If someone could personify the term “scout for life,” that person would be Mike Binnix, scoutmaster for Troop 918, which is based out of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Severna Park. On June 10, at a Four Rivers District dinner, Binnix was recognized as the 2019 Scouts BSA (B) Leader of the Year.
BSA stands for Boy Scouts of America, and the (B) represents Boy Scouts as opposed (G) for Girl Scouts.
“I believe the minimum we can do for such leaders is get them public recognition when they deserve it,” said Len Morgan, troop committee chair, who submitted Binnix’s nomination to the Anne Arundel County scout district.
Binnix grew up in Annapolis and was a member of Troop 396, in which his father served in leadership roles and in which Binnix achieved the rank of Eagle in 1983. When his own sons wanted to get involved with scouting, Binnix naturally wanted to be a part of their experience. He’s been a BSA volunteer for the last 10 years and served as a den leader, cub master, assistant scoutmaster, scoutmaster, and will soon be troop committee chairman.
“Mike is a well-liked, well-regarded leader,” Morgan said. “With Mike at the helm, patrol practices have improved, communications between leadership and scouts and parents has improved, advancement recordkeeping and timeliness has improved, and our youth leadership quality has improved. Mike has reinvigorated our adult leadership to help spread the workload and train new leaders for the future. He’s also enabled the scouts to consider new activities and training experiences.”
Binnix doesn’t measure success by what he accomplishes but rather by what the youth can achieve.
“When an alumnus returns to the troop to say ‘hi’ to the guys and I hear he’s continued camping and hiking, that’s good,” said Binnix. “When I hear he’s been promoted to a supervisor role at work, that he holds an office leading a club or program at college, that he organized a food or blood drive, then I know he took it all in and we really made a difference.”
He added that scouting teaches young men and young women leadership at every level of their scout career.
“Modern American society, and Severna Park is a typical community for this, offers kids dozens of great programs like sports teams, marching bands, performing arts, honor societies and service organizations at school, youth programs at faith congregations, part-time jobs, and, of course, scouting,” said Binnix. “All of them teach valuable lessons in teamwork, service to others, and offer some of the members the opportunity to lead their peers. But scouting is one of the few that focuses specifically on building leadership skills for all of its members.”
Binnix explained that the ranks for scouts through First Class focus on learning the camping and outdoor skills that leaders use as a venue for personal growth, while ranks Star through Eagle require that each scout leads his or her peers in one or more roles as he or she continues to advance through the program.
His next leadership role will be as committee chairman this fall. The position demands less time than scoutmaster and will allow other volunteers to assume new roles.
“When [my youngest son] graduates [high school] in two years, I’ll probably change the role again, continue as a merit badge counselor and Eagle Scout coach, and maybe volunteer a bit with the district or council programs,” added Binnix, “but I don’t see myself retiring from scouting altogether for quite some time.”
That’s good news for parents of scouts in Troop 918. Morgan noted that Binnix works closely with Life Scouts to ensure they are on track for Eagle.
“Troop 918 has a notable Eagle roster partially due to his enthusiasm,” added Morgan. “Mike has also encouraged Troop 918 to support, and has participated in, district events such as Woodsmoke, Camporee and Klondike Derby.”
Binnix said he tries to keep scouting fun and engaging for the scouts by allowing them to set the program agenda.
“Scouts select our activities, which weekends are dedicated to hiking or biking, canoeing or visiting a retired battleship, going to the Air and Space Museum, etc.,” said Binnix. “They choose the big summer trip to hike in New Mexico or sail in the Florida Keys. Then we help them make it happen. If the adults picked all of that, we’d lose their interest pretty quickly and they would spend more time elsewhere.”
Morgan has the utmost respect for Binnix and his scouting leadership.
“Mike understands that all boys are not made the same, don’t act the same, don’t have the same home life, and don’t respond to leadership the same, so he adapts as needed when needed,” Morgan said. “He has a wonderful social presence, a great sense of humor and an engaging personality, both for youth and for adults. That has been like a magnet to recruiting both new Scouts and new adult leaders.
He’s also very smart, and keeps getting smarter,” Morgan continued. “He knows scouting from his youth, but he continues to learn about scouting and how to do better as youth and Scouting has changed through the years. He commands respect. Not by title, but by action.”
Binnix’s message is simple: make a difference.
“I would encourage everyone to volunteer with our youth. Coach, help the congregation youth group, teach, volunteer at school, or come join us with the scouts,” Binnix said, “but go be important to a kid.”
Morgan added, “Scouting is a wonderful program. People like Mike make it that way.”