Friday, December 17, 2004

More on the Scout Story

In case you think I am making this up, the following story can be found at:

Scouts' sales tactic outside ACLU becomes pop smashAfter radio celebrity plugs Chesterfield troop's booth, popcorn orders top $28,000

Dec 17, 2004

A friendly jab at the American Civil Liberties Union has turned into a financial bonanza for a tiny nine-member Boy Scout troop from Chesterfield County.
Troop 828, with an unexpected boost on Wednesday from nationally syndicated talk show host Glenn Beck, watched its struggling popcorn sales explode.
Scouts at a downtown booth had to call for fresh supplies. A Web site was flooded with orders from buyers in 39 states.
At last count, sales had topped $28,000. That set a record for the Boy Scouts' Heart of Virginia Council.
Last year the troop sold less than $300 worth of popcorn.
The windfall came after Beck got wind of the Scouts' decision to set up a booth near the ACLU's Virginia headquarters in downtown Richmond.
For years the ACLU has raised legal questions as to how closely the government should be aligned with the Boy Scouts of America.
"We're kind of a conservative troop," said Scoutmaster Jim Carpenter, whose two-year-old unit meets at St. Joseph Catholic Church. "They're a very devout group of young men, and God and country are extremely important to them."
"And at one of our Monday night meetings, they decided that it would be real cool to sell popcorn in front of the ACLU. This was their idea. We're a boy-run troop."
Sales were initially poor Wednesday morning.
"We had two customers between 10 and 10:30, and the guys were just about ready to call it quits," he said.
But after an unsolicited plug from Beck, a well-known conservative talk show host who airs on WRVA (1140 AM), hundreds of people from across the country began ordering popcorn from the Chesterfield Scouts.
As of yesterday afternoon, the troop had topped $22,700 in sales from 586 people ordering online from the Boy Scouts' national popcorn distributor, local scout officials said. Beck put a link to the company on his Web site.
But that wasn't all. Richmonders flocked to the Scouts' booth at Seventh and Main, buying about $4,200 more, Carpenter said.
"We supplied them with everything we could," said Robert "Alf" Tuggle, Scout executive for the Heart of Virginia Council.
Said Carpenter: "Things just went nuts. It didn't slow down until about 3:30, 4 o'clock. We had cars pulling off and lots of people honking the horn, we had a couple of police officers stop by and buy popcorn. We had fire trucks going by and tooting their horns. It was incredible."
The downtown sales trip, Carpenter said, was "kind of a last-ditch effort" to sell about $1,250 worth of popcorn they had left from a consignment order.
In addition to plugging the troop's efforts on national radio, Beck personally bought about $380 worth of popcorn during his sold-out appearance Wednesday night at the Science Museum of Virginia, Carpenter said. Some of Beck's fans purchased popcorn, too.
Beck invited the Scouts to his show, where he signed and took pictures with the boys, who gave him the troop's American flag. "He mentioned during the show that he collected flags," Carpenter said.
Tuggle, the local Scout Executive, applauded the troop's "ingenious strategy."
"They weren't out there trying to get in the face of the ACLU," he said. "They conducted themselves in a Scout-like manner and took advantage of an opportunity to get a lot of customers."
The troop will get to keep 30 percent of the total, the standard commission. Carpenter said some of that will go toward a troop ski trip to West Virginia in March.
Kent Willis, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, said he doesn't begrudge the Scouts for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech or using the ACLU name to generate sales.
"That's par for the course these days," said Willis, who said a group of youths identified as the United Conservatives of Virginia delivered a tin of Boy Scout popcorn and a Christmas greeting to his office yesterday. "We raise funds with our membership by pointing out what the organizations that oppose us are doing, and they raise money with their membership by pointing out what we are doing."
The ACLU, Willis added, isn't opposed to the Boy Scouts or their right to exist. "The ACLU's concern here is with the government funding of the Boy Scouts so long as there is a religious test to be a member of the Boy Scouts."
But Carpenter believes there's much more at stake.
"The youth of today really need the Scouts, [and] they need the support of government," he said. "And to have somebody telling them that what you believe in is bad because other people don't believe in it, it just doesn't sit well with a lot of my guys."


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