The Piedmont Community Service Crew (casually referred to as “Venture Crew” by the teens) is one of the coed Venturing Crews of the Piedmont Council of BSA. Members must be at least 14 yrs old (or be at least 13 yrs old and have completed the 8th grade), and can participate until they turn 21. Our members are not restricted to Piedmont High School students, but that has been the norm so far. This crew was founded in the fall of 2004 by Ken Li with the help of Barbara Caruso, both parents of PHS students at that time. The crew has steadily grown in membership numbers, frequency and diversity of activities, and depth of program. With 8 years of refinement, we’ve stabilized at close to 100 members.
Venturing Crews are formed around a common interest area; the program’s intent is to allow flexibility on the spectrum of interests associated with any given crew, and to apply the Venturing program values in the context of that interest area to encourage youth leadership development, independence, a social environment that promotes teamwork, learning, teaching others, giving back to the community, learning to make ethical choices, physical fitness, etc.
Venturing is different from Boy Scouting: it is coed, involves youths in an older and more mature age range (14-20), and has a program that is adaptable to youth interests that are very different from the traditional scouting program.
Piedmont Council operates many different Venturing Crews, including Oakland Strokes, Fencing Crew, High Adventure Crew, Cooking Crew, Bagpipe Band, and Ship 16 Sea Scouts.
Crew members are encouraged to work towards the Venturing Bronze, Gold and Silver awards. Active and motivated members should seek leadership roles: the Advisor and crew officers will mentor them to grow in confidence and competence through on the job leadership experience. In the summer, we offer the chance to go on trips, attend BSA camps, and attend leadership training programs.
WHAT WE DO
Our crew is founded around community service, and that is interpreted widely. We are most active during the school year, with “events” virtually every week, including:
- monthly crew planning meetings (typically 7:00pm on the 2nd Wed of each month)
- service events
- fun/social/team-building events
The palette of service events can be seen by viewing upcoming events (and the past year’s history) on our crew calendar.
We are always looking for event ideas that better match the interests and schedules of the members, and actively seek feedback and involvement of the membership in selection and planning of the events. Our events include:
- Food preparation and serving meals to hungry and homeless people.
- Working at the local food bank
- Environmental work: cleaning parks, restoring native vegetation, maintaining our creeks, trail work in parks & wilderness areas.
- Helping organizations that serve children
- Renovating homes of low income and elderly homeowners.
- Painting and construction work that benefit agencies that help others.
- Helping animals
- Volunteering at community events (Harvest Festival, BSA Tree Lot)
- Fundraising to help needy causes (carwashes, bake sales, soliciting donations from area businesses)
Each spring, we go on our annual “Leadership Retreat”, a weekend get-away where we have fun, cook our own meals, play team building games and leadership training exercises, hold our annual elections and planning for the next year; we often do a service project. In the fall just after school starts, we go away to a fun weekend “Rendezvous” with other Venturing Crews at a traditional camp setting and participate in activities like mountain biking, water sports, horseback riding, rock climbing, shooting arrows, shotguns, 22 rifles, eating great meals.
The crew is lead by Crew Officers who are elected to their positions by their peers. The crew members and Crew Officers are guided and mentored by the adult Crew Advisor who is supported by at least one Associate Advisor. The adult leadership must be comprised of both male & females since our crew is coed; they all must be BSA registered and trained.
COMMUNITY SERVICE HOURS
PHS students get community service hour credits from the College Center for volunteered time that is not counted towards classes (e.g. AP Environmental Science) or advancement (e.g., Scouting awards). Whereas most students must complete Blue Forms in order to report their volunteer hours, the Crew tracks member attendance to events as a benefit to our members and submits those detailed records electronically, directly to the College Center.
There are no explicit requirements of members except to pay annual dues and provide membership paperwork. The hope is that members find our planned activities and events compelling enough to participate actively, subject to their individual needs to fulfill other academic and extracurricular obligations. Monthly crew meetings are a way to stay in touch with the crew leadership and to voice membership opinions, but attendance is optional. We correspond primarily via our Facebook group and by email and cell phones as backup.
Being responsive to crew communications (invitations to events, voting, etc) is appreciated. Sign up for events by telling the Advisor and the event leader in advance: this helps our planning. If you are a “Maybe” for attending an event, make a decision either way a few days before the event, and tell us if you need to cancel.
Parental support is appreciated; parents should offer to attend a couple events each year and help to drive regularly. The Crew is intended to be highly youth-run, but in truth, it requires adult oversight and leadership. Parents who like to work with teens and can do so while giving their own teens space without nagging, are invited to learn more about what an Advisor does and give Ken (Crew Advisor) some backup help, to whatever degree a parent is willing to provide. At a minimum, parents are encouraged to get acquainted with Ken and learn about their kids are doing.
All families will be asked to support the Crew and our parent organization: Piedmont Council, BSA through the annual “Friends of Scouting” (FOS) fundraising drive by sending in a nominal financial donation. Annual participation in the FOS campaign by all members sends an important message to our community that our Crew respects the value that Piedmont BSA brings to the local youth.
For many years, the crew’s proudest annual work has been through Rebuilding Together Oakland (RTO, www.rtoakland.org) with whom we work every October and April. In April, we typically renovate the dilapidated home of a low income senior Oakland resident, engaging close to 100 volunteers on two full workdays. Crew leaders (youth!) plan for months to define the project scope, recruit consultants, and plan the detail task plan, then lead the crew members to complete the tasks. The Crew is the sponsor of these April projects; this year, our goal is to fund at the $7,500 level. We spend all year reaching this goal through fundraising from the efforts of our members (car washes, food sales, etc.), but an important source of funding is from the generosity of our community businesses and fans of what the crew does.
Finally, we ask that crew member families consider making a tax deductible donation to RTO, in the name of our crew. We seek 100% participation in both of these philanthropic causes that directly benefit our Crew. This means that we hope that every Crew member family makes a donation to these causes each year, in any amount that you are comfortable with (a suggested amount is $100 donation for each cause). If you can make a donation, please make sure to add a notation that this is on behalf of the “Piedmont Community Service Crew”.