encouraged to watch for things that need to be done, and then do them without being asked.  It is really a philosophy of living, in which service to others becomes the key.

camp-good-turn-logoLast year at the LDS Church History Museum, I was confronted by a board at the entrance to the exhibit on Scouting in the LDS Church. This was a Good Turn board that asked me to list my service for the day on a card and post it. Lucky for me that my parents and Scoutmaster had driven home that philosophy of living. I wrote down what I did and moved on.

Interestingly, I came to the exhibit two more times, much better prepared to post some real service.

Ideas for Service Projects

Need some ideas for Good Turns? The LDS Church lists 21 service projects on their Activity Website and BSA lists these 11 at their Journey To Excellence Website:

Idea 1: Book and Magazine Drive

BooksThis project can be done door-to-door in one day, or Scouts can leave door hangers and return later to collect the books and magazines. Work with a store (grocery, dry cleaners, donut shop) to collect the books over a period of time, and make arrangements with the benefiting organization prior to the collection drive.


  • Daycares
  • Military deployed in the Middle East
  • VA medical center
  • Inner-city school
  • Christian Library International

Idea 2: Assist with Council, District, and Unit Activities

homepagefoodCub Scout pack: Pinewood derby, Arrow of Light presentation, teach camping or cooking skills, teach flag etiquette

Boy Scout troop: cut and split wood for visiting troops at summer camp

District: Klondike derby, first-aid station, day camp

Council: Scouting for Food, Scout Show, clean up and beautify the council camp, repair damaged resident camp tents, repair tent pads at camp, set up and clean up luncheon at University of Scouting

Idea 3: Assist the Elderly in Your Community

  • BoyScoutsKellerNurseHome02_650Participate in caroling at a nursing home.
  • Collect personal items and make baskets for the elderly with no families.
  • Conduct entertainment programs, including skits and plays, at a nursing home.
  • Conduct visits and reading programs.
  • Construct reading tables for residents to be able to read sitting in a chair or in bed.
  • Prepare and distribute Valentine’s cards.
  • Assist in snow and ice removal.
  • Assist in yard work.

Idea 4: Remember Others During the Holidays

  • Adopt a needy family.
  • Assist agencies that provide meals to the needy by helping them prepare and serve the meals.
  • Stock shelves and carry food to vehicles at a food pantry.
  • Make and donate gift boxes to be distributed by Feed the Children.
  • Participate in collaborative food drives and collect donations for food pantries.

For Veterans and Memorial Day

  • memorial day spanish fork featurePlace American flags on gravesites for Memorial Day.
  • Make and deliver thank-you cards to veterans on Veterans Day.

Religious Holidays

  • Assist religious organizations in setting up and cleaning up exhibits and activities.
  • Deliver, retrieve, and dispose of Christmas trees.
  • Remove lights for residents.
  • Repair and paint town holiday decorations.
  • Collect toys for Toys for Tots.
  • Prepare and serve hot chocolate at the annual town tree lighting.
  • Go caroling at a home for the elderly.
  • Purchase toys for a children’s hospital.
  • Make stuffed animals, include personal notes, and donate to a children’s hospital (e.g., Build-a-Bear).
  • Assist with parking cars at the annual Easter pageant.
  • Assemble Easter baskets and distribute to shelters.
  • Assist with the palm burning before Ash Wednesday.

For Thanksgiving

  • Provide free refreshment at rest stops on Thanksgiving weekend.

For Halloween and Fall Festivals

  • Assist with fall carnivals and events.
  • Assist with a haunted house.
  • Assist in alternative trick-or-treat events.

Idea 5: Home Repair and Maintenance

  • beautifying-our-homes-AV110118jw0040Adopt a town after a disaster.
  • Assist organizations that provide home maintenance services for those in need.
  • Assist with painting a school, church, or chartered organization.
  • Clean a Habitat for Humanity house before the family moves in.
  • Clean a local animal shelter.
  • Perform janitorial duties for the chartered organization.
  • Repaint fences at fire stations or other buildings.
  • Repair damaged tents and tent pads at the council camp.

Idea 6: Litter Cleanup and Beautification

  • Adopt-a-Road cleanup.
  • Assist in community beautification projects, including repairing and repainting homes and sprucing up the yards of those in need.
  • Litter cleanup projects.
  • Beautification project at city hall.
  • Tamarisk removalCemetery cleanup and inventory.
  • Cleanup and beautification of community center.
  • Clean up campgrounds, a local park, river, or a school parking lot.
  • Cleanup and beautification of a council camp.
  • Clear brush from fire buffer zone.
  • Clear debris and downed trees from people’s yards following a disaster.
  • Improve walking trail.
  • Pick up trash at the chartered organization prior to or after a Scout meeting.
  • Clean up the shoreline.
  • Yard cleanup at an American Legion hall.
  • Yardwork for a senior citizen in the neighborhood.

Idea 7: Medical

  • Assist in the packaging of medical supplies for developing countries.
  • Assist with a blood drive.
  • Collect books for a VA medical center.
  • Distribute organ donor cards to the public.
  • Distribute healthy living and drug abuse awareness literature.
  • Provide a first-aid station at a district or council event.
  • Help children make safety kits to take home and use when bicycling.
  • Make “welcome home” hygiene kits for disaster victims.
  • Make bandanas and pillows for cancer patients.
  • Collect and donate toys for children’s hospital.
  • Serve as victims for a county EMT or first responders training course.

Idea 8: Military

  • Adopt a service troop and send birthday cards.
  • Conduct a book drive to send to military deployed in the Middle East.
  • Send Christmas cards or be pen pals with someone in the military.
  • Collect books for a VA medical center.
  • Create video histories of American Legion members.
  • Make and deliver thank-you cards to veterans on Veterans Day.
  • Organize a movie night at a VA medical center.
  • Place American flags on gravesites for Memorial Day.
  • Provide telephone cards to servicemen and -women.
  • Clean up the yard at an American Legion hall.

Idea 9: Pets

  • Assist in training search and rescue dogs.
  • Clean a local animal shelter.
  • Clean out and refill bird feeders at the local Audubon Society.
  • Collect and crush aluminum cans to donate to an animal shelter.
  • Construct duck houses.
  • Construct an educational sandbox for local nature center.
  • Construct owl boxes.
  • Construct and install bluebird and bat houses to combat mosquitoes.
  • Conduct a pet food drive.
  • Provide socialization time with service dogs as part of their training.

Idea 10: Safety

  • Build a fence around air conditioners on a playground for the children’s safety.
  • Build handicapped ramp access at community locations.
  • Construct a walking path for children walking to school.
  • Conduct a CPR training event.
  • Provide a first-aid station at district event.
  • Help children make safety kits to take home and use when bicycling.
  • Host a bike rally to train youth on bike safety and maintenance.
  • Make “welcome home” hygiene kits for disaster victims.
  • Repair and repaint playground equipment.
  • Serve as victims for a county EMT or first responders training course.

Idea 11: Serving Food

  • 071121-N-8607R-024Assist agencies in preparing and serving meals to the needy.
  • Prepare and serve hot chocolate at the annual town Christmas tree lighting.
  • Set up, serve, and clean up meals at a social center.
  • Have a troop or crew put on and cater a pack’s blue and gold banquet.

Idea 12: Sports

  • Assist with a basketball tournament.
  • Assist with Special Olympics—ribbons/medals, water, etc.
  • Construct a soccer field—lines, goals, and benches.
  • Construct bat and helmet racks for school baseball and softball teams.
  • Construct a horseshoe pit in the community park.
  • Hold a dodgeball tournament and donate the proceeds.
  • Line and place blocks in a golf course parking lot.
  • Refurbish the press box at a ball field.
  • Repair and paint bleachers at a baseball or softball field.
  • Host Scout field games.

Ideas for Everyday Kindness and Good Turns

Source: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

  • Say something nice to everyone you meet today.
  • Send a treat to a school or daycare center.
  • Volunteer at an agency that needs help.
  • Wipe rainwater off shopping carts or hold umbrellas for shoppers on the way to their cars.
  • Give the gift of your smile.
  • Send home a note telling parents something their child did well.
  • Adopt a homeless pet from the humane society.
  • Organize a Scout troop to help people with packages at the mall or grocery store.
  • Host special programs or speakers at libraries or bookstores.
  • Offer to answer the phone for the school secretary for 10 minutes.
  • Volunteer to read to students in the classroom.
  • Write notes of appreciation and bring flowers or goodies to teachers or other important people, such as the principal, nurse, custodian, and secretary.
  • Incorporate kindness into the curriculum at area schools, daycare centers, or children’s classes in faith organizations.
  • Give a hug to a friend.
  • Tell your children why you love them.
  • Write a note to your mother or father and tell them why they are special.
  • Pat someone on the back.
  • Write a thank-you note to a mentor or someone who has influenced your life in a positive way.
  • Give coffee to people on their way to work in the morning.
  • Donate time at a senior center.
  • Give blood.
  • Visit hospitals with smiles, treats, and friendly conversation for patients.
  • Stop by a nursing home and visit a resident with no family nearby.
  • Deliver fresh-baked cookies to city workers.
  • Collect goods for a food bank.
  • Bring flowers to work and share them with coworkers.
  • Garden clubs can make floral arrangements for senior centers, nursing homes, hospitals, police stations, or shut-ins.
  • Adopt a student who needs a friend, checking in periodically to see how things are going.
  • Volunteer to be a tutor at a school.
  • Extend a hand to someone in need. Give your full attention and simply listen.
  • Merchants can donate a percentage of receipts for the week to a special cause.
  • Bring coworkers a special treat.
  • Students can clean classrooms for the custodian.
  • Buy a stranger a free pizza.
  • Distribute lollipops to kids.
  • Sing at a nursing home.
  • Offer a couple of hours of babysitting to parents.
  • Slip paper hearts that say “It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week! Have a great day!” under the windshield wipers of parked cars.
  • Have a charity day at work, with employees bringing nonperishable food to donate.
  • Serve refreshments to customers.
  • Draw names at school or work, and have people bring a small gift or treat for their secret pal.
  • Remember the bereaved with phone calls, cards, plants, and food.
  • Treat someone to fresh fruit.
  • Pay a compliment at least once a day.
  • Call or visit a homebound person.
  • Hand out balloons to passersby.
  • Give free sodas to motorists.
  • Be a good neighbor. Take over a baked treat or stop by to say hello.
  • Transport someone who can’t drive.
  • Mow a neighbor’s grass.
  • Plant flowers in your neighbor’s flower box.
  • Give another driver your parking spot.
  • Leave a treat or handmade note of thanks for a delivery person or mail carrier.
  • Give free car washes.
  • Clean graffiti from neighborhood walls and buildings.
  • Tell your boss that you think they do a good job.
  • Tell your employees how much you appreciate their work.
  • Let workers leave an hour early.
  • Have a cleanup party in the park.
  • Tell a bus or taxi driver how much you appreciate their driving.
  • Have everyone in your office draw the name of a Random Acts of Kindness buddy out of a hat and do a kind act for their buddy that day or week.
  • Give a pair of tickets to a baseball game or concert to a stranger.
  • Leave an extra big tip for the waitperson.
  • Drop off a plant, cookies, or donuts to the police or fire department.
  • Open the door for another person. Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru.
  • Write a note to the boss of someone who has helped you, praising the employee.
  • Leave a bouquet of flowers on the desk of a colleague at work with whom you don’t normally get along.
  • Call an estranged family member.
  • Volunteer to fix up an elderly couple’s home.
  • Pay for the person behind you in the movie line.
  • Give flowers to be delivered with meal delivery programs.
  • Give toys to the children at the shelter or safe house.
  • Give friends and family “kindness” coupons they can redeem for kind favors.
  • Be a friend to a new student or coworker.
  • Renew an old friendship by sending a letter or small gift to someone you haven’t talked with in a long time.
  • For one week, act on every single thought of generosity that arises spontaneously in your heart, and notice what happens as a consequence.
  • Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.
  • Invite someone new over for dinner.
  • Buy a roll of brightly colored stickers and give them to children you meet during the day.
  • Write a card of thanks and leave it with your tip. Be sure to be specific in your thanks.
  • Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.
  • When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in. Wave and smile.
  • Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game.
  • Distribute kindness stickers and bookmarks, available from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
  • Create a craft project or build a birdhouse with a child.
  • Give a bag of groceries to a homeless person.
  • Laugh out loud often and share your smile generously.
  • Plant a tree in your neighborhood.
  • Make a list of things to do to bring more kindness into the world, and have a friend make a list. Exchange lists and do one item per day for a month.
  • Use an instant camera to take people’s photographs at a party or community event, and give the picture to them.
  • As you go about your day, pick up trash.
  • Send a letter to some former teachers, letting them know the difference they made in your life.
  • Send a gift anonymously to a friend.
  • Organize a clothing drive for a shelter.
  • Buy books for a daycare or school.
  • Slip a $20 bill to a person who you know is having financial difficulties.
  • Take an acquaintance to dinner.
  • Offer to take a friend’s child to ball practice.
  • Waive late fees for the week.

With so many ways to serve and grow, let’s make this February a month to remember others through our Good Turns.

B2Y by FOS FinalAuthor: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.

About Our Six Scouting Pillars of Communication

Published first in June and again in our Strategic Plan, the Six Scouting Pillars of Communication continue to guide both volunteers and staff as they try to more effective reach LDS youth in meaningful ways. When you look back at comments regarding this research for the first article in June (or overhear it as I did in the hall last week), it’s clear that the research RED presented to us in May is causing a new dialogue. And just week RED Research released a second study on how Scouters can better connect with LDS Sponsors; we look forward to this additional information. The Utah National Parks Council, BSA is grateful to Rushford Lee and the team at RED; this research will shape the message and direction of Scouting for many years to come.

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