The Charleston area Boy Scouts chapter and the Trident United Way are in a feud over funding, and on the chopping block is a program designed to bring Scouting to hundreds of inner-city black and Hispanic children.
The United Way this year opted against giving $81,000 for the Scout Reach program, which provides Scouting opportunities for children in 10 elementary and middle schools from poorer sections of Charleston, the Neck Area and North Charleston.
At the heart of the dispute, the United Way says, is a trail of shoddy accounting by the Scouts that left the United Way no choice but to say "no" this year.
"They weren't prepared," said C. Wayne Weart, who led the United Way review team that denied the Scouts' application this spring. "They did not live up to their own motto."
The Scout Reach effort remains alive this year because of other contributions to the chapter, which has a total
annual budget of about $1.6 million.
But if the funding doesn't return -- or if the public doesn't come to the rescue -- Scouting officials fear their program could come to a halt, putting more children in at-risk categories for crime and education.
"Scouting helps a kid stay in school, period," said Frederick J. Whittle, vice president of finance for the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts. "It changes his life and gives him structure."
Nationally, the United Way and the Boy Scouts have been at odds over the Scouts' position against allowing homosexuals into their organization, but both sides here said that issue has nothing to do with their disagreement over funding.
The funding issue came to a head this spring. Trident United Way Executive Director Chris Kerrigan said the main reason the award was denied was accountability. Because of a pattern of poor documentation, Kerrigan said, the Scouts were on an even tighter fiscal leash this time.
Among the new requirements were keeping and producing records showing the children involved were taking part and improving their skills, including in the areas of academic performance, merit badge achievement and learning and reciting the Boy Scout Oath.
When the reporting period came around, Scout leaders failed to report anything backing it up, Kerrigan said. "This absolutely has nothing to do with political correctness," he said. "It's about fiscal accountability and program measurement, period."
Legare Clement, executive director of the local Boy Scouts, admits the group did not file its funding request electronically as the United Way wanted. But he said officials were told by a United Way employee that providing a hand-delivered copy was acceptable. He denied claims the Scouts were deficient elsewhere.
Clement said the Scouts don't want to be perceived as bashing the United Way. Instead, he said the group wants to appeal directly to the public for donations to keep the effort going after their contribution was cut off at the end of the fiscal year June 30.
If the money isn't raised, after-school and weekend activities such as camping trips will have to be eliminated, said Monroe Rhodes, a district director for the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts.
Rhodes' coverage area stretches from Calhoun Street to Interstate 526, he said, and includes most of the public housing neighborhoods. He estimated between 300 and 1,000 children take part.
Trident United Way donors can still make contributions to the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America through their individual or workplace gift forms, but they have to be especially designated, officials said. Otherwise, "fewer kids will have those opportunities," Rhodes said.
Weart said he still thinks the Scouts' program is worthy. It's more an issue of accountability on the Scouts' part after repeated warnings, he said.
"My impression was they felt like they didn't need to meet what they needed to do," he said.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or email@example.com.