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How an updated uniform helps with recruiting, retention

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For as long as I can remember, my dad and I have kept my mom pretty busy at the sewing machine.

Growing up, I’d return from a court of honor and overturn an envelope full of merit badge emblems, a rank patch and maybe even a new position patch. My dad would often add a square knot to the queue. At national jamboree time, we each wanted three complete uniforms — tripling the sewing workload. (Thanks, Mom!)

One of my mom’s favorite patches to sew on, she once told me with a hint of sarcasm, is the unusually shaped Messengers of Peace ring.

She never complained, and I think she was proud to see my dad and me looking sharp in our complete, current uniforms. (Did I say “thanks, Mom” yet?)

Looking back, I understand why a complete and updated uniform was so important to my mom and dad. It’s all about recruiting and retention. 

Recruiting

To be honest, the Scout uniform shirt looks pretty bland all by itself. It’s when you add patches that it really becomes a uniform.

Patches spark conversations. “What’s that merit badge for?” “What’s a Webelos?” “You went to the 1985 National Scout Jamboree?”

A Scout uniform is a bookshelf, and every patch is a book. Each one promises a story for Scouts and non-Scouts willing to ask.

If Scouts and Scouters themselves are our best recruiting tool, the uniform is our most effective billboard.

Retention

Look around at some groups of Scouts and Scouters, and you’ll see outdated rank and position patches. You’ll see merit badge sashes that show only half the badges the wearers have actually earned. You’ll see Journey to Excellence Gold patches that read “2012.”

Keeping a current uniform motivates other Scouts and leaders. That motivation may stem from friendly competition among Scouts to fill up their merit badge sashes faster than their friends. It may stem from a little kindhearted envy when a Scouter eyes another Scouter’s square knot.

The result is retention, advancement and more motivated Scouts.

A Scout who wears with pride the patches he recently earned motivates his fellow Scouts to become more involved in Scouting. I know this firsthand. I was the senior patrol leader for my troop at the 2001 National Scout Jamboree, and I remember wearing my jamboree patch as soon as I got it — months before the actual event. That inspired others to ask me about it, and eventually sign up.

In Cub Scouting, keeping the uniform updated is easier. Boys are recognized immediately and publicly for their achievements, and most of these recognitions items are adventure loops and pins. You slide those on a belt or pin them on a cap or colors, and you’re done.

For Boy Scouting, you better break out the sewing machine. Unless …

Don’t like to sew? I know just the thing.

I was lucky to have a mom who (said she) didn’t mind sewing on our patches. For those who don’t have the time or the desire to resort to needle and thread, there is a better way.

It’s Badge Magic.

There’s a reason Badge Magic is one of the most popular items in Scout shops — second only to uniform items themselves. It eliminates the time-consuming frustration of sewing, and it’s so easy that anyone can do it. Sewing sometimes presents a hurdle between earning a badge and wearing it. Badge Magic removes that hurdle.

The people have spoken, and Badge Magic is a hit. Since 2004, Badge Magic has provided enough of its peel-and-stick adhesive to attach more than 40 million patches.

The process is simple: Buy a kit of Badge Magic with pieces precision-cut to match your Scouting patches. Peel it off, stick it on and press it in. Badge Magic isn’t an iron-on system. It’s activated by pressure, not heat.

When it’s time to donate your uniform to the troop uniform closet, take it to the dry cleaner in a laundry bag. The patches and Badge Magic residue will fall off, and the shirt is good to go.

Stop by your local Scout shop to pick up Badge Magic, visit Scoutstuff.org, or go here to learn more.

You and your Scouts have earned those patches waiting to be attached to uniforms. Now there’s an easier, better way to show them off.