September 23, 2010

Tales of a Popcorn Colonel

Today is the final day of a clergy conference I've been attending in San Diego.  I've not been in my office much this week, which is just as well:  it's gotten a little crowded in there, due to boxes of popcorn stacked against one wall.  It's there because, for the second year in a row, I am the popcorn "colonel" for boy scout troop 29.

It's a task none of the other parents seem to want. Admittedly, it is "yet another fundraiser," although it is the only one of its type for troop 29.  However, since I'm not able to attend many of the troop's weekend outings (due to my Sunday morning commitments), organizing the popcorn sale is something I can do.

And so, at a recent troop 29 parents meeting, I stood to explain why I thought selling popcorn is actually a good thing.  Seventy percent of the money, I said, goes to scouting.  Of that seventy percent, half goes to the council office, and half goes directly into the individual scout's account, which he can use to pay for outings.  (Each troop decides how it wants to use its half of the 70%; this is how troop 29 does it.)  In addition, each scout who sells popcorn gets a gift card which he can use to purchase camping gear, which, in essence, increases the percentage he gets for himself.

Then I told the parents that if their sons hope to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, each one will be required to plan and implement a major service project.  A part of that planning and implementation will involve raising the money necessary to fund the project.  In addition, as adults they may find themselves in situations where they are required to ask for money.

It just so happens that, in addition to organizing the popcorn sale, I am currently helping to guide my congregation through its annual stewardship campaign, which involves asking people to commit their money to the ministry of the church.  Raising funds for a cause you believe in, I told those parents, is an essential life skill.

I concluded by telling the parents that we're not really selling popcorn.  When public radio or TV stations conduct pledge drives, they give out mugs and tote bags and other paraphernalia, but they're not really selling mugs and tote bags; the mugs and tote bags are "thank-you gifts" given to their supporters.  What we're doing, I said, is asking people to invest in scouting, to help scouts go to camp and develop leadership skills ... and the popcorn is more of a thank-you gift.  Granted, it's a great gift -- this popcorn is delicious, especially the chocolatey-caramel popcorn! -- but what we're selling is scouting.

I finished talking and took my seat.  As I did, I was startled by the applause.  It was the only time during the meeting that anyone clapped their hands.  Clearly, the applause means that when it comes to being popcorn colonel, I have an incredibly high level of job security.

So anyway, I now have boxes of popcorn to be sold.  We'll be selling popcorn on Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach on October 1, in front of Averyboo Arts during "First Fridays."  Most likely, we'll be in front of a grocery store the following week.  If you see us, please buy some.  It will help send scouts to camp.  It will help them develop some important life skills.  But most importantly, it will help me get my office back.

No comments: