Tuesday Talkback: How do you organize belt loops, pins, other recognition items?

Tuesday-TalkbackWhen Cubmaster Lee inherited the position earlier this year, he was pumped to make an even bigger difference in the lives of youth.

That is, until he saw the shape of his pack’s advancement and award collection.

“I inherited multiple plastic bags full of belt loops and pins in no particular order,” he writes. “I’d love to know if others have found some great organizational folders, cabinets, etc. to keep things together.”

Great question, Lee, and it’s one that applies to Boy Scout leaders, as well. Certainly there’s a better solution than a mess of zip-top bags.

Today’s Tuesday Talkback topic is a simple one: How do you store and organize awards and advancement items before presenting them to Scouts? Leave your thoughts on this topic below. If you have ideas for future Tuesday Talkback questions, send them directly to me.

Other Tuesday Talkbacks

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Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by EvelynGiggles


  1. Awards lists get circulated to our Cubmaster, Awards Chair, and newsletter editor from the den leaders. The lists are compiled and checked, and then the Awards Chair goes to the scout store to purchase the items needed. These are placed in plastic bins for each den, and the leaders then fill out the cards for their scouts – these are arranged at the pack meeting and presented in ceremony. Works pretty well for us.

    • my pack uses a fishing kit a huge one. for all bulk awards that havent been earned by anyone yet. the we have these really cute stackable snap on containers one for each den to put the zip lock baggies in for each boy den that earned something until its given out. that way the pack leader isnt having to lug the big fishing kid around. the awards person keeps up with it.

    • get yourself a large tackle box and put all awards, advancement badges, arrow points, pins, cards etc. in any order that works for the advancement chair. you collect the extras from scouts that quits before he receives the award. instant recognition is now possible with the extra stuff you have. good luck

  2. I use a home hardware organizer that would use for screws and nails and such. The left and right side of each is movable so I can fit almost anything inside. Works well. For those items that are required, not awarded, I do still use the Ziploc method. CSP, unit numerals, world crest emblem, each has it’s own bag that is labeled.

  3. Organize by type of item; belt loops, parches, etc. If you go to a craft store they have various sizes (small) of zip lock type bags; they are helpful, Egg carton are very helpful for belt loops. If you’ve got so many that organizations is an issue your stock may be too large, whittle it down and try keeping at a more manageable level.

  4. We use a something which was originally intended to be either a tackle box or a hardware box. It’s got divided drawers which provide lots of spaces for pins & patches. Occassionally, we’ll have an extra one of these of those and we always have the basic uniforming patches. The box keeps them sorted and easy to access. We’re an hour’s drive from the Scout Shop, so it makes sense to keep extras on hand.

  5. Same thing happened to me me when the Advancement Chair moved on & I got the gig temporarily. Everything was in a couple of boxes, some stuff in baggies and some not. My donation to the Pack was a couple of organizer bins (the ones that you might use with nuts, bolts, & screws in your garage) with the excess belt loops & pins separated by type for the next Advancement Chair.

    First, I suggest finding someone else to take care of this duty as the Cubmaster has too much to do w/o going to the Scout Shop picking up advancements.

    Second, do not keep any excess stuff on hand as the price of the pins ($1 & up add up fast & easily get lost). The only time I gained excess was when a Cub Scout dropped out between the time they earned a belt loop/pin and dropped out. I would give the awards to the DL, but sometimes the DL returned the stuff to me. Then I made sure that I went thru my inventory before going to the store for the next month’s advancements.

    When we had a separate Advancement Chair (she was in my den), I always had her give me my den’s belt loops & pins ahead of the Pack meeting (sometimes only 1 day, but that was enough). I went thru the stuff to make sure it was all there. I put each Scout’s stuff in a separate baggie (at one time I had 18 Scouts in my den) along with an inventory card (3X5) of what was in it. If the Advancement Chair could not get something because it was out at the Scout Shop (or it wasn’t there), I put that on the card so the Scout would know the status (so they would not be disappointed). I also marked my primary sheet with that information so it could get ordered for the next month.

    I had a sheet with each Scout’s name on it with their awards listed under their name. When the Cubmaster called me forward to present my den’s awards for the month, the Scouts knew to line up in alphabetical order. I would call out the Scout’s name & he would step forward. I would read off his advancements, shake his hand, and then my Assistant DL would give him the baggie & shake his hand while I was reading the next Scout’s awards. With so many Scouts and most of them earning 2-10 belt loops/pins a month (we were a very active den), I did not want the Pack Meeting to turn into an awards ceremony only. I also took the Belt Loops out of the cardboard because if not, it would be all around on the floor by the end of the night.

    Some people don’t like the baggie idea, but the other dens in my pack would take twice as long as I did to hand out less than 1/2 as many awards as they would try to read the spreadsheet that we had to turn in to the Advancement Chair, fumble around in the big baggie for the proper stuff, etc. I had many people complement me on my “organization” for my awards’ procedures. I always figured that a few minutes the night before was more important than wasting the precious time in a Pack Meeting we are trying to keep to an hour.

    Good luck with getting organized and even more luck trying to find someone to do the Advancements for you.

  6. I’ve been to a lot of awards ceremonies and have seen many different styles of carrying the awards around. But the style that I thought was most ingenious is a large collapsible tackle box. The one with the inserts to create your own spaces for each award, or patch that you are given out that night. You can also divide it up by Den/Patrol, Rank Advancement, Camp Outs, 5*****Camp Chefs Recipes, Camp Recognition Awards, Leader Recognition Awards, anything you want.

  7. I faced the same situation when I took over as CM four years ago. Extra awards were scattered in plastic bags, paper bags, and so on with n real organization. Fortunately I had a tackle box similar to this (http://www.planomolding.com/product.php?PID=626) that I received as a donation for a prior years fishing derby that was perfect for awards organization. The one I had was a larger model than the one I link to.

    It is large enough for one side to be used for belt loops and pins, the left side for academics and the right side for sports awards, with about six types of awards designated for each slot (and a master index page indicating what went where).

    The other side of the tackle box was for rank awards, event patches, unit numerals, Wolf/Bear arrow points, Webelos activity badges, and Webelos colors in the center large section.

    Each month when I processed awards (as CM) I ran the unit reports and then went to the tackle box to see what was on hand before I would make the awards purchases. We went from almost $400 of miscellaneous awards scattered in several different locations to around $100 in excess awards, plus all the rank awards for the year purchased in December.

  8. Tackle-box, as previously mentioned worked great. We kept some excess on-hand for the inevitable;e “I forgot to submit Johnny for his awards…”, When the on-hand items creep up too much, we’d exchange them at the Scout store for what we really needed. They were very accommodating. Side note, I recently saw Cub Scouts wearing their belt loops on a Pack embroidered fishing hat – genius!

  9. Tackle boxes in general work, try planostoragesolutions.com for adjustable boxes. Stowaway Utility boxes are see thru and adjustable so you can make them to fit everything big or small.

    • Having been the awards chair and Cubmaster, I can tell you that this method is perfect! The loops and pins fit in a large tackle box. We also tried fly boxes but we needed several of them to fit it all in.

      I would caution all to be sure that you are using the online advancement system to enter all of your awards. Just because you “have it in stock” shouldn’t keep you from reporting the award. Your District and Council JTE depends on it and your Scout may look at his record in the future only to find missing awards.

  10. As Mr. Pendleton said, your inventory of award devices should only be ones that you’ve been unable to distribute, e.g., boy missed the last pack meeting. Or the boy dropped out without receiving all awards. That said, I know it’s not always easy to get someone to go to the Scout Shop each month to buy that month’s advancements. Perhaps this is why your unit has a large inventory: advance purchases. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend trying to find out _why_ there are so many excess items.

  11. I used a large tackle box along with small jeweler’s and snack zip lock bags. I would separate all of the webelos pins by type in small bags and place all webelos pins in larger bag that could fit in 1 bin of the tackle box. I did the same process for year pins, arrow heads, beads, belt loops, unit patches, awards cards, etc. I like doing this because I have plenty of inventory and I could protect the awards from scratches, nicks, thread pulls, air tarnish, etc.

    I found that this made them keep them looking NEW and made everyone’s eyes light up. We focus on the youth awards but please do not forget the adult awards are vital too. I did this for ALL awards both youth and adults!

  12. Our pack had a great system when I took over as Committee Chairman/advancement chair. We had a large soft sided cooler holding inside 7 plastic containers with dividers. Inside I found it labeled with patches, belt loops/pins, webelo pins, etc. Has made finding any left over awards easy!

  13. Tackle box! Pull packmaster software reports, cut out names & achievements from report and put them in zip lock baggies with awards.

  14. When I inherited bin, it was pretty well organized. There is a baggie for each belt loop,stapled together. All the Sports BLs are stapled in one stack, the Academic ones together. Then there are labeled baggies for Webelos Activities Pins stapled together. Everything is in aphabetical order. Cards are bagged according to type and labeled, in a larger baggie labeled cards. Leaders enter awards into Packmaster by the deadline and then I purchase what is need. I create a printout for each den with a list of what each boy has earned. Each boys’ awards are placed in a labeled treat bag or box that matches the meeting’s theme (made apples out of treat bags, wire, and colored duct tape for Back to School one year).

  15. We had the problem of double-buying for a while and had a lot of surplus. We took the time to organize our stuff and have used most of this year saving us a ton of money (we have about 100 boys in the pack). As den leader I wanted to come up with a better presentation method. I own a custom framing business so I use scrap foamcore from my store. The belt loops slide snugly on the strips I cut and the pins go through well. I make a strip for each boy and can easily just read what is on the strip to present the awards. The parents love it because the boys can easily hold the strip in front of them for photos and they tend to make it home better than in the baggies. (Frame shops have TONS of scrap great for this as well as cardboard and matboard to use for crafts and projects!)

  16. We use a large fishing tackle box. It has an open area in top where larger patches, awards, etc can be stored in ziplock bags. It had 4 removable plastic trays in bottom that hold loops, pins, patches, cards, etc all separated in separate sections.

  17. When I was the Committee Chair of my son’s Pack, I went out and bought a small Tool Box. I organized the box and when we finally got an Advancement Chair, I gave it to him. He said that having something already organized really helped him.

    There was a section that held all the cards and small pins (service stars & parent pins). A large section that contained participation patches and other awards (belt loops and progress awards). Ranks were always bought only when the boys earned them so they didn’t take up much space.

    We made the Tool Box a part of the “Passing the Torch” ceremony when we would welcome new leaders into their roles. The kids got a big kick out of it. We went through 3 Advancement Chairs during my 7 year tenure. And the Pack still continues the tradition.

  18. We don’t have any excess. We only have what we give the boys each month. Once I get home from the shop I take a 3×5 index card and write each boy’s name on it. I staple any badges they have earned to it, pin the pins through it, and staple the belt loops still in the package to it. This way they can see everything they have earned without opening a ziploc and losing things before they get home. I can also easily store those cards in a file so I can hand out to anyone who may have missed a meeting the following month.

  19. We do not have a surplus. But what I do is after getting back from the scout shop I will make a 3×5 index card with each boy’s name on it. I staple all the badges they have earned on it, pin the pins on, and staple the belt loops on still in the package. This way they can see and touch what they have earned without opening a ziploc and losing things before they get home. It is also easy to drop the cards in a file folder and then pull them out for the next pack meeting. I always know who’s badges they are at a glance.

  20. My advancement Coordinator in Germany (Ramstein) kept all of the advancement awards in two plastic “craft drawer” units that she could carry in her car and bring to Pack Meetings. She also keep extra council strips and Pack numbers that parent could purchase at pack meets.
    Michael Hodges MD (former Cubmaster)

  21. Our Pack also used a tackle box type container. It was very wide and stood upright with a handle on the top. It was plastic and had doors that snapped shut on both sides. It had little plastic pieces to make smaller compartments. For the most part, it held belt loops and pins. And it also held patches too. Probably the only downfall was when a bin was empty, you’d have to figure out what was in there. To solve that problem, we simply taped a picture of the belt loop (or pin) at the bottom of the space.

  22. My sons Tiger Cub leader gave each of his new cubs a binder with empty Pokemon pocket pages. These pages are perfect for “collecting” the many different advancement cards our sons receive at pack meetings and courts of honor. When a son completes a merit bade blue card, we place the applicant copy in a pocket as well.

  23. Tackle box for any excess. Decrease your excess by ‘shopping’ your box first before spending $$ at the scout store to fill your order (I inherited a LOT of webelos activities pins, belt loops, den numeral strips, Council strips, Pack numerals, mother’s pins, and cloth ranks)….old ‘event’ patches were put into a separate shoe box that went into Pack storage closet in case a parent ever decided to make a history book for the Pack since they were event specific and not ‘re-usable’. Snack and sandwich baggies had each boys individual awards. Gallon baggies had the den’s baggies in them. I laid out the individual baggies onto a table near the front of the room for presentation by the den leaders who used a den master list of individual awards I typed up to make presentations smoother and quicker. Some parents even returned their son’s baggy to me so I didn’t have to keep using new ones every month! 3×5 cards listed ‘IOUs’ so the boys wouldn’t have to wait for presentation until the next month if an item arrived since it was already ‘awarded’ to him in front of the Pack–IOUs would be immediately awarded to him at a den meeting sometime during the upcoming month.

  24. I work at the Scout Store in Cincinnati and we see lots of different methods of storing award, pins, patches, etc. The most common is some sort of tackle box or plastic storage box with adjustable dividers. Many advancement people use the plastic sandwich bags for both storage and presentation. At our store we save as many of the small plastic bags that the pins, rank patches, etc are shipped in and give them out to customers for their use; saves a little of their hard earned cash. A lot of folks use 3 by 5 cards in sandwich bags to identify the scout and one of our customers keeps his stock in boxes carried around in an old pilots’ flight case. It all comes down to using whatever works in your situation.

  25. My suggestion pretty much mirrors others’ comments — a small parts box, fishing tackle box or similar container with movable dividers worked well for us, with a “Whitman’s Sampler” type of index on the inside of the lid, as given chance, the pin, device, bead or emblem you want will be face down when you want it. For carrying purposes, if the container doesn’t have a handle or if you have multiple containers, use a small tote box or a reusable (fabric) grocery / book bag.

  26. I think you all missed the point…I read the question to be how do you present the to the scout at the award ceremony? Not how do you organize them in between meeting? My pack has a baggy for each scout with his awards in it and the den leader announces what was earned. Not real creative but it is practical. I am a Girl Scout leader too and we do all kinds of creative ways to display awards when we present them ( but they are usually all badges and pins). Long strand of wide ribbon and staple badges onto it. Cut out a vest or sash shape out of a brown grocery bag for my brownies and staple badges to it. Attach them to an accompanying certificate. I would love to hear any creative Cub Scout ways!

    • I think the original question was about storage & organization of any awards between meetings even though it spread elsewhere.

      I have heard of a couple of inventive ways to give out the awards (they may have come from “Strictly for Cub Scouters” at the Philmont Training Center but could be wrong).

      (1) Put each Scout’s stuff in a baggie with the Scout’s name clearly marked on it. Each den comes up separately to the “fishing tank” (large cardboard divider). The Scout is given a cane pole with a clothes pin on it for the hook. The Scout tosses his line over the divider as the DL says loudly, “Great cast, Johnny” or words to the effect so the individual on the other side can put the proper “fish” on the line. This would probably only work well with a small Pack as 50 Scouts would take some time to go “fishing.”

      (2) Get some of those cheap frisbees that are given out at many places. When there is enough on hand for every Scout in the Pack, tape the Scout’s baggie to the bottom of the frisbee. Instead of handing the awards to the Scout, the DL “flies” the awards to the Scouts. Might want to test to see how far the frisbee will fly with the awards attach. Also, make sure the baggie is taped shut so it won’t open & the awards spill on the floor.

  27. If you’re talking “presentation” and not “storage” the Ziplock bag is the way to go. We have a fairly large presentation ceremony at our Summer Court of Honor held at the end of summer camp each year, and the practice carries over to other Courts of Honor the rest of the year.

    The bag is marked with the Scout’s name and all the rank badges (1 or 2), merit badges (up to four or so), awards (such as the Mile Swim, Polar Bear, camp awards, etc.) and segments (usually a half dozen or more) the Scout is receiving, and the Scouts are called up individually to receive them and have the contents of the bag announced. It takes a couple hours to arrange all this prior to the ceremony, but avoids many awards being lost before they get home.

    To make this more than just a reading of the list, our Advancement Chair usually proposes the type of career the Scout is pursuing, all in fun; for example, a Scout earns their Swimming, Horesemanship, Nuclear Science and Shotgun merit badges, we can only assume he plans on being “a gunner on an aircraft carrier in charge of the cavalry,” or something else ridiculous. It really tends to lighten up an otherwise lengthy presentation, as we never know what she’ll come up with.

  28. When I became CM I went through the filing cabinets that held our records and was amazed to find nearly $300 in extra belt loops, so many that we didn’t have to buy many for the next year.

    But I am mystified why anyone would spend the boys money on having a box full of awards laying around just in case.

    • I agree with Bob in the sense that we should not spend money on awards that you do not need. But there are some items that will want extras just in case: year pens, beads, arrow heads, cards, etc. But in past years some scout shops did not always sell the belt loop individually and you had to buy the whole set. I always tried to keep the “inventory lean” but I also had den leaders whom always seem to turn in award sheets 2 days before the Pack meeting and I tried not to disappoint the boys so I always tried to have something for them, even if it was only a card.

  29. I’m the original question-asker. Thank you everyone for your responses. My main takeaways are 1) look for a tackle-box (or similar) to temporarily organize these, 2) recruit an advancement chair (easier said than done), and 3) use up my inventory until we’re down to buying just what we need for each pack meeting.

  30. Instead of holding inventory take extras to the scout shop and return them for items you do need. It could be months or even years before someone earns some of those awards. why risk losing or damaging them. Get rid of the inventory. In our pack we email the awards chair a list of who gets what and they buy the awards and separate them by den. The den leaders then divide them by boy prior to the meeting. There is also online services like scutbook.com that allow you to create purchase orders and scoutbook also exports a csv that scoutnet can import.

  31. I inherited the Advancement position a year ago. I have a big tackle box with individual slots for belt loops, pins and patches. I was getting tired of giving the awards to the boys in plastic baggies, so I now get small paper gift bags and print out the Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos symbol and Arrow of Light and paste those on the bags along with their names on it. For the pins, I use little jewelry bags for those then put those in the gift bags. I also make a list of their awards and put those in the bags for the Leaders to reference. When they cross over, I do the same but with bigger bags and I paste their current rank along with the rank they are going to. The boys might not appreciate it, but I have gotten the parents approval.

  32. Remember that all the belt loops and Webelos pins, arrow points and the Webelos compass emblem will be obsolete come May. If you have heaps of excess, think about taking them to Roundtable and trading with other leaders. You’ll be able to save each other money and not be stuck with all sorts of excess when June rolls around.

  33. What a great conversation!

    Our Pack (of about 20+ boys) uses one of those on-line Pack software programs that prints out a shopping list and also an Advancement Form to turn into the scout shop… which is about 30 min. away. So fortunately our on-hand inventory is pretty small.

    At Pack meetings I’ve been handing out 1 – 5 awards per boy simply in their hand. However, at our crossover ceremony I’ve put the awards in an envelope w/ an address label that has the scout’s name and awards he’s earned.

    I have recently found out that a card store (i.e. Hallmark, etc.) usually has extra envelopes on hand that they are willing to donate to schools, scout organizations, etc. They may ask for a donation request letter or something, but they recently gave me a shoebox-size box filled w/ envelopes.

    Something else you may also want to keep in mind is that they are doing away with the Academic and Sport Belt Loops and Pins next year. So, perhaps you may want to either start whittling down your inventory or stock up on the belt loops and pins.

  34. I try to purchase everything on a as needed basis. I put all the awards on cards with their name on it, either paper clipping it to a card, or gluing the back of the beltloop cardboard to it. Each boy has there own pile, then it is separated by den, and rubber-banded together in order. I will then pass each stack to the den leader who makes vertical lines on a display table in the beginning of each pack meeting. Then, the cub master invites each den leader, and their boys to come up in front of everyone and briefly tell the parents what they have been working on. The cub master will then call each boys name, hold up what they earned, and yell it out for everyone to hear. This process really only takes about 10 minutes.

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