The Boy Scout movement was founded in England in 1908 and began in the United States in 1910. That same year, Indianapolis Troop One started at Tuxedo Park Baptist Church with the Reverend U. S. Glutton as scoutmaster. In 1914, the Indianapolis council organized and chartered its membership with 100 boys. F. O. Belzer, the first scout executive council leader, served until 1940. The first camp was formed in 1918, near Fort Benjamin Harrison, and was later named Camp Belzer in honor of the first council leader.

Indianapolis Boy Scouts with backpacks and sleeping bags in University Park, July 1944
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Service constitutes a major part of the scouting tradition. During World Wars I and II, scouts sold liberty bonds and war savings stamps, took a census of walnut trees to be used for gun stocks, and collected scrap metal, old tires, and newspapers. Throughout the years, projects have also included collecting clothing for overseas relief, placing doorknob hangers to get out the vote, planting trees, delivering handbooks prepared by the Office of Civil Defense, distributing brochures on the need for donating human organs, and collecting food for pantries, kitchens, and food banks.

In 1972 the councils headquartered in Indianapolis, Anderson, Muncie, and Richmond consolidated as the Crossroads of America Council, B.S.A. The council opened its first owned headquarters in 1990 at 1900 North Meridian Street following a capital campaign with a lead gift from Edward J. F. and Fern Roesch.

In the early 2000s, the Crossroads Council and BSA nationally defended multiple lawsuits about the inclusion of female members and allegations of sexual abuse that included troop leaders and volunteers from Indianapolis and Indiana. The decision to include female members received considerable pushback from the Girl Scouts. Its leaders asserted that only Girls Scouts had the expertise to give girls and young women the tools needed for success. The decision represented the culmination of friction that had existed between the two organizations since the 1920s. The Indiana BSA was renamed Crossroads of America Council, BSA, in 2019, after the national organization included girls in 2018. Girls may join as early as the Cub Scout level and earn the rank of Eagle Scout. In 2020, the BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in anticipation of pending lawsuits from sexual abuse victims.

The Crossroads of America Council, BSA operates out of three locations: Golden-Burke Scout Center in Indianapolis (headquarters) and satellite offices in Muncie and Terre Haute. Year-round camping and program centers operate in Indianapolis at Camp Belzer and six camps throughout the state. The Council continues to implement and continually redevelops the camping experience. In November 2020, it broke ground for the Skip & Alex Lange Innovation Center and a new Maintenance Facility at Camp Belzer in 2020.

The council’s service orientation emphasizes serving special populations such as young people with disabilities, those in public housing and other low-income neighborhoods, and those in the Indiana Boys’ School and the Juvenile Detention Center. Current programs include Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing Scouts, Exploring Scouts, STEM Scouts, Sea Scouts, and After School programming. The highest rank a scout can receive, Eagle Scout, depends on the completion of a service project for the community. In 2018, Scouts performed over 226,000 hours of community service. In 2019, over 35,000 youth, including approximately 2,000 young women, participated in Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.

The council’s annual budget comes from Leadership United (United Way); Friends of Scouting, foundations, special events such as Bowl-A-Thon and popcorn sales, Scout Shop, and endowment income.

In April 2022 the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America agreed to settle their trademark dispute from 2018 over the Boy Scouts’ right to use the word “scouting” to advertise co-ed programs. A federal court in New York ruled that the Boy Scout organization’s use of the word “scouting” did not violate the Girl Scouts’ trademark.

Revised February 2021
 

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