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New Minsi Trails Boy Scout leader focuses on regrowing council with 'great bones'

Kevin McClelland, Boy Scout exec
Isabella Insingo / LehighValleyNews.com
Boy Scout Executive Kevin McClelland sits at his desk on March 19, 2024.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Kevin McClelland, the newest chief executive officer of the Boy Scouts of America Minsi Trails Council, sat at the desk in his new office.

Behind him hung a framed Baltimore Ravens jersey and two goodbye posters from the Connecticut Rivers Council, signed by colleagues and Scouts alike.

It was McClelland’s second day on the job, but he’s not new to the Scouting world.

He worked with the Boy Scouts in Baltimore, Albuquerque and West Hartford, Connecticut, before making his way to the Lehigh Valley’s Minsi Trails Council.

But his association with the organization started when he joined the Boy Scouts as a 10-year-old Cub Scout.

“What I see here is, for lack of a better term, there are great bones in this council."
New Boy Scouts Minsi Trail Council Chief Executive Officer Kevin McClelland

His best friend's dad was the cubmaster for the local pack. Six years later, in 1997, he got his start working at Camp Spencer, a Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation.

“I was 16 years old at that point, and I was washing dishes,” McClelland said. “I ended up doing 13 summers on the camp staff. Six of those were as a camp director.”

At the same time, he began working for the Boy Scouts of America out of its Baltimore office in 2001.

McClelland said he has fond memories of his time there for many reasons. For one, it was the place where he met his now-wife.

“Her mom worked at the same property,” he said. “We had three different camps. Her mom was the cook at one of the other camps so she grew up at camp and we got to know each other.”

Additionally, McClelland said his entire wedding party also were friends he made at Camp Spencer.

McClelland said he likes what he sees in his new role.

“What I see here is, for lack of a better term, there are great bones in this council,” McClelland said.

The Minsi Trails Council covers six counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe, Carbon and Luzerne, all in Pennsylvania; and Warren County in northwestern New Jersey.

'A wonderful ... program for youth'

The coronavirus pandemic was not kind to the Boy Scouts of America.

During that time, McClelland said, the Scouts program lost about 50% of its elementary membership nationwide.

He said the Minsi Trails Council saw its membership decrease from more than 10,000 to about 4,100.

That coincided with the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy in 2020 because of a significant increase in legal costs from lawsuits related to allegations of sexual abuse.

Eventually, the organization settled for $2.4 billion.

To pay its part of the settlement, the Minsi Trails Council sold one of its two camps, the 900-acre Trexler Scout Reservation in Monroe County, to the Trexler Veterans Initiative for $7.8 million.

As a result, Camp Minsi in the Poconos now is the council’s primary camp, Assistant Scout Executive Raymond Garrison said.

“What we really need to do is make sure that people know Scouting now is a very, very safe program for kids."
Minsi Trails Council President Lew Dryfoos

“We have a design firm that's assisting us to do a layout for that camp,” Garrison said. “Nothing that's going to be done within the first year. But this is a 1-3-5-7-10 year plan of improvements each year.”

Council President Lew Dryfoos said that the next step is ensuring people know that Scouting is a safe program.

“What we really need to do is make sure that people know Scouting now is a very, very safe program for kids,” Dryfoos said.

“But a lot of people don't know that. You know, we haven't done a really good job getting the word out about how safe our program is, but Scouting is just a wonderful leadership development program for youth.”

'Really enjoy getting to know him'

Council Commissioner Tamie Swain is the first woman to serve on the Minsi Trail Council’s “key-three” board, which consists of the scout executive, the council president and the council commissioner.

She said that McClelland's biggest challenges will be increasing diversity and rebuilding membership.

“So one of our big challenges is to find out how to connect with people who don't look like us, but who could really use this program as much as anybody else,” she said.

"I think he's going to be a huge asset to the youth of the area.”
Minsi Trails Council President Lew Dryfoos

One way the council is trying to do that is by reaching out to organizations in the community, such as the United Way.

Both Swain and Dryfoos said they think McClelland has the energy for the job.

“I think the community is going to really enjoy getting to know him,” Dryfoos said. “He's really outgoing.

"I'm sure that he's looking forward to talking to members of the community to see how scouting can serve the community the best.

"I think he's going to be a huge asset to the youth of the area.”