I am still being inspired by the many stories of what all the Scouts in America were able to accomplish as told in the book FOUR PERCENT by Michael S. Malone. It’s a history of the Eagle Scout from the inception to present day times, and the heroic and wonderful things they accomplished (though I feel all who achieve the rank should be celebrated). 

Today, I hope to bring you back to two events, mentioned in the book, involving Scouts; the Great Depression, which began in 1929, running through the 1930’s, and World War ll, which the USA entered in 1940.

The numbers and some phrases are quoted directly from the book, and it is about all scouts with Eagles helping to organize and guide. It is also about the President of the United States recognizing the power, numbers and locations of the great group called the Boy Scouts of America.

The Great Depression led to massive unemployment and horrific numbers of people living in poverty. The Boy Scouts were not a constant as many moved with their families to find work, or dropped out to find work themselves. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, recognized the Scouting movement (with over 1 million members) as a means to help with the rebuilding of America.

He called on the Scouts to help the distressed and the needy. The result was called National Good Turn. Ultimately, these Scouts’ actions led to the collection of 1.8 million items of food, clothing, household supplies and furnishings. The Scouts moved from camping to community.

The threat of war actually ended the depression as the need for materials ramped up. Unemployment was no longer a threat, but many of the older Eagles were off to war.

During the war, President Roosevelt again turned to BSA and by the end of the war the federal government had made 69 requests for assistance from the scouts.

They collected spare tires for the much needed rubber and, in a two week drive, collected 30 million lbs. They planted Victory gardens, distributed pledge cards for war bonds, savings stamps, victory and air raid posters. They also collected anything salvageable for the effort. Scouts served as firewatchers, emergency medical personnel, messengers, and dispatch bearers. The Eagles oversaw all this until they were called up to join the war. Many Eagles’ lives were lost in World War ll.

I am convinced of the power of scouting. We have just passed through, and I still think we are in it, a state of another depression. Many lost their savings, incomes have fallen, food is more expensive, employment is hard to find. Children are going to bed hungry.

Although government programs help some, free food at school helps some, but summer is coming and, in this land of plenty, over 15 million children do not receive adequate nutrition. Bring in the Eagles. Do you feel BSA could help feed the poor again?

Joyce Olesen
is a grandmother, mother, and daughter of Scouters. She love kids, camping, country music and sport cars. Her Dad was a Scout leader in Chicago in the early 1920’s and having only daughters did not bolster his Scouting hopes. As his "Scout" she was tying regulation knots by the time she was 7.


  1. Avatar
    jimbo GA says:

    Miss Joyce I enjoy your information. I was told about this site thru a local council it is sad that only Utah can do this but hard enough with the loss of so many charter churches . With the number of scout down and eagle scouts down just not what it use to be 8 years ago.

    1. Michelle Carpenter
      Michelle Carpenter ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

      You’ll be happy to know then that this blog is not just Utah based. There are 13 councils involved in this blog, and we hope more will join in! The decline is sad, and we hope to reverse that trend.

  2. Darryl Alder
    Darryl Alder ( User Karma: 9 ) says:

    Every year for the last 25 years our Council has joined with other Scouts in a Scouting for Food Campaign, that brings in tons of food for the Utah Food Bank. Last year we provided families in need with 337,580 meals through just one day of service. So President Roosevelt’s Nation­al Good Turn is alive and well in Utah.

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