Year of the Volunteer Profile: Phil Phillips
By Mark Ray
Pack 226 Assistant Cubmaster Phil Phillips knows a lot about the school of hard knocks. That's why he's so passionate about affecting the lives of young boys in Texarkana, Tex.
When Phil Phillips was 10 years old, his single-parent family fell apart. Because of his mother’s struggles with drugs and other demons, she lost custody of him, and he had to move in with his aunt and grandmother. It was the first of several moves that would take him from Los Angeles to Oregon and back over the next few years.
“I got bounced around a whole bunch until high school,” he said. “Then I graduated and went into the service, and that’s where I kind of got straightened out.”
The memories of his teen years never faded, even after Phillips, now a first sergeant in the Army Reserves, moved to Texarkana, Tex., and started a family of his own. He just had to look around his neighborhood to see kids who were dealing with the same challenges he had once faced.
“The part of Texarkana that we live in, you see young men growing up without fathers, without any males in their lives,” Phillips said. “The only other males they see are guys on the street.
“You really want to be a positive influence in their lives before it gets too late—before they start making bad choices, before they start selling dope, before they start stealing, before they end up in jail.”
Although he yearned to make a difference, Phillips didn’t initially sign up when his church, Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church, started a Cub Scout pack in 2005.
“I don’t know anything about Boy Scouts,” he told the deacon who tried to recruit him.
But then he attended his first meeting. “From that point on, I was kind of hooked,” he said.
Two years later, Phillips is the dynamo that keeps Pack 226 running strong. His shoulder patch reads “Assistant Cubmaster,” but that is only because “Cheerleader-Disciplinarian-Father Figure-Role Model” won’t fit.
“The majority of the young people the pack serves are from single-parent families,” said Marcal Young, Scout executive of the Caddo Area Council. “Phil has become quite a role model for these young people.”
Pack 226’s biggest challenge—and opportunity—is to show its members an alternative to the culture they see on the street.
“I’ve told my kids many a time that the stuff they see out on the street is not acceptable in my room,” Phillips said.
“We are going to treat each other decently. We are going to listen to each other. We are going to care about each other. We are going to be friends, and we’re going to have fun here. All that other stuff? That’s out there. That doesn’t belong in here.”
At times, Phillips must take a disciplinarian approach, asking a Scout to sit out a meeting if he can’t behave. That approach paid off with one boy, who came to the pack loaded down with anger he had trouble controlling.
“Over the last year or so, you can just see how calm he’s become. I’m not saying he’s perfect; he still has his issues. His family still lives where they live. But he’s a better kid,” Phillips said.
Success stories like that have convinced Phillips that he has found the perfect way to serve his church and his neighborhood.
“Some people want to preach, some want to teach, some want to be singers,” he said. “I want to affect young men. I think that’s a good place for us to be in the community.”
This spring, when his son, Darrian, graduates from Cub Scouting, Phillips will graduate with him. His church is starting Troop 226, and Phillips will be its first Scoutmaster.
But he has another, larger goal: persuading other area churches to embrace Scouting.
“If 10 churches in my community took care of 10 boys each, that’s a hundred boys that are thinking bigger, that are being wiser, that are making much better choices,” he said.
In time, those boys might even show their peers a different way to live. “It’s great seeing Boy Scout uniforms in the ’hood,” Phillips said.
Mark Ray is a freelance writer who lives in Louisville, Ky.
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