Year of the Volunteer Profile: Jeff and Mindy Clark
By Mark Ray
Jeff Clark discovered the magic of volunteerism when his den leader wife asked him to attend a den meeting and teach knot tying to a group of Cub Scouts.
“I stayed out of it, figuring that Cub Scouts was more the ladies’ thing to deal with,” Jeff said.
After the family moved north to Apache Junction and Pack 389, Mindy, still a den leader, asked Jeff to teach knot tying at a den meeting.
The former Life Scout agreed—and was hooked. Within a few weeks, he was a Cubmaster. Within a few months, he helped spin off a new pack. Within two years, he was the Scoutmaster of brand-new Boy Scout Troop 39.
Along the way, he and Mindy became the same close partners in Scouting as they were in marriage.
“It has definitely brought us together,” Jeff said. “We get to spend a lot more time together.”
That’s for sure. Over the past 11 years, the Clarks have led training courses together and worked side-by-side on Cub Scout roundtable staffs.
They have served as advisers to the district’s Order of the Arrow chapter. They have even helped district executive Tony Michael of the Grand Canyon Council start a new pack, their second, in a remote corner of the Superstition District.
“There are 56 boys in a Cub Scout program that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Jeff and Mindy,” Michael said.
The Clarks’ sons, Tony and Brandon, have tagged along on most of the couple’s Scouting activities.
“They were used as guinea pigs and props throughout our Cub Scout leader training,” Jeff said. “In the troop, they’re always the first ones at the meetings and the last ones to leave. They’re always the ones constantly doing stuff.”
That involvement has paid off. Tony, an Eagle Scout, now serves as an assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 39 and works at the Mesa Scout Shop. Brandon will soon finish his Eagle Scout service project.
Living the Scout Oath and Law
Scouting has given the Clarks more than a set of common experiences; it has given them a common value system.
“We try to live by the Scout Oath and Law and do a Good Turn daily,” Jeff said. “The boys are eager to help other people.”
All four family members are so involved in Scouting that they don’t have to worry about boredom.
“Every weekend there’s something going on. Every night of the week we’ve got something we could be at,” Jeff said.
He acknowledges that he doesn’t have as much free time as he once did. But looking back, he remembers that much of that free time was really empty time.
A master of theatrical props
Around the Superstition District, Jeff is perhaps best known for the elaborate props he has built for pack meetings, training courses, and day camps. He once turned a stage into a desert scene, complete with foam rocks and a pot of “bug stew” simmering over a flickering campfire.
“His props are outrageous,” Michael said. “Jeff prides himself on the fact that he’s never had to put on a pack meeting by spending more than three bucks.”
A second-chance turnaround
But Jeff’s real legacy is undoubtedly the difference he has made in the lives of his Scouts.
Once, a Scout was so disruptive that Jeff asked him to leave the troop. He clearly remembers the conference he held with the boy and his parents: “He looked at me with very pure eyes and asked very nicely, ‘Mr. Clark, will you give me a second chance?’”
Jeff gave the boy a second chance—perhaps the first one he had ever gotten. Within a year, he was elected senior patrol leader—and then re-elected to a second term. His grades improved, he got involved in sports, and he stopped spending time in the principal’s office. Today, he is Jeff’s newest assistant Scoutmaster.
“His whole life turned around, all because of Scouting,” Jeff said. And all because Jeff Clark and his family were willing to turn their empty time into time overflowing with fun, values, and infinite possibilities.
That’s quite an achievement for a fellow who started out by sitting on Scouting’s sidelines.
Writer Mark Ray lives in Louisville, Ky.