John Pender, a member of Billings Boy Scout troop 7, needed to complete a volunteer project in the community to attain a Citizenship in the Community merit badge. He wanted to collect donated school supplies for Lewis and Clark middle school. In his research on how to organize such a project, he discovered that the United Way of Yellowstone County had already organized a supply drive to benefit all students in the community. John contacted Chris Mackey at United Way, and soon a plan was in place for Troop 7 to collect school supplies.
A manager of the Albertsons on Grand and 13th street gave John and Troop 7 permission to set up a collection point in front of the store. John explained the project at a troop meeting and asked for volunteers. Using the list of requested supplies from the United Way, John created a small shopping list that customers could take into the store and reference while they did their grocery shopping.
On the collection day, John, a Scout leader, and three other Scouts set up tables and posters at Albertsons and began collecting donated supplies. The Scouts found that the most challenging aspect of the drive was approaching customers. Over the course of two hours, communication and salesmanship skills were improved as the Scouts discovered the most effective ways to approach customers and ask for donations.
At the conclusion of the supply drive, the Scouts had collected an impressive amount of school supplies, including 150 spiral and composition notebooks, 400 crayons, 270 pencils, 80 pens, and many other needed school supplies and hygiene products. Many shoppers that day chose to donate money instead of buying an item, and that money was then spent to buy additional items to donate. The supplies were then counted, organized, and delivered to the United Way.
Overall, participating in the United Way Operation Supply was a fun and easy way for the Scouts to learn about serving the community through volunteerism.