What I’ve Learned: A Q&A with the leaders of a 111-year-old Scouts BSA troop in Rhode Island

Photo courtesy of Mike Hogan (second from left) and Brad Orleck (second from right).

After working together at Yawgoog Scout Reservation, Mike Hogan and Brad Orleck reunited to lead First Providence Troop, a 111-year-old unit that now serves a mix of working-class and immigrant families in Providence, R.I. Hogan has been Scoutmaster for 11 years; Orleck, the committee chair, has been with the troop for about eight years.

They recently sat down with Bryan on Scouting to discuss what they’ve learned during their time as Scouting volunteers.

What is it like to lead First Providence Troop?

Orleck: A lot of our kids are from immigrant families, and their parents are worried about getting their kids to meetings and getting them where they need to go. A couple of families are in the gig economy; they’re picking up and dropping off the Scouts between Grubhub deliveries. We’re not too far from the hospitals, and we have some nurses. The families are hardworking and often don’t have the time.

What have you learned about working with this population?

Hogan: Early on, I had a handout of everything you need to have or be aware of or prepared with, and on the backside was a list of all the kinds of camping equipment that you could have. Some parents saw the list, and I didn’t see the family again because I think the parents thought that I was saying that they needed to go buy all that stuff.

Orleck (top left) and Hogan (top center) stand with members of their troop. Photo courtesy of Mike Hogan and Brad Orleck.

So how do you handle gear?

Hogan: We’ve got a box of extra hats and gloves and sleeping bags and blankets and stuff in our troop trailer. Over the years, we’ve assembled all sorts of equipment from donations and from our own fundraising. They’ll come on a few campouts and then, when they’re putting together their wish list for Christmas or birthday, you’re going to see boots or tents.

One thing you’ve done successfully is recruit other Yawgoog alumni to help with the troop. How has that worked?

Hogan: They love the program, but now maybe they’re in college or just graduating college, and they don’t live in the same neighborhood they used to. Going back to their home troop maybe isn’t as comfortable, but they want to be involved in the program.

What growth have you seen in your Scouts?

Orleck: One of our Eagle Scouts, the first few times he would go camping, he would be so nervous. Seeing him go from that to building a sign at his church and working with three to four different church committees — it’s just something we couldn’t have predicted when he was on his first campout.