Joe Kelleher was a Boy Scout during his childhood on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He now leads his son’s scout unit in Westchester. So when Boys Scouts of America was looking for someone to lead the rejuvenation of its Bronx council in January, Kelleher was the perfect fit for the volunteer position.
Kelleher, who is president of the Hutchinson Metro Center and chairman of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, has also been serving as president of the BSA’s Bronx council since the beginning of the year. With borough Boy Scout numbers challenged by a lack of financial resources in many communities, as well as the vast array of alternative activities and sports available to today’s youth, Kelleher has strived to procure funding so that the Boy Scout experience can be available to all borough youth, as well as promote the organization as a viable endeavor for kids all the way through their teen years.
“We needed to put some focus on the Bronx,” Kelleher said. “Both because of the economic times and it’s been hard for scouting to ignite as much interest, so one of my goals has been figuring out how to do that.”
Kelleher was recruited to the position by Ramon Guzman, who works full time as field director for BSA’s Bronx council.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to the council in the Bronx,” Guzman said.
“Mr. Kelleher has helped so much in the short period of time he has been president. He has rebuilt the council.”
A key to the reviving the Boy Scouts in the Bronx has been the partnership Kelleher initiated with the New York Yankees. It began with a $10,000 donation from the Yankees to the Bronx council in March. And in July, newly-minted Eagle Scouts, mainly from the Bronx, were invited onto the Yankee Stadium field before a game as part of the first Eagle Scout Recognition Day.
“As boys get to be 15 or 16 they get more involved in sports, or dating, and school,” Kelleher said. “There are so many other things for kids today that scouting is no longer a priority, so we tried to instill this in kids that they can achieve Eagle rank. It was a home run for the scouts as far as I’m concerned.”
There are about 12,000 boy scouts in the Bronx, dispersed throughout 120 units. But Kelleher wants to see that number grow. He is working with churches and community centers that he hopes will serve as meeting places for both existing and new units.
The ultimate goal for Kelleher, is to give as many kids the same life lessons he learned by being a scout.
©2011 Community News Group